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We grow from calamity and epiphany – but we can also ungrow.
Our Mindset Enables Us to Surpass our DNA.
Contrary to the notion that our mindset is predetermined by genetics or early life experiences, a growth mindset is mostly cultivated in adulthood. This development often occurs through relationships with mentors, coaches, friends, and life partners. This explains how you can develop a growth mindset no matter what DNA, childhood, personality preferences or life experiences you have had. Interestingly, it’s suggested that a growth mindset may more readily emerge from challenging circumstances rather than from privileged conditions.
Understanding and nurturing a growth mindset requires recognizing the complex interplay between our internal experiences and external influences. It’s a journey of continuous personal development, shaped by our interactions, relationships, and the diverse experiences of our lives.
What is Mindset Upgrade
Mindset isn’t synonymous with personality; it’s more like consciousness. It’s also like a muscle needing development and prone to becoming exhausted with overuse. That’s because it evolves via experiences, and we can change it via reflection. Our mindset gets “upgraded,” or grows, particularly during childhood and early adulthood.
An upgrade can go unnoticed, but you may recall moments when you became aware of your ability to manage more, do more, see more. Events like going to university, getting your first job, learning a new language, being promoted to your first leadership role, or becoming a parent are all candidates for this type of upgrade. In these cases, you didn’t just learn something new, you became someone new. Your personality didn’t change, but you learned to drive better, getting more out of the car, road, and journey.
Sometimes upgrades are born out of adversity, necessity, or a calamity like when we lose our job, one of our parents dies, or our business goes bankrupt. Hopefully these negative experiences lead to positive learning in the form of growth. We become better drivers from smaller accidents. But accidents, especially big ones, can also lead us to un-grow, to regress into more protective and defensive mindsets.
Other upgrades are born out of an epiphany. We’re talking Archimedes in the bathtub, or me realizing that I wanted to be a psychologist rather than an accountant. Suddenly the way we’ve been understanding ourselves and the world up until that moment seems just plain wrong. We embark on a new journey with a mindset that has grown.
Sometimes we ungrow
However, not all experiences lead to growth. Some situations, like prolonged workplace toxicity, repeated failures without support, personal trauma, or exposure to persistent negativity, can lead to an “un-growth” of mindset. In these instances, individuals may slide into despair rather than development, cynicism instead of commitment, and apathy over ambition. These negative shifts often result from overwhelming stress or failure without adequate coping mechanisms, leading individuals to develop protective stances that hinder mindset growth.
For many people, their mindset helps them make sense of the world and their role in it in ways that support positive self-esteem and confidence. For others, it can make them feel like an impostor, weak, or like a victim or, conversely, superior, entitled, and above the law. In this way, mindset is part fact but mostly story. The more it’s based on fact and positivity the better it is for our health.
Our Mindset shifts if we don’t pay attention.
Your mindset is partly of your own making, partly shaped by how important people in your life relate to the world, and partly influenced by the mindset of people you meet on the way into the office. It’s both stable and situational. You might feel positive when you arrive at the office, but you may not stay that way if the security guard makes your life hard when you discover you forgot your access card.
We influence each other’s mindset a great deal more than we think. It seeps into us by way of emotions. This is both good and bad. Good, because it suggests that we can nudge people into relating more positively to the world. Bad, because it suggests that negative team experiences and poor relationships are contagious.
A developmental view of mindset should help you see the possibility for developing your own mindset towards growth and transformation. This is how you can develop yourself and others beyond what you thoughts was possible.
Reflection Questions about your own development experiences
Here are five reflection questions for readers to consider after engaging with the text on the development and challenges of cultivating a growth mindset:
1. Identifying Growth and Un-Growth Moments: Reflect on a significant event in your life. Did this experience contribute to your growth, or did it lead to ‘un-growth’ in your mindset? How did this event change your approach to challenges and opportunities?
2. Coping Mechanisms and Support Systems: Think about a challenging or adverse situation you faced. What coping mechanisms did you use, and how effective were they? What kind of support (from friends, family, mentors, or professionals) did you have, and how did it influence your journey through this situation?
3. Impact of External Influences: How have the attitudes and behaviors of important people in your life (like mentors, coaches, or family members) influenced your mindset? Can you identify any specific instances where their influence was particularly strong, either positively or negatively?
4. Self-Awareness in Moments of Change: Consider a moment of epiphany or a significant change in your life. How did this moment alter your understanding of yourself and the world around you? Did this change lead to new goals, aspirations, or changes in your behavior?
5. Balancing Stability and Adaptability: Reflect on how your mindset has remained stable in certain aspects of your life and how it has adapted in others. What factors contributed to this stability and adaptability? How do you balance maintaining a core sense of self while being open to growth and change?
These questions are designed to encourage deep personal reflection, helping readers to understand their journey towards a growth mindset and recognize the factors that influence their personal and professional development.
Author of Safe2Great, keynote speaker on psychological safety and growth mindset