Updated: May 3
Develop a growth mindset for a happy, fulfilling Life.
Happiness and well-being are often considered essential components of a thriving life. A growing body of research suggests that cultivating a growth mindset, which emphasizes the belief in one's ability to learn, grow, and improve, can significantly contribute to overall happiness. In this blog post, we will explore the connections between a growth mindset and happiness, discussing the underlying mechanisms and strategies for integrating a growth mindset into daily life.
Several studies have found a positive correlation between a growth mindset and various aspects of psychological well-being, such as life satisfaction, self-esteem, and positive affect (King, 2016; Romero et al., 2014; Yeager et al., 2016). Individuals with a growth mindset tend to view challenges and setbacks as opportunities for personal development, leading to increased motivation, persistence, and resilience, which are all factors that contribute to happiness (Dweck, 2006).
In her book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” Angela Duckworth argues that a growth mindset is one of the key attributes of grit and resilience. “Some of us believe, deep down, that people really can change. These growth-oriented people assume that it’s possible, for example, to get smarter if you’re given the right opportunities and support and if you try hard enough, and if you believe you can do it. Conversely, some people think you can learn skills, like how to ride a bike or do a sales pitch, but your capacity to learn skills—your talent—can’t be trained. The problem with holding the latter fixed-mindset view—and many people who consider themselves talented do—is that no road is without bumps. Eventually, you’re going to hit one. At that point, having a fixed mindset becomes a tremendous liability. This is when a C–, a rejection letter, a disappointing progress review at work, or any other setback can derail you. With a fixed mindset, you’re likely to interpret these setbacks as evidence that, after all, you don’t have “the right stuff”—you’re not good enough. With a growth mindset, you believe you can learn to do better.” (Duckworth, 2016).
As part of her research, she created a "grit scale", evaluating 400 TFA teachers on "grit", optimism and happiness. The research established a clear link between grit and happiness and concluded that "When you keep searching for ways to change your situation for the better, you stand a chance of finding them. When you stop searching, assuming they can’t be found, you guarantee they won’t." Angela Duckworth. Grit (Kindle Locations 2695-2696). Kindle Edition.
A growth mindset also fosters a sense of control over one's life, as it emphasizes the capacity to learn and adapt in the face of adversity (Dweck, 2006). This belief in "personal agency", or the ability to change, can lead to increased optimism, self-efficacy, and a proactive approach to problem-solving, all of which are associated with higher levels of happiness (Lefcourt, 2014).
According to Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The new psychology of Success, “the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects how you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.” She argues that people live their lives according to a growth mindset or a fixed mindset and that these mindsets are rooted in beliefs that people have of themselves.
A person living life with a fixed mindset tends to treat each life situation as an opportunity to somehow prove themselves “Look smart, don’t look dumb”. The core tenet of this approach is that “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. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics”
A person living life with a growth mindset tends to treat each life situation as an opportunity to learn and grow as a person. “Although people may differ in every which way—in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments—everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
Imagine you’re having a bad day. Your car wouldn’t start, and you were late for work, your computer developed a problem, and you couldn’t log in to your emails, you had a client meeting arranged and they cancelled at the last moment. You went home and WhatsApp’d a friend to share your day with, but they weren’t interested in your day and sort of “brushed you off”.
After a day like that, if you find yourself with thoughts such as: “I feel like a reject”; “I’m a total failure”; “I’m an idiot”; “I’m a loser”; “I feel worthless and dumb”;” Everyone is better than me.” ... In other words – “I’m a victim of my circumstances and I need help”. It may mean that you’re filtering your view of the world through a fixed mindset where your thoughts leave you feeling useless and a failure.
Alternatively, a person with a growth mindset would automatically look for the growth and learnings from those situations: “I need to service my car”; “I’ll send my work emails to my ‘phone in case my computer breaks down”; I’ll check with my clients the day before meetings to make sure they’re still available”. They see each situation as an opportunity to grow skills and strengths.
A growth mindset can also positively impact interpersonal relationships, a vital component of happiness. Individuals with a growth mindset are more likely to approach relationships with empathy, curiosity, and a willingness to work through conflicts, which can contribute to stronger connections and greater satisfaction in relationships. "... in relationships, you may have a fixed mindset about three things. You can believe that your qualities are fixed, your partner’s qualities are fixed, and the relationship’s qualities are fixed—that it’s inherently good or bad, meant-to-be or not meant-to-be. Now all of these things are up for judgment. The growth mindset says all of these things can be developed. All—you, your partner, and the relationship—are capable of growth and change. In the fixed mindset, the ideal is instant, perfect, and perpetual compatibility. Like it was meant to be. Like riding off into the sunset. Like “they lived happily ever after.” (Dweck, 2006).
How to cultivate a growth mindset?
This might sound too simplistic, but, well, you change your mind! I see this as a three-step journey:
Step 1 - uncover your roots - develop a deeper understanding of yourself, your character strengths and life values, your beliefs that shape your behaviours, and your current life situation as the foundation for change.
Step 2 - plan your changes - set a goal or goals for your future life and then plan projects or rituals to achieve these goals.
Step 3 - act - there is no change without action and this is where the real growth happens.
As you progress along this journey, coach yourself to develop a new mindset for growth:
Understand yourself: Reflect on your own life situations and consider where a fixed mindset or growth mindset prevails and consider what changes you would like to make (and why).
Change your mind: Why waste time focused on how great you are when you could use it on getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you?
Practice Self-Compassion: A growth mindset is fostered by self-compassion, the ability to treat oneself with kindness and understanding in the face of failure or setbacks. In the words of Kristin Neff, PhD, in her book Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, "There are hundreds of studies showing that self-compassion doesn’t make you weak; in fact, it’s an incredibly powerful source of strength, coping, and resilience. It’s not selfish, it leads to more giving and caring relationships and allows us to sustain giving to others without becoming drained. And far from making us lazy, self-compassion is like rocket fuel for getting things done, keeping us focused on our goals, reducing performance anxiety, and most importantly, allowing us to learn from our mistakes, so we can grow from them." (Neff, 2011)
Embrace Challenges: View obstacles as opportunities for growth and learning, rather than threats to self-worth.
Adopt a Learner's Mindset: Focus on the process of learning and improving, rather than solely on outcomes or performance.
Encourage Feedback: Seek out constructive feedback from others to identify areas for growth and improvement.
Surround Yourself with Growth-Oriented People: Build relationships with individuals who share a growth mindset, providing mutual support and encouragement for personal development.
Stretch yourself: Set goals, plan, and act. There is no change without action and action requires discipline.
For more tips on how to construct a growth mindset, I recommend this article from positivepsychology.com: 5+ Ways to Develop a Growth Mindset Using Grit & Resilience.
A growth mindset is a powerful tool for cultivating happiness in various aspects of life, from personal growth and perceived control to interpersonal relationships and self-compassion. By embracing challenges, adopting a learner's mindset, practising self-compassion, encouraging feedback, and surrounding yourself with growth-oriented individuals, you can foster a growth mindset and unlock the door to a happier, more fulfilling life.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballantine Books.
Duckworth, A (2016). Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.
Neff.K. (2011). Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.
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