Samantha asked, “Am I giving off a vibe?”

She observed that her supervisor gave her co-workers plenty of feedback but avoided getting into the same kinds of in-depth conversations with her. She also sensed her teammates were uncomfortable when she spoke up during meetings.

She wanted to know, “Is it me?” And in further conversation, we realized that it probably was.

Samantha needed to embrace the benefits of a growth mindset.

What is growth mindset?

Based on the work of Dr. Carol Dweck, our mindset is how we see ourselves and interpret what is going on around us. Dweck identified two kinds of mindset – fixed and growth.

Someone with a fixed mindset believes that they can’t change their intelligence or abilities. They move through life trying to meet standards of success to prove their worth as a person. They’re judging and evaluating their performance to see if they measure up. Any perceived mistake or failure causes anxiety, stress, defensiveness, and fear.

On the other hand, someone with a growth mindset believes that with hard work and perseverance, they can improve their skills. For these folks, success is both the outcome of their effort and the effort itself. Rather than seeing mistakes and failures as reflections of their weaknesses, they see them as opportunities for learning and improvement. They embrace taking calculated risks and trying new things.

Working with Samantha, we identified that she usually defaulted to having a fixed mindset. This set of beliefs influenced how she responded to constructive feedback. Since she was feeling like her self-worth was tied to her performance, any perceived criticism triggered her alarm bells. When her manager pointed out areas for improvement, or her teammates questioned some of her suggestions, she became defensive and argumentative. She was definitely giving off a vibe.

The good news is that those of us with a fixed mindset like Samantha can take four steps to shift to growth mindset.

Making the shift to growth mindset

  1. We can embrace the fact that we have a fixed mindset. Most of us have a mixture of fixed and growth mindset, and if the fixed side of ourselves tends to dominate our thinking, it’s likely wreaking havoc in our lives. We can change what we acknowledge. Begin by accepting that this is a part of us. Then we can shift how we relate to that judging, critical inner voice.
  2. To do that, we identify our fixed mindset triggers. They’ll be different for different people. Some of us (like Samantha) react defensively to constructive criticism. Some of us are triggered by encountering someone who’s more skilled than we are in something we’re good at. Some of us would rather avoid tackling something risky or new. The fear of failure is too much, so we step back or say “No.”
  3. Once we know what our fixed mindset triggers are, we can begin to change how we relate to those triggers. Dweck suggests giving the fixed mindset inner voice a persona. Name the persona and describe her behavior. When does she show up? What does she do and say when she arrives? What does that make us think, feel, and do?
  4. Now, we educate our persona. We engage with her when she shows up, talking with her about how we’re going to make a different choice this time, or we’re going to learn from this setback and move forward, or we’re going to stick with it and see it through. We remind our persona of the benefits of growth mindset and invite her to go on the journey with us.

Benefits of growth mindset

Together, Samantha and I worked through the four steps to develop her growth mindset. As we did, she saw how her reactions to feedback shifted from defensiveness to collaboration and even gratitude. Even better, the vibe she was giving off became softer, warmer, and more open, leading to better relationships with her colleagues. By losing her fear of feedback, Samantha gained more than she’d imagined.

Want to learn more about growth mindset? Check this out!