Developing a Growth Mindset by Edel Walsh
Developing a Growth Mindset
Edel Walsh
“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right” – Henry Ford

This is a belief that many people live by, and it all comes down to your mindset. If you believe you can do something or achieve a goal, more often than not you will be successful. The opposite is also true. If you tell yourself, you can’t do something it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Believing in yourself, and having confidence in your ability to do something, can often be the tipping point between success and failure.

Mindsets are powerful beliefs. There are many types of mindsets but in this article, we will look at, the Fixed Mindset, and the Growth Mindset. Carol Dweck, in her book “Mindset” says a fixed mindset is essentially a belief that your intelligence, talents and other abilities are set in stone. A person with a fixed mindset believes that they are born with a particular set of skills and that they can’t change them. The growth mindset on the other hand is the belief that a person can develop their talents and achieve their goals through hard work, effective strategies, and support from others.

Mindset impacts your actions and drives change.
People with a growth mindset set challenging goals and persevere when faced with obstacles as they believe they can recover, progress, and succeed. They take risks, are curious, and bounce back or recover after making mistakes. Those with a fixed mindset may avoid challenging goals, they can give up easily when faced with difficulties, and avoid situations where they might make mistakes. They can see their mistakes as a reflection of their ability.

A growth mindset helps us embrace change and pursue new experiences. On the other hand, with a fixed mindset we can resist change because of the fear of the unknown and we can doubt our ability to handle the challenge.

When it comes to mindset it is not all black and white. There might be some areas of your life where you display a fixed mindset and some areas of your life where you display a growth mindset. The great news is, you can cultivate a growth mindset, but it will take work. By cultivating a growth mindset, you can move out of your comfort zone, learn from your mistakes, and build your resilience in the process.

aerial view of people sitting around a conference room with papers
How to develop a growth mindset?
As I have already mentioned, there might be some areas of your life where you display a fixed mindset. The first is to identify these areas. For example, are there things you tend to avoid? Do you abandon things that you know will be good for you? A simple example might be, “I avoid public speaking as I am not good at it. I don’t like doing presentations in front of people”.

Next, pursue challenges that will push you out of your comfort zone. Using the public speaking example, look for opportunities to speak in front of people in a safe environment. See these challenges as an opportunity for self-development. We often fall into “thinking traps” when we think about the challenges we face. A thinking trap is a cognitive distortion with a negative swing. To move the pendulum on thinking traps, try and re-frame them into positive prompts.

For example, “Other people are so much better at public speaking than I am” can be re-framed into “what can I learn from other people who I think are confident public speakers”.

Another example is, “I won’t make a presentation in front of my team as I will get too nervous” can be re-framed into “What techniques can I use to calm and centre myself before I speak in front of my team”. Reframe how you think about challenges. Rather than the challenges being something negative, think of them as an opportunity.

When embracing the growth mindset, using the word “yet” can transform your thinking. Take the example, “I am not good at public speaking” and put the word “yet” at the end of the sentence, “I am not good at public speaking yet”. The word “yet” implies that you will get there. “Yet” leaves room for possibility.

Making mistakes may be unavoidable when you are embarking on new challenges and stepping out of your comfort zone. Mistakes are the best way of learning. Mistakes give you valuable feedback. If you have a fixed mindset, you may be unwilling to investigate your mistake. If you don’t investigate your mistakes, then no learning takes place.

A person with a growth mindset will investigate their mistakes and will learn from their mistakes. It is normal to feel demotivated, stressed, and anxious when you make mistakes. The key is to re-frame the thinking traps into positive prompts. After making a mistake, get curious and be kind to yourself. Ask yourself, “what obstacles kept me from achieving my goal?” Another question, to ask yourself is “what is the one small step I can take to move forward?”. Learning any new skill or stepping outside of your comfort zone takes hard work, patience and perseverance. There is a famous advertisement with NBA superstar and legend, Michael Jordan where he says, “I have failed over and over and over again in my career, and that is why I succeed”.

When embracing new challenges, be open to changing your strategy. If one strategy is not yielding the results you are looking for, try another strategy. There is a famous saying that says the definition of insanity “is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Another way of cultivating a growth mindset is to ask questions and seek feedback. Take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of others. Using the example of public speaking, turn to somebody you feel is a “good” public speaker and ask them questions about what works well for them. Recognize that others can help you with your journey or challenge.

2 business women walking down an empty hallway while having a discussion
Growth Mindset and Goal Setting
Setting realistic and achievable goals is a great way of using the growth mindset to overcome challenges. Using the SMART Framework to set goals for yourself can be useful. A SMART goal is a goal that is:

Specific – for a goal to be effective, it needs to be specific. Consider what needs to be accomplished, who needs to do this and what action steps need to be taken.

Measurable – can your goal be measured?

Attainable – The goal needs to be realistic. Is this something that you can realistically achieve?

Relevant – Consider why you are setting this goal for yourself?

Time bound – What is your timeline for achieving this goal?

Setting SMART goals means you can clarify your objectives, focus your attention, use your time and resources productively as well as increasing the chances of achieving your goals.

Let’s revisit our example of the individual who wants to improve their public speaking. A growth mindset goal might be “I will do a team presentation once a month. I will reach out to my boss this week to set this up”. This goal is very specific. The goal can be measured as the person will either do a team presentation once a month or they won’t. The goal appears to be attainable and relevant and there is timeline incorporated into the goal.

Mindsets are powerful beliefs. Our beliefs can sometimes hold us back from achieving our potential. By cultivating a growth mindset, we can deal with challenges and break through barriers. It will take time and effort and mistakes will be made. It’s what we do with those mistakes that counts.
Edel Walsh headshot
Edel Walsh

BSc Finance, ACA, CTA

Edel is a student and exam coach. She is also a well-being coach. She is a member of the European Coaching and Mentoring Council, EMCC. For more information, check out her website or email