Nature, nurture or circumstance?

At New Year we often think about changes we’d like to make in our lives. To do so, we need to believe that we are not destined to stay the same forever. In other words, we need to have a ‘growth mindset.’

If you believe that people are born either good or bad at something (fixed mindset), you’re likely to be discouraged when you try something new and don’t do very well. You’ll give up easily and won’t try again. On the other hand, if you believe that every experience is a chance to learn (growth mindset), you’re more likely to keep working towards improvement. People with a growth mindset are more cheerful, resilient and ultimately more successful.

But mindsets are changeable too. Classrooms can be engineered to foster a growth mindset by praising efforts and encouraging trial and error, whereas constant testing in schools can promote fixed mindset behaviour. Workplace cultures have the same effect. In an environment where people are afraid to make mistakes, they limit themselves to what they know; whereas an appreciative, open-to-new-ideas culture will encourage people to learn and grow, ultimately making for a more innovative and successful workplace.

We see, then, that people are acutely responsive to their environment. That person at work who always seems to be in a bad mood is not necessarily bad-tempered by nature. Their behaviour may be a reaction to the situation they find themselves in, or the system they’re working under.

As well as developing a growth mindset for ourselves, we can try fostering a flexible mindset when it comes to others. The less we pigeonhole people, the more we give them permission to be all that they can be. That way, positive changes are possible for us all.

Stephanie Hills ©


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