How to Develop a Growth Mindset in 2021
As the ink dries on our beautiful and detailed vision boards/ 10-year plans, it is important to examine our mindset early on the in the year before the busyness sets in. A mindset fixed on impossibilities can sabotage a Black female leader’s progress, whilst adopting a mindset of growth and continuous improvement can set you on an upward trajectory.
Developed by American Psychologist, Carol Dweck, a ‘growth mindset’ is simply “the belief that an individual’s most basic abilities and skills can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point” (Dweck, 2007). In other words, people who exhibit a growth mindset believe that intelligence is malleable as opposed to a ‘fixed mindset’ approach which claims that “an individual’s basic abilities and skills, their intelligence and their talents, are just fixed traits” (Dweck, 2007). You can listen to Dweck’s famous Ted Talk ‘The Power of Yet’ here.
By no means exhaustive, here are three effective strategies to develop a growth mindset in 2021:
#1 Embrace Challenges
Leaders who exhibit a growth mindset fully embrace challenges and perceive them as opportunities to learn and evolve. In contrast, leaders with a fixed mindset shy away from challenges for fear of failure and embarrassment. Having a fixed mindset inevitably results in abdication of responsibilities and self-sabotage due to insecurity. Adopting a growth mindset does not mean ignoring one’s limitations (in terms of skills/experience); rather, it means reframing limitations as temporary frontiers that can be shifted with the right knowledge, skills or tools.
#2 Embrace Feedback
It is often said that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement; however, people with fixed mindsets are prone to misconstruing genuine feedback as personal attack or criticism and are therefore resistant to change. On the other hand, if we agree with Dweck’s premise that intelligence is malleable, that there is always room for improvement, then we’ll proactively seek feedback and listen objectively with a view to doing better.
When receiving feedback, be aware of your non-verbal cues, i.e., your body language. Ensure you try as much as possible to adopt an open stance instead of appearing combative. If the end goal is growth, not perfection, then feedback is an uncomfortable but necessary road we must all travel.
#3 Watch your Words and Thoughts
Black women striving to break through hallowed halls of power have been fed limiting ideas by two groups of people: those who seek to perpetuate the imbalance of power and well-meaning but defeatist ‘allies’ who claim the inequality is far too baked-in and inadvertently prescribe inertia. Dweck’s work is incredibly empowering, challenging people to unpick entrenched narratives that we continue to give to life to with our words and thoughts. Instead of rehearsing stale narratives of disadvantage, make a conscious effort to practise positive self-talk and affirmation in 2021.
Outstanding outcomes require intentional exertion. If Black female leaders across the world are going to be able to replicate and reproduce history-making successes like what we recently witnessed with Vice president Kamala Harris, then we will need to cast off old ways of thinking and embrace a growth mindset in 2021. Our history of underrepresentation is not a death sentence; after all, in Dweck’s own words, “the hand you are dealt is just the starting point of development.”