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The Perception of Life Through Fixed and Growth Mindset

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Everyone has heard the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Well the fact is, words do hurt, and words can sometimes be discouraging. Not only can failure be discouraging and can potentially cause a person to give up on their journey completely. It is important to understand the difference between fixed and growth mindsets, the value of making mistakes and the importance of learning from them so the mistake is not repeated. It is encouraging to reassure one’s self and others for the effort verses shaming for the failure. A perfect example of this is when students struggle in their coursework, instead of an instructor saying they failed, it is more encouraging to say, “not yet”. This gives the student the confidence they need to try again. Words have a direct influence over results. (Women in business, 2019, P6). This paper will break down the differences between a fixed and growth mindset as well as explained the power of “yet” in the workplace.

Society has become conditioned to talk about the misfortunes and failures in a negative light. When something is said out loud enough times the words become the truth not only in the individual’s mind but in the minds of everyone that hears the negativity. Words define the perceptions that shape our beliefs, drive our behavior, and ultimately, create our world. “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” (Berg, 2019). In the workplace it is important to be mindful of the words being used. Communication styles and patterns are influenced as mindfulness alters the ways in which followers recognize and process information (Eisenbeiss & Knippenberg, 2015). Mindfulness promotes self-control resulting in respect from the follower. Mindful leaders hold crucial conversations that foster resilience and flexibility necessary for change and growth to occur. (Raney, 2014).

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Often new hires come into a new position in a new environment and it can be difficult to get adjusted. If a new hire is training and has difficulty grasping the content, the power of “yet” is useful here. Assuring the person that although the do not get the information now does not mean they will never get it. Essentially the power of yet can relate to the saying “practice makes perfect.” The more work that is put into a task the better the outcome will be. Acknowledge the potential that an individual display. “Encouragement involves the acknowledgment of a negative thing – that the people being encouraged don’t know they’re not doing (or trying to do) the thing they should be doing.” (McCammon, 2015). Encouragement deals with pointing on the flaw but motivating the person to do more or to do better. Pointing out a flaw without providing motivation is just ridicule.

Leaders should think about the words they speak to employees for the words said and dictate whether someone will fail or succeed. Words can influence good and bad behavior, tear down relationships, or change a person’s mood. The book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck compares and contrasts fixed and growth mindsets. She states, “the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.” (Dweck, 2006, P6). The fixed mindset creates an urgency to prove yourself repeatedly. An example of this would be comments like “she is a natural born singer” or “I’m just no good at dancing”. It gives the impression that the set of skills a person has is all they have and cannot be developed any further. Although a fixed mindset is the most common mindset, it is also the most harmful. This mindset does not give room to grow, it leaves a person feeling stuck or incapable. In the workplace many employees become complacent in their roles and do not feel they can do more to grow within a company. It is the job of the leader to encourage that growth, point out what is imperfect so that employees can learn and correct the mistakes made in the past. Encouragement will ultimately remove a person from the fixed state of mind.

A growth mindset is one that focuses on achieving quality through effort. An example of this could be a baby who is beginning to walk, they may fall down many times but through encouragement of the parents the baby is inspired to keep trying. With a growth mindset it is believed that anyone can do anything because of the results are solely based on the actions of that person. An employee who just received a promotion did not receive it because of a fixed mindset they received it because they put effort into their job, and it was noticed and rewarded in the workplace. “A true growth mindset’s foundation is the ability and willingness to adapt and change when necessary. Change must come from or be supported by the top to make it work, but in order for it to be truly successful, all stakeholders must be a part of it. It’s inherent that people want to succeed and improve; companies must capitalize on human nature and allow all employees the opportunity to help shape and mold the company’s initiatives.” (Brissot, 2017).

