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The Big Secret of Change

By Karla Schlaepfer
personal growth, fixed mindset, growth mindset, carol dweck, stanford university

Why is it so hard to change? Try something new? Or just get out of routine? Sure, routine gives us security and it is safe. But why is it that some people don’t stress change as much as others?

This summer we talked with Prof. Carol Dweck of Stanford University. Prof. Dweck and her team have been studying people’s learning behavior towards change for many years. She wrote the bestseller Mindset in which she describes how a simple idea can make all the difference.

This is our internal conviction or mindset, which is the belief you have of your own abilities. How we develop this self-evaluation goes back to our caretakers and early learning.  Our relationship to change, success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness is manifest in our mindset.

Dweck groups mindsets in two categories which represent the extreme ends on a spectrum. The first, a fixed mindset comes from the belief that your qualities are carved in stone – who you are, is who you are, period. Those with a “fixed mindset” assume that our abilities are “fixed” and that we can’t really change in any meaningful way. Success is seen as the affirmation of that inherent intelligence. In fact, working for success and avoiding failure becomes a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. This is clearly demonstrated in school children who are afraid to make mistakes, need to be affirmed and stifle their vital experimental creativity to be right.

A growth mindset comes from the belief that basic qualities are things you can actively change through effort. Yes, people differ greatly but everyone can grow.  People with growth mindsets try harder, thrive on challenge and see failure not a sign of unintelligence but as a springboard for learning. Teaching and living a growth mindset creates motivation in the worlds of business, education and sports. And yes, your mindset can vary from area to area, whatever mindset dominates will guide you in that area.

The great thing is, when you cultivate and live a growth mindset, you’ll believe in your ability to change the world around you. This knowledge and self-assurance lies at the heart of innovation and change. A great book on this is Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley. Dare yourself to taking mini-steps towards creative change  – start today! What’s stopping you?