Growth Mindset

By Engr. Carlos Cornejo

There is this best-selling book of Carol Dweck entitled “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” that classifies people into two groups, those that have a fixed mindset and those that have a growth mindset.  The fixed mindset group would think that they have a talent in some areas but zero in others.  I am good in English but bad in Math.  Or I can dance but not sing.  I can play basketball but not soccer.  Carol Dweck said that the problem with this thinking is that it limits our persistence in overcoming obstacles.  If you have held that long belief that you are not good in math for example you wouldn’t care studying harder in math because you’ve already given up even before the fight.  You would then end up contented getting a barely passing grade when there was that untapped potential of being good in math within you.  You just needed a more persevering effort to bring it out.

The growth minded people on the other hand, would have an attitude towards anything they find difficult as something that could be overcome, if you just put more work on it.  They would always say to themselves whenever they find something challenging, “I’m not good at this yet.  But I think I can master this, if I just devote more time.”  This growth mindset was illustrated by the late Kobe Bryant when one time he was asked to play ping pong by a buddy who is a professional ping pong player.  He told his friend that he will observe the game first.  After watching a number of games, he said, “I’m ready”.  With zero experience playing ping pong Kobe lost nine games out of ten.   It was remarkable to note that he did win one game given his beginner status.   He was making progress as the game went on.  After the match Kobe asked his friend how much a ping pong table would cost and instructed his personal assistant to buy one tomorrow for him to start practicing.  That’s Mamba Mentality.

How do you encourage people to have a growth mindset especially children?  When a kid does well in school you should praise the effort and not the talent.  You should say something like, “You are a good learner, I love that” or “Good job!” instead of saying, “You are smart, I like that.”  In this way the emphasis is on the hard work instead of the God given abilities.  This would then lead the kid to a mindset of continuous improvement and not to shy away from challenges in life instead of just being contented with a certain degree of talent.

In the corporate setting, fixed mindset companies are those that rely only on a few people to push forward the company or relying only on the so-called star performers. The rest of the employees however are feeling that the company is not investing in their development, or giving them higher responsibilities. This is not good because these same employees would admit in the same survey that they would also keep secrets, cut corners and would cheat to get ahead.  By contrast, in growth-mindset companies, employees were 47 percent more likely to say their colleagues are trustworthy, 49 percent more likely to say their company fosters innovation, and 65 percent more likely to say their company supports risk taking.  The lesson here is that companies should invest on growth and improvement for all their employees through trainings, seminars, professional plan or higher studies in a university.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and one of the richest persons in the world, has gem of advice on talent and choice, “Our talents have been given to us. We did not work hard to make it part of our life.  Our choices in life are the ones that make us who we are.  We ought to be more proud of our choices than our talents because even talents will not bear fruit unless we make a choice of developing these.  Thus, we have a choice of a life of comfort or a life of service and adventure.”

On the spiritual side, God deals with each one of us with a growth mindset.  He does not see us for who we were and who we are right now but who we could be.  God sees a saint in us waiting to be tapped.  Sainthood is ours for the taking.  It’s up to us to unearth this holiness in ourselves.  God is rooting for us with all His might and His grace that we be saints, because that is what we are all meant to be.  If you want to read more about this wonderful plan of God for us, read my book “The Purpose of Our Life is to Become a Saint.”