Having a growth mindset will allow an individual to regroup after being faced with rejection. Workplace rejection can be painful, but it is to be expected, some may take the rejection as a failure while others take the rejection as an opportunity to learn. Rejection does not have to be painful, when a person experiences rejection in the workplace it is easy to start to play the blame game and doubt their abilities to succeed. It is important to try and see the situation in a positive light, this will help to move on faster and create new opportunities for success. (Administrative professional today, 2013). To regroup from rejection, you have to utilize the growth mindset and being mentally strong and resilient. “Mentally strong people know that rejection serves as proof that they’re living life to the fullest. They expect to be rejected sometimes, but they’re still not afraid to go for it, even when they suspect a plan may be a long shot. If you never get rejected, you may be living too far inside your comfort zone. You can’t be sure you’re pushing yourself to your limits until you get turned down every now and then. When you get rejected for a project, passed up for a job, or turned down by a friend, you’ll know that you’re putting yourself out there.” (Morin, 2015). Not understanding the power of “yet” or having a fixed mindset and result in many setbacks in life. Success does not come without effort, one cannot expect success without actions, failures or risk. A pessimistic attitude will not go far in life, however those who are optimistic will take failure in stride, learn from it and take the risk again with a higher chance of succeeding the next time.

A company that understood the power of “yet” would be Apple. Apple has been around since the late 70s and have released a variety of products. Many products released in the early stages of Apple have failed, but Apple understood that failure did not mean it was the end for the company. Apple released the Macintosh TV in 1993 and released the first “smartphone” in the 90s as well. Both products failed, not because the ideas were not great but because the products were not a commonplace in the 90s. Consumers where not ready for a product that was ahead of it’s time. Fast-forward to 2019 and Apple TVs and smartphones are flying off the shelves. People stand in line for hours just to get the latest product first. This is a perfect example for the power of “yet” because Apple did not close their doors due to failing, they simply regrouped after the failure, learned from past mistakes, said “not yet” and continue. Today Apple is one of the largest companies in the world.

It is said that teachers will put “not yet” on a student’s report card instead of the failing grade in order to encourage them to keep trying. It is a powerful strategy that teaches children to not give up if they fail the first time. This strategy can boost their confidence and get them excited to try again. For teachers to implement this is their classrooms instills the growth mindset in children. They will eventually take that mindset into their adult lives and regroup from rejection, put continuous effort into being successful and be aware of the words they use. Overcoming a negative perception is difficult but it is not impossible. Words obviously cannot change the reality of a situation, but words can change people perceive the reality. A single word can make the difference between liking a person and disliking that person. Words can be the reason why someone decides to give up or try again. Therefore, it is beneficial for leaders in the workplace to use meaningful words when communicating with employees. Instead of becoming annoyed with an employee that is struggling with a task, encourage them and make them aware that continuous effort will produce results. In addition, individuals tend to think negative thoughts when faced with failure. To counter that thought, writing down positive affirmations or having “self-talks will be helpful to reassure one’s self of the term “not yet”.

People must embrace change and realize that there is always an opportunity to learn and grow. As Dweck’s studies found, individuals that looked towards achieving greater levels of success in both their personal and professional lives because they were less worried about looking smart and more focused on becoming smart. It is one’s self that has the ability to embrace opportunities and learning in environments that show uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. These are not environments that promote failure; however, they are environments that encourage growth and produce resilience. Individuals must adopt the “yet” into their vocabulary, it acknowledges that one may not have mastered a skill or solved a problem but ‘yet’ removes the notion of having failed and reinforces that success still lies ahead. “Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you are climbing it” (Maity, 2017).

In conclusion, words define the perceptions that shape our beliefs, drive our behavior, and ultimately, create our world. In the workplace it is helpful to be mindful of the words used, for words can be the reason someone succeeds or fails. Mindsets can dictate how a person will progress in life. Those with a fixed mindset spend their time documenting their intelligence or talents instead of developing them, while those with a growth mindset believe their most basic qualities can be developed with hard work and dedication. The power of “yet” is a great motivational theory that encourages people to look beyond the failure that took place and realize that it does not mean it will always occur. Instead of viewing a situation as “never” it is more encouraging to view the situation as “not yet”. One must believe that improvement is possible and that dedication, hard work, plus patience will be worth any sacrifices made in the time it took to become successful. For opportunities to arise one must prepare for the success they want. Developing a growth mindset takes time and effort, however over time and with enough practice one will become more inclined to move away from the term “now” and move towards the term “yet”. 

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