Personal Development

17 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Cultivate a Growth Mindset
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

Do you ever find yourself hesitating to take risks, afraid of failure or uncertain about your abilities to learn and grow?

It’s easy to get stuck in a fixed mindset, believing that our qualities and skills are innate and cannot be changed.

But the truth is, we have the power to shape our thinking and attitudes towards life, and in turn, change our mindset.

The good news is that cultivating a growth mindset can help you break free from these limitations and achieve greater success in all areas of your life.

In this article, we’ll explore 17 practical strategies for cultivating a growth mindset, based on my experience developing a growth mindset over 25 years at Microsoft.

These practices and mindsets can help you get in the game, learn new skills, and unlock your full potential.

Don’t wait for success to find you – go out and create it!

17 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Here are a set of practices and mindsets that I’ve found to be effective for getting in the game, or getting back in the game, or learning a new game versus just watching from the side-lines.

From swapping out a fixed mindset with a growth mindset to embracing little improvements over time, these strategies will help you shift your perspective and focus on progress, not perfection.

They’ll help you bounce back from setbacks, learn from failures, and approach life with curiosity and a love of learning.

If you’re ready to unleash your potential and take your personal and professional growth to the next level, start by checking out these 17 strategies for cultivating a growth mindset:

1. Swap out a fixed mindset with a growth mindset.

To do this, focus on learning and improving, not innate ability.

Cultivating a growth mindset is a powerful practice that can lead to tremendous personal and professional growth. One effective way to start is by swapping out a fixed mindset with a growth mindset. This shift in perspective involves focusing on learning and improving rather than innate ability, and recognizing that talents and abilities can be developed over time through dedication and hard work.

To truly embrace a growth mindset, it’s important to approach challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than seeing them as evidence of limitations. This means reframing the way we think about setbacks and obstacles, and instead viewing them as opportunities to explore new ideas and expand our knowledge and skills.

Another key strategy for cultivating a growth mindset is to approach life as an ongoing experiment. This involves recognizing that failure and mistakes are a natural part of the learning process, and that we can always improve and refine our approach over time.

By treating perfection as a path rather than a destination, we can adopt a more compassionate and flexible attitude towards ourselves and our progress. Rather than striving for flawless outcomes, we can focus on the process of continuous learning and improvement, knowing that every step forward brings us closer to our goals.

Ultimately, cultivating a growth mindset requires a willingness to step outside of our comfort zones and embrace new challenges and experiences. It involves approaching life with curiosity, openness, and a deep-seated belief in our own ability to learn, grow, and thrive.

2. Call it an “Experiment.”

This sounds like a trivial frame game, but I see it work for myself and others.

When you approach a new challenge or project with the mindset of an experiment, you’re adopting a more flexible and open approach. You’re allowing yourself to take risks and make mistakes, and you’re not putting pressure on yourself to be perfect right away.

This helps you to avoid a fixed mindset that can hold you back from trying new things.

By viewing a situation as an experiment, you’re also shifting your focus from the outcome to the process. You’re not just looking to achieve a certain result, but rather to learn and grow from the experience.

This can help you to be more creative, innovative, and resilient in the face of challenges.

To cultivate a growth mindset through experimentation, you can start by reframing your mindset around failure. Instead of seeing failure as a negative outcome, view it as a valuable learning experience.

Treat each experiment as a chance to learn something new, and be open to changing your approach based on the results.

You can also set clear goals and objectives for your experiments, and track your progress along the way. This will help you to see the impact of your efforts and make adjustments as needed.

Finally, be willing to take risks and try new things. Embrace uncertainty and don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. With a growth mindset, you’ll see every experiment as an opportunity to learn and grow, and you’ll be more resilient in the face of setbacks.

3. Treat perfection as a path, not a destination.

If you’re a “perfectionist,” (like I “was”, er “am, er … still fighting it), you know what I mean.

To cultivate a growth mindset by treating perfection as a path, not a destination, it’s important to shift your focus from achieving perfection to making progress and embracing the learning process.

Instead of striving for flawless results, focus on improving a little bit each day and celebrating the small wins along the way.

Recognize that mistakes and setbacks are a natural part of the learning process and use them as opportunities for growth and improvement.

Embrace the idea of continuous improvement and recognize that even small improvements can add up to big results over time. Remember, the goal is progress, not perfection.

4. Use little improvements over time.

Focus on little improvements and distinctions over time, versus instant success.  It’s consistent action over time that produces the greatest results.

You’re probably a master of your craft, whatever it is you do each day, every day.  John Wooden focused his team on continuous, individual improvement and created the winningest team in history.

One way to cultivate a growth mindset is to focus on little improvements and distinctions over time, rather than instant success. Consistent action over time produces the greatest results, and you can become a master of your craft by continuously improving in small increments.

For example, John Wooden, who created the winningest team in history, focused on individual improvement, encouraging his team to strive for progress instead of perfection.

This mindset helps you avoid the trap of feeling overwhelmed or defeated by a large goal and instead focuses your attention on the daily actions that will bring you closer to your desired outcome.

By breaking your larger goals into smaller, more manageable tasks, you can build a sense of momentum and confidence as you see yourself making progress toward your ultimate goal.

Over time, this approach can help you develop the skills and habits necessary to achieve great things and reach your full potential.

