Growth mindset - the way forward for purposeful living

Sophocles – the renowned Greek playwright – says "without labour, nothing prospers." These simple words offer a profound understanding of our definition of growth in recent capitalist-driven ideologies. Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, explores the "growth mindset" as one where success is not measured by achievements, but by the way you attain the achievements. 

Resilience and hard-work are more rewarding to mental growth when compared to glossy trophies and impressive grades. Most importantly, an individual who embraces a growth mindset is one who believes in their own potential to grow or improve at every stage of life, irrespective of how old they are and how many obstacles come their way. A fixed mindset on the other hand is one that shies away from constant improvement in the fear of facing challenges and stepping out of one’s comfort zone.  The following are some ways to transition from a integrating a fixed mindset to a growth driven one:-

1. Focus on the bigger picture

One way to get in the habit of focusing on the bigger picture is by speaking/writing to yourself every day. Ask what is it that you would want to grow into instead of asking yourself how to make your mark sheets and/or job resume look better.  Once we set long term goals, we will find ourselves perpetually striving to grow and achieve the same.

Here is an example of a long-term goal that ensures growth - 

"Develop expertise in any two computer science coding languages."

as opposed to-

 "Score an A in Computer Science," or "Get a job as a computer scientist."

2. You are never too old to grow

We often see parents sit on benches while their children play a sport. They wait patiently for an hour or two just watching them play, and for many of them the thought of playing a sport themselves never crosses their minds. Most of us are under the misconception that only children can learn, improve and grow, and as adults, our time is up. That is not true, we are never too old to grow.

A 90 year old Rajasthani woman decided to learn how to speak in English so that she could communicate with her great grandson who was born in the UK and only spoke that language. She is an ideal example of one who inculcates a growth mindset. 

3. Aspire to learn more and not win more

People often chase accolades not because they desire them,  but because they believe they will be loved more for having achieved more.  To ensure we only chase goals that help us grow, we must realize that what matters is what we learn and can apply to real-life situations, and not what we score on paper. And if we can love ourselves for doing that, we will not be hungry for the love and affirmation of others.

As a student one can make a list of things that they find difficult to understand in a class and clarify the same from the teacher. To encourage this practice, parents can set an example by sharing their learnings of the day with the family every evening, and teachers can conduct question-answer sessions and reward students for asking questions in addition to honouring those who give correct answers.   

4. Praise yourself and praise wisely

To avoid being an individual who requires constant validation in the form of some award or the other, we must learn to appreciate and praise our own efforts, perseverance, and hard-work instead of only the outcomes. A good way to do that is by listing the number of productive hours we spend on a project, and treating ourselves based on that before we receive the result of our work. 

Instead of students celebrating after their results are out, they should celebrate after their study preparation is over, or after their college applications are submitted. Similarly parents and teachers can treat themselves on completion of their weekly/monthly targets instead of after a promotion or any form of result. Focusing on self affirmation makes us less vulnerable and susceptible to societal standards of success and helps us incorporate a growth mindset.