“Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” – Lao Tzu
What do you think shapes your fundamental thoughts, to begin with?
Your mindset does.
Thus, cultivating a teachable attitude as a part of our daily habits and overall character is closely related to the presence of a growth-focused mindset. Carol Dweck who studies human motivation came up with a theory of two mindsets that makes all the differences in the outcomes of many of our life events. They are the growth mindset and a fixed mindset.
In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck explains people with fixed mindsets are the ones who believe intelligence is static that often leads them to desire to look smart.
“If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character – well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them”
These are the people who often seek constant validation from others to prove themselves and confirm their intelligence, personality, or character.
On the other hand, people with a growth mindset are the ones who truly believe that intelligence can be developed which sparks their desire to continuously learn. People with growth mindsets not only believe that they can get smarter through hard work, but they also welcome challenges, persists in the face of failures, and learn from criticisms directed at them compared to people with fixed mindsets who avoid challenges, lose heart easily, and take no criticisms. Therefore, it is incredibly important to foster a growth-focused mindset and here’s how you can start your journey.
Watch out what you’re being praised for
The idea of attaching value to success or failure came from the social conventions that taught us the fear of failure by only praising the highs and monumental successes. We are constantly praised for our intelligence and talents instead of our strategies, resilience, and effort leading us to depend on external validation. This doesn’t encourage a curious mind or a desire to learn more, but to merely keep achieving triumph that influences us to take a less challenging path with nothing much to learn.
So the next time someone pats you on the back on a job well done, ask yourself what are you truly proud of yourself for? If you should be focused on the successful outcome only, or the process that led to it. And during times of failure, be the one to give a pat on your back telling yourself how proud you are of your effort, strategies, perseverance, and work ethics.
This becomes highly important when you’re a parent. Be mindful about how you word your praises to your children to nurture a growth-focused mindset.
The Buffet Formula (named after Warren Buffett), focuses on helping one get smarter. The idea behind it is simple. Read. A lot. However, reading is only a part of the formula as being able to express and critically think of the knowledge obtained from reading is equally important. The Buffett Formula helps to cultivate a teachable attitude based on the famous quote, ‘the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.
In high school let’s say I was a ‘know-it-all’ (I was). I was the best student in my school and also the smartest person I knew in my peer group and not forgetting really high up on Mt. Stupid where I was extremely confident with low wisdom. As I went into college and started encountering what was outside the field of my known, the unknowns and the unknown unknowns through experience and reading, I begin to understand how much there was for me to learn that turned into the same force that perpetuated my interest to keep learning and fostered an attitude that was ready to learn from anyone.
You’re an average of the five people you spend the most time with
The power of people closest to us who are capable of influencing us in so many ways, directly and indirectly, is why our parents always said ‘eh, don’t friend with bad kids ah’. Thus, developing a teachable attitude can also be nurtured and cultivated through surrounding ourselves with people who value learning and constantly works on improving themselves. In a way, we leverage our friends with growth-focused mindsets to nurture the same in us.
Another way is to surround yourself with people who may not have the same beliefs as you, who are not from the same age group or social class as you, or even speak your first language. This will encourage us to see the world from different lenses that give you the realisation that you may not know EVERYTHING as you once thought you did.
So, choose your friends wisely.
Reinforce your growth-focused mindset habits
Cultivating a teachable attitude by shaping a growth-focused mindset doesn’t happen overnight through a few simple steps. It progresses over time that would require your growth-focused mindset cultivating behaviours to turn in your everyday habits. It’s a lifestyle. This is where positive reinforcement comes in to strengthen these target behaviours. The next time you are mindful of the praises you give out and receive or when you finish your next read, reward yourself in some way. These rewards may differ from person to person. For some, it might be watching their favourite series and for some, it might be a time-out in their busy schedule for leisure activities. Anything that would encourage you to keep up the growth-focused mindset habits.
There is a saying in the Tamil language that translates into ‘what we have learnt is as much as the soil one’s palms can hold, what we have not learnt is as big as the entire world’. So start your journey to have a growth-focused mindset by learning something new today. Maybe your start might be this very article.
Jananie Chandrarao is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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