'Growth Mindset' Tips to Boost Performance

Viewing traits as innate make coping with failure and success much harder. With a "growth mindset" you learn more, persist more, and overcome obstacles.

Stever Robbins,
Episode #476

growth mindset vs fixed mindset image

Today’s tip is about how a slight change in thinking dramatically changes your ability to get results.

“Know thyself!” My guidance counselor in high school was very clear on this. And boy, did I know myself: I’m smart. I’m bad at sports. I am so far on the “nerd” side of the spectrum that my thick, coke-bottle glasses need to wear glasses. 

If you notice carefully, all these things I “knew” were unchangeable definitions of my being. This is a “fixed mindset.” It’s the belief that my traits, skills, and general awesomeness is set in stone and can’t be changed. Either I’m smart, or I’m not. And if not, there’s nothing that can be done. 

Even if that were true—and it’s not—thinking with a fixed mindset sucks. Psychologist Carol Dweck has been researching this for years. When someone believes their skills and abilities are innate, they give up more easily when they meet challenges. They conclude, “this is just who I am” rather than “I can learn to overcome this.”

Overcoming this is easy; you adopt a growth mindset instead. That’s how people become the superhero version of themselves. And we all want to be the superhero versions of ourselves! The costumes look way cooler, though of course we never, ever wear capes.

Growth mindsets emphasize improvement

A growth mindset is the belief that you can grow and change through education and practice. With a growth mindset, you adapt to challenges by learning and setting new goals. You respond differently to failure. Instead of concluding there’s nothing to be done, you ask, “What can I do differently?”

You can change a fixed mindset into a growth mindset, even if it’s not yours. 

What you praise is what you get

When you praise people, they keep doing what they’re doing. If you praise someone for their innate abilities, that reinforces the idea that what they are is what matters. “You’re so smart!” you tell your friend. Your friend now thinks they’re innately smart. You’ve just reinforced the fixed mindset.

“You work so hard!” on the other hand, reinforces the growth mindset. It praises the effort someone put in which, of course, is something they can ramp up or down as they wish. 

Get everyone growing

If everyone in your life has a growth mindset, everyone will start being more successful. You’ll all start rising to challenges! You’ll climb your personal Mt. Everest! Then you’ll take a selfie at the top and post it to Facebook. Everyone will be so jealous, and you’ll be as famous as Kim Kardashian. Yay.

Praise your mentees for actions, not traits

Do you have people you mentor in life or in work? Find out the actions they’ve taken that have led them to success, and praise those actions. “You really put in 100% effort on the marketing report.” “Your business plan shows that you did a great job with your research.” Praise the actions that are under their control that they can do more of.

Do not say things like, “you’re so smart” or “you’re gifted at photography.” Those emphasize fixed traits. Keep emphasizing actions.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. 

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