Watch the people in any organization closely. You will observe some people growing, some achieve initial success and stagnate, while others never take off.
At a glance, it appears as if the people who grow are either more qualified or are born with intelligence. But when you dig further, you will realize that’s not true. Sure, a better educational degree from a reputed college does help, but that alone does not take anyone too far.
You will find as many qualified people stagnating as succeeding. Likewise, you will also find people with ordinary talent and educational qualification achieving progressive growth.
So what differentiates the people who grow from those who don’t? Among all the other aspects, the crucial differentiating factor between the two is the growth mindset.
So how to develop a growth mindset, you ask? Let’s find out.
- Relationship between growth and talent
- How to develop a growth mindset
- 1. The humility to accept a need for improvement
- 2. An open mind to accept feedback and ideas
- 3. A culture of continuous learning
- 4. The patience to wait for long term results
- 5. Comparing with yourself instead of comparing with others
Relationship between growth and talent
The graph below shows the relationship between career growth and the influence of initial talent or degrees.
People with higher talent start at a higher quality of output. These are the people who have a better qualification or IQ. As you notice, they can deliver better results when they begin. In comparison, a person with ordinary education and talent may not always produce phenomenal results in the beginning.
But the situation changes as time elapses. Over 5 years, talent holds little value unless the person keeps learning and growing. A talented person will be left behind and overtaken if he lacks the growth mindset. The common reasons why this happens is due to arrogance and overconfidence.
If you let the initial results get into your head, you tend to start believing that you’re the best. You might assume that you no longer need to scale up and learn because you’re already among the top performers.
Compare that with the scale of growth of an ordinary person with a growth mindset. Irrespective of the point where he starts, he keeps learning and polishing his skills. Such an effort isn’t apparent in the early stages because learning follows an exponential graph. You will have a hard time transferring that knowledge to results directly. So you do not see a significant difference yet. You may even feel like your effort is leading to nothing.
But month on month, as you put in time and energy, effort keeps adding up. After a point, your results become visible. Once they do, your growth starts shooting up. At no point in time is this change abrupt. The change happens over the years, and no one can identify a single point where the shift occurred.
By then, the knowledge and skill you have amassed easily out shadows the person who started strong but failed to grow.
How to develop a growth mindset
So how does one grow? What are the key attributes to a growth mindset?
1. The humility to accept a need for improvement
The most significant barrier to growth lies in the mind of the person. A person who had tremendous initial results can start believing that he is special and more talented than the rest.
When the ego runs strong, the effort runs weak. Such people take learning and practice for granted. They believe they are above that level already and can skip the part while the others catch up.
A typical example is sports. Pick your favorite game. Do you know a young player who showed extraordinary talent only to fade into oblivion? I bet you do. A few among them are those who try and fail. The majority are those who take things for granted, skip practice, do not correct their mistakes, and fail to learn new skills.
The same mindset has destroyed not just the future of talented individuals but also successful companies. Kodak stuck to their working methods of using film for pictures. Ford refused to make changes even when their beloved model T was losing customers to competitors with newer technology and trends. It took Ford years to make a comeback after the setback. Kodak is only a shadow of the company it was earlier.
The reason these individuals and organizations took a beating boils down to one single reason – the lack of humility and an attitude of stubbornness. When the world keeps evolving, the top performers have to keep surging ahead.
When they don’t, growth stagnates. Because opponents are not stupid, they learn to capitalize on such mistakes. In no time, the career of the prodigy takes a tailspin.
If you’re among the top performers when you begin, you must know that you won’t remain on the top unless you put in the effort to improve.
All I know is I know nothingAristotle
2. An open mind to accept feedback and ideas
When you receive positive feedback, a smile forms on your face ear to ear. A thank you and a modest acceptance follow. But what happens when you’re criticized? Most of us get defensive or reject the claims.
But, even when you hear negative feedback from an enemy, it will still have some truth.
Maintaining modesty when you receive positive feedback is easy. After all, who does not love listening to good things said about themselves?
