How to accelerate your learning and growth mindset

18 May 2021



Courage is an essential part of having a growth mindset. If it is something that would be ‘nice to have’, frankly it will be much harder to learn. For most people change is not a natural default and for some change can be threatening, as our brains love familiarity. As a Leadership Coach, I often ask people going for a promotion what do you really love about your job? The following will help you to think about having a growth mindset and help you to accelerate your learning.

Love it.

In her best-selling book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dr. Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, defines growth mindset as focusing on developing and "stretching" our mindsets through a LOVE of learning and embracing challenge. To truly accelerate your learning and your growth mindset, the key words in my opinion in Dweck’s definition is ‘love’ and ‘embracing’. So, what is it you would love to learn and why?

In answering the WHY - your brain will be asking ‘What’s in it for me?’

If you really want to do it, would love to do it and will embrace it- you have an ‘e’-motional reaction in your body. The ‘e’ then becomes the energy which produces action/motion. Feeling excited about something emotionally attaches you to the outcome - therefore much more likely to produce the action to get there.

If you don't love it, you're going to fail.

Steve Jobs

Daniel, a Director at one of the big 4 accountancy firms was stressed going for a promotion to Partner for the second time and I asked him this question. “What do you really love about your job?” He replied “my area of expertise, the niche I operate in, delivering results for our customers”.

When Daniel realised that a Partners job is to inspire and motivate people and be a brand ambassador. The penny dropped that he would be much more suited going for a promotion as Associate Partner which is ideal for industry specialists with Daniels’s strengths. Where the request for change comes from can determine its chance of success. Daniel’s boss and wife had repeatedly told him he should go for Partner. However, on reflection Daniel knew that the responsibilities of a Partner were what he liked least about his job and did not excite him. Daniel was much more excited about the Associate Partner route and was motivated to take action to work on his development area of improving his personal impact and was promoted to Associate Partner within 3 months.

Believe it.

If you have a history of giving up on learning things, then it is best to choose something you would love to learn personally or professionally and embrace the first step even if it scares you. Your brain will be surprised, and startled, and neural growth pathways will generate through repeated practice and/or perseverance.

Dweck refers to this shift in cognitive understanding as “the power of yet” as opposed to “the tyranny of now.”

Shift your language for learning from what I can or cannot (no such word my dad always says) to what you can “not yet” do.

I set my goals and stick to them. Success is more than just luck. You have to believe in yourself and make it happen.

Richard Branson

Visualise it.

The key is to believe you will get there and have a vivid vision of what it will look like and feel like and then articulate it and visualise it. Our brains are incredible but also believe what your internal voice says so be kinder to yourself, and really visualise accomplishing greatness.

A well-known example of belief is of Roger Bannister. In the 1950’s it was widely assumed that no human would be able to complete a mile run in under 4 mins. Roger believed he could do this and set about training hard with the belief he could, and he visualised it whenever he trained. On May 6th, 1954, Roger ran a world record, 3.59.4 minute mile. He had done it and inspired many other around him too.

The man who can drive himself further once the effect gets painful is the man who will win.

Roger Bannister

Action it.

Learning new skills can be difficult at first but each time you mindfully practise it your neural pathways get stronger.

Taking the first step, if it’s something you love to do, believe it and can visualise it is a great start. You will be half way there as you will be pulled towards your goal rather than feeling uncomfortable stepping outside of your comfort zone and giving up. Momentum is key – so prioritising your learning and celebrating even the small steps you accomplish, will keep you excited and feeling like a winner!

Being brave isn't the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but find a way through it.

Bear Grylls

Another client Emma was going for a promotion as UK Managing Director. However, she had no marketing experience.

When I asked her what her relationship was like with the current Marketing Director, she said they were in the process of recruiting one who could not start for 4 months. I suggested the possibility of her offering to stand in as Interim Marketing Director till they found the ideal candidate. She could practise the role. She laughed and said, ‘what with no marketing experience?’ ‘How good is the Marketing team?’ I asked. She said they were brilliant. Well, you are an amazing leader, and they do not have a leader for now.

I suggested she asked the Global Marketing Director to mentor/support her for the interim duration who agreed. Within 18 months, she was promoted twice. Firstly, to UK Managing Director and then as European Managing Director - her career goal - as the USA head office were so impressed with her courage and capacity to learn and grow.

In summary, to accelerate your learning and growth mindset you must love it, believe it, visualise it and action it. What would you love to be brave enough to learn or experience to feel more confident, energised, and courageous?