Grow Your Mind

Potential success concept as a symbol for aspiration. A small sapling making a reflection of a mature large tree in the water.

At Ohio State, learning is a valued way of life and a continuous process of growing in insight, experience, knowledge and skills.  Employees develop growth mindsets, seek out learning opportunities and embrace change.

Learning requires motivation, and research shows that people who seek opportunities to learn and grow tend to achieve more than those who believe they’re born with all the abilities they’ll ever have.  Likewise, employees at organizations who embrace a passion for learning and growing feel more empowered and committed.

One cornerstone of a positive culture of learning is empowering a growth mindset. The term growth mindset was coined by Stanford psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck who studied what differentiated people who succeed from those who fail.  It came down to whether they hold a fixed mindset or growth mindset. According to Dr. Dweck, people with a fixed mindset believe that their traits or characteristics such as their intelligence or people skills are set once they reach adulthood. Someone with a fixed mindset thinks I’ve got what I’ve got and I just have to make the most of it because I can’t change it.

In contrast, an individual with a growth mindset believes that they can always get better and they can always learn something new or practice something more. They also believe that practice and effort are the pathways to improvement and even mastery. Individuals with a growth mindset believe their talents can be developed through hard work, good strategies and input from others.

At work, these different mindsets tend to play out every day and influence how people view effort, setbacks, challenges, feedback and even success of others. People with a fixed mindset don’t believe that they can improve, so they tend to focus on doing what they’re already good at, avoiding challenges, and blaming others when they have a setback. They also tend to be very defensive when they receive feedback.

Whereas growth mindset people are always looking for opportunities to learn and grow. They put in the time and energy it takes to get better at something. They welcome challenges, and they see setbacks as wake-up calls. They not only respond well to feedback, they actively seek it out. Needless to say, these two mindsets create very different career paths, with the growth people more likely to improve over time, develop more sophisticated skills, and adapt to our rapidly changing world.

Reflect on the questions below as you develop your growth mindset.

  • How often do you engage in learning?
  • What are some of the ways you stay on top of new developments in your field?
  • How do you tend to your own professional development?
  • Think about a skill you’ve developed mastery in. How did you get to that level?
  • What feedback have you received recently where you were able to learn something new about yourself or done something differently?
  • Describe a time where you recently were innovative and experimented and took a risk. What was the result/outcome?