How to develop a mindset for success

Written by Danielle Owen Whitford

In the face of adversity, the difference between surviving and thriving often comes down to your mindset. It can have a profound effect on how you approach challenges and setbacks, your ability to learn and acquire new skills, personal relationships, and professional success.

The concept of growth and fixed mindsets was developed by psychologist Carol Dweck, and made popular through her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”. In her research, Dweck questions the consequences of thinking that intelligence, talent or personality is something that can be developed, rather than being a fixed trait.

“The hand you are dealt is just the starting point for development.”

Carol Dweck

A Tale of Two Mindsets

Fixed mindset

People with a fixed mindset believe they were born with a fixed level of intelligence, talent, ability - and that’s it. It cannot be modified. They want to appear intelligent to cover their fear of looking incompetent to others. They tend to document their talents, rather than working hard to learn and improve. With this view, talent leads to success, not effort and persistence.

Those with a fixed mindset have a tendency to:

  • Avoid challenges

  • Give up easily

  • See effort as fruitless

  • Ignore useful negative feedback

  • Feel threatened by the success of others

As a result, they may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential.

Growth mindset

People with a growth mindset believe that with enough effort and experience, they can become smarter, more capable, and more talented. Effort has a direct effect on their achievements, not talent alone. So they put in the time to learn and develop, leading to higher levels of success.

Those with a growth mindset are more primed to:

  • Embrace challenges

  • Persist in the face of setbacks

  • See effort as the path to mastery

  • Learn from criticism

  • Find lessons and inspiration in the success of others

As a result, they reach ever-higher levels of achievement.

People with a growth mindset are not discouraged by failure. In fact, they view those situations as an opportunity for self-improvement. Dweck writes:

“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

Carol Dweck

15 ways to develop a growth mindset for success


1. Acknowledge and embrace imperfection

Don’t hide from your weaknesses. Acknowledge and embrace them in order to overcome them.

2. View challenges as opportunities

Each challenge, setback or obstacle is an opportunity for self-improvement.

3. Try different learning tactics

When it comes to learning, there’s no one-size-fits-all model. Find what works for you.

4. Replace the word “failing” with the word “learning”

Making a mistake doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it means you’ve learned.

5. Stop seeking approval from others

Prioritising approval over learning sacrifices your potential for growth and development.

6. Value the process over the end result

Enjoy the learning process and don’t be concerned when it continues beyond the expected time frame.

7. Cultivate a sense of purpose

People with a growth mindset feel a greater sense of purpose by focusing on the bigger picture.

8. Redefine “genius”

Genius is not about talent alone, it requires hard work - myth busted.

9. View criticism as a gift

Well-intended, constructive criticism is an opportunity for improvement - for the self and the team.

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10. Use the phrase “not yet”

If you’re struggling with a task, just tell yourself you haven’t mastered it “yet.” This is also an effective technique to use with others.

11. Learn from the mistakes of others.

There’s simply not enough time to make all the mistakes yourself. Learn from others. We’re all human, after all.

12. Make a new goal for every goal accomplished

You’ll never be done learning. People with a growth mindset are constantly creating new goals to keep themselves stimulated.

13. Take risks in the company of others.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Giving yourself permission to make mistakes now and then makes it easier to take risks in the future.

14. Be realistic

Learning takes time and effort. Don’t be disheartened if you can’t master a topic in one sitting.

15. Own your attitude. 

Develop, acknowledge and be proud of your growth mentality. Let it guide you through the tough times and the good.

Final thoughts

Developing a growth mindset is like tending to a garden. It requires continued, intentional nurturing. But, with the right tools, persistence and care, you’ll bloom. It’s key to building mental resilience to help you thrive - even in the toughest of times.

“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work.”

Thomas Edison

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