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85. Success Mindsets with Ryan Gottfredson

Unlocking Greater Success by Developing a Growth Mindset

Ryan Gottfredson, Ph.D.

Each of us has two basic needs, but unfortunately, they are competing. Thus, we have a tendency to choose one or the other.

Before I present these needs, I want you to take a minute to ask yourself which of the two needs you primarily focus on fulfilling:

  • Looking Good
  • Learning and Developing

Looking Good

When we primarily focus on looking good, we:

  • Always try to be seen as successful and competent
  • Avoid putting ourselves in situations where we may display a weakness or fail as a way to protect ourselves and our image
  • Come to believe that success should come naturally and that putting forth effort is an admission of weakness, frailty, or limitations
  • Focus on proving that we are smart and talented, and on validating ourselves 

These are the hallmarks of someone with a fixed mindset. They believe that their abilities, talent, and intelligence are fixed, something they cannot change. 

When we do not believe their abilities, talent, and intelligence are fixed, we become preoccupied with avoiding mistakes and failures. This is because if we fail, and we do not have the ability to change, we are left to interpret that as though we are a failure. 

Learning and Developing

When we primarily focus on learning and developing, we:

  • Look at challenges as opportunities to learn and grow
  • Are willing to put ourselves in situations that will test us
  • Believe that effort is the path to success
  • Respond positively to failure

These are the hallmarks of someone with a growth mindset. They believe that their abilities, talent, and intelligence can grow, and thus they thrive on the very things that those with a fixed mindset try to avoid.

Fixed/Growth Mindsets in Action

Let me give you a few examples about how these mindsets affect us. 

Because everyone can relate to school/education examples, let me start with a couple. 

First, when you were in school, if you were going to comment, would you only comment when you knew the answer (fixed mindset), or were you willing to comment at any time, seeing it as an opportunity to learn and be corrected if you were wrong (growth mindset?

Second, in school, were you primarily focused on getting a good grade (how you looked; fixed mindset), or on learning and mastering the material (how much you grew; growth mindset). 

Third, if something is challenging to you, do you see it as a sign that you are on the wrong path (fixed mindset), or do you see it as an opportunity to further develop yourself. 

Impact of Fixed Growth Mindsets

Let me give a couple examples. One from an education setting, the other in more of a corporate setting. 

First, educational researchers Benjamin Matthes and Heidrun Stoeger found that parents’ mindsets influence the mindsets of their children, how they work with their children related to their academics, and ultimately how well their children do academically. Comparing parents with a growth mindset to parents with a fixed mindset, they found that when parents have a growth mindset, their children are more likely to have a growth mindset, they are less likely to engage in controlling behavior to do homework or perform at a certain level, they are less likely to engage in homework-related conflict, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, their children are more likely to have higher academic performance.

Second, Peter Heslin, Don Vandewalle, and Gary Latham found that fixed-mindset managers give less quantity and quality feedback to their subordinates because they do not feel they can develop or improve; whereas growth mindsets give higher quantity and quality feedback to their subordinates because they believe that they can improve. 

Who would you want to work for? Someone who encourages your growth, or someone who is continually looking for signs of failure? 

Illuminating the effect of having a fixed mindset when in a leadership position, in her book Mindsets, Carol Dweck states the following about fixed-mindset leaders:

“They didn’t set out to do harm. But at critical decision points, they opted for what would make them feel good and look good over what would serve the longer-term corporate goals. Blame others, cover mistakes, pump up the stock prices, crush rivals and critics, screw the little guy—these were the standard operating procedures.”

Power of Learning about Mindsets

At times I have struggled with a fixed mindset. But now that I know about fixed and growth mindsets, I am able to recognize the mindset that I am wearing, and I am empowered to change it. 

For most people, their problem is that they do not know about fixed/growth mindsets, so they overlook their mindset and are powerless to change them. 

I hope this post helps you to better evaluate your mindsets, and empowers you to develop more of a growth mindset. 

If you would like a more objective assessment of the degree to which you have a fixed or growth mindset, take this FREE personal mindset assessment, which includes specific recommendations for developing more of a growth mindset: https://ryangottfredson.com/personal-mindset-assessment

To go even deeper on this topic, listen to our episode on The Balanced Educator Podcast below with Ryan.

Be sure to subscribe to the Balanced Educator Podcast so you don’t miss our upcoming episodes as we continue to teach how to avoid teacher burnout. iTunes, Spotify, Google Play

Show notes:

Check out Carol Dweck’s book Mindset

Do Ryan’s Mindset Assessment

Connect with Ryan on Facebook and LinkedIn

Do you want to teach about mindsets in the classroom? Grab this free poster to get started!

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Let us know in the comments, what was your biggest takeaway from what Ryan shared about mindsets?

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2 thoughts on “85. Success Mindsets with Ryan Gottfredson

  1. Juliana Brandao Magalhães November 2, 2019 at 6:25 am

    Congrats! So good to hear about you through Dr Ryan Gottfredson. Looking forward to follow you!
    Warm regards

    1. Kailey Lefko November 7, 2019 at 9:33 am

      That’s great! I hope you enjoy our content and what we have to share Juliana!

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