Have you got a fixed or growth mindset?

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Fixed or Growth? Which one are you?

base guitarWhen I was 13, I wanted to be a rock star, so I saved up and bought a guitar. I was convinced I’d be the next Jimi Hendrix. I had a couple of lessons to set me off on the right track, and I knew that if I had musical blood (and I was convinced I had) I’d become a guitar hero by osmosis. I wouldn’t need to practice much – in fact, if I had to work at it, that would surely mean that I wasn’t a “natural”.

You can guess the rest; I never became a rock legend, I gave up the guitar three years later, disgusted at my lack of progress. It seemed that my rock and roll dreams were consigned to the dustbin.

So what has this story got to do with a fixed or growth mindset?

Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University devised a series of true or false questions (modified slightly) below:

  • Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much
  • You can learn new things but you can’t really change how intelligent or talented you are
  • Some people are natural leaders, others just don’t have the right personality
  • No matter what kind of person you are you can always change substantially

Most of us have been brought up to believe that talent is innate, for example Mozart was born musical, Tiger Woods was born a golfer, Einstein a physicist, etc. In short, many of us believe that our DNA is our destiny.

Dweck’s questions are designed to identify our beliefs. If you answer true to the first three questions, and false to the last one, that is an indication of a fixed mindset, the kind of mindset that caused me to give up the guitar – either you’ve got talent or you haven’t.

If on the other hand, you answer false to the first three questions and true to the last, that is an indication of a growth mindset, ie talent and ability grow with practise, and innate ability is grossly overrated. A growth mindset correlates with high performers and happier, healthier individuals.

Neuroscience breakthroughs reveal the truth

Dweck’s research is backed up by neuroscience findings that show that the brain actually grows and changes structure as we learn new skills. The first time this was discovered was in the brain scans of London taxi drivers where it was found that their hippocampus (the part of the brain used for navigation) was much larger than in ordinary people.

There are also many cases of stroke victims who have made almost complete recoveries because the brain rewires itself to take over the processing of the ‘dead’ part of the brain.

In the workplace, its been estimated that managers with a growth mindset get double the productivity from their staff compared with fixed mindset managers. To find out why this is the case read our post Leadership Mindset – Are you a multiplier or a diminisher?

Luckily for me, I decided to give the guitar a second chance at the age of 40, this time my mindset was definitely growth, and I am now achieving my musical ambitions!


Before you go – learn how to detect and resolve emotionally-driven barriers to change – start achieving the ‘unachievable’

Compelling scientific evidence explains why leaders and followers behave the way they do, in response to our emotions and thoughts. By growing our own self awareness of how our feelings and thoughts interact, we can become more resilient and effective leaders.

Check our events calendar to find a seminar near you or click here to find out more about leadership mindset.

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