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Illustration co-created with @andresidarta of a girl in front of a Machine. There are some letters entering the machine and she can manipulate buttons with emotions. As they leave the machine the same letters creating two different outcomes.

How do I grow my mindset?

Illustration of two different outcomes for the same reality depending on how we attribute meaning
Same letters creating two different outcomes. How much does our mindset influence how we experience the world?
Illustration co-created with @andresidarta

Hey, I know that a “growth mindset” has become a buzzword but follow me on this… do you remember we were talking on my last post that humans are a “meaning-making machine”? I think this a good place for us to start unfolding this concept. 

A few years ago I worked in a company that developed a 3 year-long trainee program that would eliminate candidates in every evaluation round. It was kind of terrifying knowing that every year you might be fired depending on how your boss evaluated you and how well you performed in personality tests, special assignments and (a lot) of group dynamics (like business games).

I’ve always been an approval seeker so I was absolutely out of my mind trying to be the golden star girl. Those were difficult years because criticism was a big part of our daily life and we were always challenged to spend time in a job position that was related to neither our graduation nor our previous experience. I was really out of my comfort zone with a lot of unknown tasks and too little praises on the way.

Then I met Karen and she became my best work friend. Karen was my kind of friend: someone smart, hard worker and fun. But she had something else. I liked talking to her about problems and watching her in meetings just because she had a way of dealing with undesirable comments or outcomes that I could not fully understand but I was more than able to appreciate it.

She could laugh in a really truthful and open way whenever someone criticized her – “Hahahaha… I guess you are right… I do suck on that. Show me how you do it”. And she would open herself to learn. I would always think: “My god… How can she laugh? I would feel humiliated!”

It was not until I was writing my master’s thesis on motivation and bumped into Carol Dweck’s work that I was able to grasp what was so different about us: she had a growth mindset.

Well, what I’ve learned is that you can attribute different meanings to the same thing depending on your mindset. If you believe your amount of _______________ (fill in with any positive traits such as intelligence, beauty, …) is fixed you take everything in life as a “test” or a confirmation of your value. That means that whenever things go bad you know what is the only thing that can mean: you are a loser.

On the other hand, people who believe their traits can be improved, enhanced, developed interpret the downsides of life as an opportunity to learn. And that is what she calls a growth mindset. But don’t take me wrong. It is not that people don’t get upset but in Dweck’s words

“in the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.”

Carol Dweck – Mindset

Despite some recent criticism on how actionable the concept really is and how overwhelming it can be to always feel so unlimited (may it lead to burn out?), there is no doubt that not taking every defeat as a final sentence is a much healthier approach to life, allowing us to cultivate our perseverance and resilience and converting life’s setbacks into future successes.

So… what happened to Karen? She did not get to the end of the program, but she was able to find a job and remained in the same company and is now one of the most successful executives there.

And don’t worry about me… I also learned how to improve my mindset and embrace every bump on the way. So how do you grow your mindset? We’ll talk about that a lot in this blog but for now you can just try this:

  1. Make a list of everything you think you are not but you wish you were in this way: “I’m not ____________ (fill in with whatever you want, i.e.: intelligent, ready for the test, …)
  2. Don’t look at the next step until you have finished step one
  3. Have you really done it?
  4. Please don’t lie. Take the time to do the exercise!
  5. Great! Now add “YET” in the end of every phrase and put this in a visible place for you.

As Dweck puts it:

“I heard about a high school in Chicago where students had to pass a certain number of courses to graduate, and if they didn’t pass a course, they got the grade “Not Yet.” And I thought that was fantastic, because if you get a failing grade, you think, I’m nothing, I’m nowhere. But if you get the grade “Not Yet” you understand that you’re on a learning curve. It gives you a path into the future.”

Carol Dweck – Mindset

So don’t be stuck in the fixed mindset and in the tyranny of now… allow yourself time and space to learn and grow.

See you in the next post that I haven’t wrote… YET 😉

Author : Fernanda Sarmento

Fernanda Sarmento is the owner of @mindingwithin, a self-development addicted, writer and digital marketer. With a bachelor in Social Communication and Media Studies and a master in Production Engineering she regards herself as both a meditation and ice cream junkie.

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