The challenge lies in keeping an open mind when you receive negative feedback. The two common reactions for any negative feedback are:
When things go wrong, you feel the urge to explain why it happened. Maybe it was circumstances, unforeseen events, or somebody else’s fault. Finding excuses for negative feedback helps you convince yourself that you weren’t at fault. It strokes your ego and deceives you into believing that you did your best.
Rejecting the feedback:
When you hear feedback you do not like, you can easily find a reason to reject it. You can assume that the person giving the feedback had bad intentions, lacks knowledge, does not know the whole story, and so on.
When you make such assumptions, you tell yourself the feedback itself was invalid, and safely ignore it.
When I heard feedback about why my business was failing, I outright rejected it. I told myself, “They do not know how our market functions, how the competition is, or our vision to scale the product.” The truth was I was only fooling myself.
Whenever you receive negative feedback, it is an opportunity to learn. Yes, sometimes the negative feedback you receive isn’t genuine, comes with malicious intent, and does not need action. But before you jump to any conclusion, you must hear it out and think it through with an open mind free of all biases.
If you still believe you do not need to take action, that’s acceptable. But, rejecting feedback before analyzing it is a recipe for failure.
3. A culture of continuous learning
Look at the world around you. A decade ago, your phone did not have any of the apps you use today, food delivery was restricted to pizzas, and you had to visit a specific location to pay your bills.
The world today has improved like it always has and forever will. If you do not learn and progress at a comparable pace, you will be left behind.
When I was running a web development company in the past, internet usage on the mobile was just taking off. Less than 10% of the world used the internet on their phones. We refused to improve ourselves and move with the trend. We continued sticking to building websites for personal computers.
In a couple of years, the dynamics of the internet had changed. We were forced to play catch up, and it caused us some irreversible damage.
At any point in life, you must be better than the previous version of yourself. You have to keep improving at your core skill and keep finding complimenting areas that help you scale up.
Compare your current skills to your expertise level a year ago? Has it remained the same or have you improved? If you haven’t changed in a year, it should serve as a wake-up call.
Today, learning and improving is easier than ever. Courses are available on the internet at the click of a button. Books land on your device within a minute. Useful articles and content are just a few taps away. A lot of that content is even available free of cost.
If you want to do something, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse.Jim Rohn
4. The patience to wait for long term results
Any skill takes time to master. Depending on the skill, some can even take years or decades. Until then, you will not notice enough results to provide the steam to keep you going.
The wrong way of trying to achieve results:
You might have a habit of expecting results as per the sequence above. You try your hand at something, wait for results, work some more, notice no results, and give up.
But many skills yield results only after a long period of consistent effort.
The right way to achieve results
The right way to achieve results is to keep finding new ways of improving. Try out an idea to upgrade yourself, and wait for the result. If you do not accomplish your target, tweak the approach, and try again. When you repeat this enough number of times, you will know which methods work and which don’t.
5. Comparing with yourself instead of comparing with others
The human mind forces you to compare yourself with the person next to you. But such a comparison is meaningless and futile.
The primary reason is that you tend to compare yourself with the best. When I started blogging, I was trying to compare my results of the first 6 months against the top bloggers. The scale of effort and the market trend makes such comparisons null and void.
Secondly, even if you find a valid comparison to make, you will not stop there. If you start comparing with a person driving a Ford, your benchmark will become higher once you beat him. You will find yourself comparing yourself with another person driving a Mercedes, followed by a Jaguar and a Rolls Royce. Comparison never ends unless you want it to.
Instead, you must compare yourself against the past you. Do not run a rat race with your rivals. Embark on a journey where to try to improve your performance over time, all the time. Every 3 months, your skills should have improved one way or another.
Instead of trying to beat your opponents, try to keep improving your average performance. In no time, you will shatter your personal records.
Growth starts within the mind. Only when you believe you need to improve, you will start improving. The journey of growth isn’t comfortable but the fruit at the end of it makes the effort worth it. Learning how to develop a growth mindset has nothing to do with talent. It begins with a choice and continues with persistence.
I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’Muhammad Ali
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.