We’ve all undoubtedly heard of the gender gap in business and the various barriers that female entrepreneurs need to overcome to succeed. We know that business has traditionally been dominated by men, that men occupy more leadership positions, that male-owned businesses benefit from more financial investment and that men outearn their female counterparts. None of these facts is surprising to women in business.
However, is there also a mindset gap that women need to overcome in order to be successful in business? According to data gathered by the Harvard Business Review, gender, as well as age, are predictors of whether someone has a growth mindset and the data showed that women are more likely to have a fixed mindset, particularly in their early careers. The article suggests that the reason for this is because women are socialised to be less confident than men and their competency is repeatedly questioned.
But what is a Growth Mindset?
In her 2007 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, coined the term “growth mindset”. After studying the behaviour of thousands of children, Dr. Dweck was able to understand the underlying beliefs that people have about learning and intelligence and divided them into two different camps.
Having a growth mindset is all about how we view our challenges and setbacks. Those who have a growth mindset believe that they can put in the necessary time and effort to improve and develop their talents.
A big part of having a growth mindset is not letting setbacks stop you in your tracks. Instead you realise that setbacks can help you to improve and can actually provide a way forward.
People with a growth mindset behave differently. They tend to share information, collaborate more, innovate, seek feedback and admit their errors.
How is a Growth Mindset different to a Fixed Mindset?
A fixed mindset is what Dweck called the opposite of a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe that qualities like intelligence and talents are fixed traits and no matter what they do they cannot be improved. They believe that talent alone determines success, without effort.
It is not unusual for women to grow up being told their talents are fixed and limited. This false assertion leads to issues with self-confidence and can be detrimental for women when looking to start and grow a business.
How does our mindset affect our achievements?
In order to be more successful in business, it is therefore extremely important that we understand the link between our mindset and our achievements. Research has shown that the brain is like a muscle and it can be exercised and strengthened.
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to renew and modify itself and to create new neural pathways in response to our environment. Basically, we can rewire our brains and learn to behave differently, which could, in turn, create different outcomes.
If we believe we can get smarter, we are more likely to put in the time and effort, which will result in higher achievement.
What strategies can I use to develop a growth mindset?
Our mindset isn’t set in stone. It is possible that in some situations we have a growth mindset and in others, we have a fixed mindset. Different challenges may trigger different mindsets and our mindset may change over time.
But there are lots of things that we can do to deepen our understanding of growth-mindset concepts and how we can put them into practice. Taking these steps will enable us to approach life and business in a completely new way that is free from limitations and comparison.
1. See challenges as opportunities
It can be very tempting to see life as a series of obstacles that need to be overcome. However, people with a growth mindset will instead see opportunities instead of challenges. They will even go as far as to seek out these opportunities in order to grow and to learn new skills.
2. Don’t fear failure
That means that people who have a growth mindset often don’t fear failure. Instead, they see failure as an opportunity to start over but equipped with more knowledge and lessons under your belt that will help you to improve.
Some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs have a history of repeated failure before they hit the jackpot. And when they do finally succeed, those failures can be worn as a badge of honour.
3. Embrace your imperfections
We all have weaknesses and imperfections. We all have areas where we are not naturally talented or gifted. The only way that we can overcome these weaknesses is by facing them head-on. By accepting and embracing our imperfections we can succeed in spite of them.
4. Don’t be afraid to try something new
It can be very easy to focus our energy on the things that we know we can do well, and avoid anything that is outside of our comfort zone. However, people with a growth mindset are very open to trying new things. Stepping into unchartered territory can lead to valuable lessons and advancements as well as newfound joy.
5. Pay attention to the language that you use
Shifting our language is a really valuable tool when it comes to developing a growth mindset. The words that we use can enable us to change our perspective entirely. Simply adding the word ‘yet’ implies that something is achievable but that it may take time and effort to get there.
6. Learn more about brain plasticity
We’ve touched slightly on brain plasticity, but this concept is a complicated one and definitely deserves a deeper dive. If we can learn more about the brain’s ability to change and adapt in response to learning and experiences we can harness this power to improve the way that we approach life and business.
7. Do not compare yourself to others
It is said that comparison is the thief of joy, but it is also the enemy of a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset often fall victim to comparisonitis, constantly checking how they measure up compared to others. This is basic human nature but it also keeps us stuck and provides us with a reason to give up. If we believe that we will never be as good, efficient, talented etc as someone else, it gives us every reason to quit.
Instead, we should be comparing ourselves to ourselves. How can we be better than we were last week, month or year? How we can improve on our own achievements. That is a growth mindset.
8. Realise that the journey is more important than the destination
Those with a growth mindset see life (and business) as a journey not a destination. Success is not a box that we simply tick once we have achieved it. A growth mindset encourages us to take all our learning and past successes and to apply them to the future journey.
9. Stop seeking external validation
People who operate with a fixed mindset generally tend to seek external validation from others. They only feel worthy when they receive this validation. Crediting our self-worth to what others think of us will never pay off in the long run as we can’t always control the perceptions that others hold.
Those with a growth mindset look internally for their validation.
10. Practice self-advocacy
Self-advocacy is an important tool that enables us to make progress. Those with a growth mindset are much better at speaking up when something isn’t working and communicating their needs. The resulting help and support inevitably lead to improvements and solutions.
11. Celebrate the growth of others
People with a growth mindset learn to celebrate their growth. It’s not only about celebrating the growth when we get to the endpoint of an achievement. It’s also about celebrating the small wins along the entire journey.
And once we have learnt not to compare ourselves and our journey to that of others, we are much more likely to be able to celebrate the growth of other people as we no longer see them as our competitors but instead we use them as inspiration for what is possible for us too.
12. Cultivate a sense of purpose
Finally, developing a growth mindset will help us to cultivate a higher sense of purpose. Recognising that there is something bigger than ourself creates a stronger drive to achieve our goals.
In this clip you can hear Dr Carol Dweck give a TED Talk about growth mindset.
What have you done to develop a growth mindset? DO you have any favourite strategies that work for you? Let us know in the comments below.
Stacey Sheppard is the founder of The Tribe, a small community-driven coworking space in Totnes that caters to creative, growth-oriented female entrepreneurs by providing an inspiring working environment designed to foster collaboration, connection and community.