5. Remind Yourself That You Are Growing or Dying.

You’re either climbing or sliding, there’s no in-between (and the slide down is faster than the climb up!)

Reminding yourself that you are constantly growing or dying is a way to cultivate a growth mindset. It helps you to recognize that there is always room for improvement and growth, and that complacency can lead to stagnation.

This mindset encourages you to seek out new challenges, opportunities, and experiences that can help you continue to learn and develop. It also helps you to be more open to feedback and constructive criticism, recognizing that it is an opportunity to grow and improve rather than a personal attack.

By embracing the idea of continual growth and improvement, you can cultivate a growth mindset that allows you to achieve your goals and reach your full potential.

6. Try Again.

If at first you don’t succeed, don’t just give up.  Remember folks like Thomas Edison, who “failed” many, many times before finding “success” (it’s a part of innovation)

One way to cultivate a growth mindset is to adopt the attitude of “try again.” Instead of giving up after a setback or failure, use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

When you encounter challenges, instead of seeing them as insurmountable obstacles, see them as chances to learn new skills and strategies.

To put this into practice, take some time to reflect on your past failures and setbacks. Ask yourself what you learned from them and how you could approach the situation differently in the future.

Then, make a plan to try again, armed with the knowledge and insights you’ve gained.

It’s also important to remember that success rarely comes without setbacks and failures along the way. Adopting a growth mindset means embracing the idea that failure is a natural part of the learning process and that it’s okay to make mistakes.

The key is to use those mistakes as opportunities to grow and improve.

By adopting a “try again” attitude, you can develop resilience and persistence, qualities that are essential for success in all areas of life.

7. Focus on Lessons Over Failures.

Remind yourself there are no failures; only lessons (one more way how “not” to do something)

To cultivate a growth mindset by focusing on lessons over failures, you can reframe how you think about mistakes and setbacks. Instead of seeing them as evidence of your own limitations or character flaws, try to view them as opportunities to learn and improve.

When you experience a failure or setback, take a step back and objectively analyze the situation. What went wrong? What could you have done differently? What can you learn from this experience to help you do better next time? By asking these types of questions, you shift your focus from the negative emotions associated with failure to the positive learning opportunities it presents.

It can also be helpful to seek feedback from others, especially those who have more experience or expertise in the area where you experienced the setback. Ask for constructive criticism and specific suggestions for improvement. This can help you gain a new perspective and identify areas where you can grow and develop.

Finally, it’s important to practice self-compassion and not beat yourself up over mistakes or failures. Remember that setbacks are a natural part of the learning process and everyone experiences them. Treat yourself with kindness and use the experience as an opportunity to grow and improve.

8. Fail Fast, Fail Early, Fail Often.

The faster you “fail”, the faster you learn.

Just don’t keep making the same mistakes.  If it’s not working, change your approach.

To cultivate a growth mindset by failing fast, failing early, and failing often, you need to shift your perspective on failure. Instead of viewing failure as a negative outcome, embrace it as an opportunity for growth and learning.

When you fail fast, you recognize that it’s better to learn from your mistakes quickly and move on than to dwell on them for too long. This approach helps you identify what doesn’t work and make adjustments to your approach.

Failing early means taking risks and trying new things at the beginning of a project, rather than waiting until later when it may be too late to make significant changes. This allows you to quickly identify what’s working and what’s not, so you can course correct and make adjustments before it’s too late.

Failing often means embracing the idea that failure is an inevitable part of the learning process. By trying new things and taking risks more frequently, you increase your chances of finding what works and what doesn’t work. This helps you build resilience and a growth mindset, as you become more comfortable with the idea of taking risks and learning from your mistakes.

Overall, by embracing a fail fast, fail early, and fail often mentality, you can cultivate a growth mindset by viewing failure as a natural and necessary part of the learning process, and using it as an opportunity to improve and grow.

9. Don’t Take Yourself or Life Too Seriously.

If you take yourself too seriously, you’ll never get out alive!

One way to cultivate a growth experience by not taking yourself or life too seriously is to approach challenges and setbacks with a sense of humor and playfulness. Instead of getting bogged down by the seriousness of the situation, try to find the lighter side of things and use humor as a coping mechanism.

For example, if you make a mistake at work, rather than beating yourself up over it, try to find the humor in the situation and use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Or if you encounter a difficult person, instead of getting defensive or upset, try to find the humor in their behavior and approach the situation with a lighthearted attitude.

By not taking yourself or life too seriously, you can reduce stress and anxiety, improve your resilience, and open yourself up to new perspectives and ways of thinking. It can also help you maintain a growth mindset by allowing you to approach challenges with a sense of curiosity and playfulness, rather than fear and self-doubt.

10. Learn to Bounce Back.

It’s not that you don’t get knocked down, it’s that you get back up.  (Just like the song, “I get knocked down, but I get up again”)

Learning to bounce back is an important aspect of cultivating a growth mindset. When you encounter setbacks or failures, it can be easy to get discouraged and give up.

However, if you can learn to bounce back from these experiences, you will be better equipped to handle future challenges and persevere through difficulties.

To cultivate this mindset, it’s important to shift your focus away from the negative aspects of failure and instead view it as a learning opportunity.

When you encounter setbacks or failures, take some time to reflect on what went wrong and what you could do differently next time. Use these experiences to develop new strategies and approaches that will help you succeed in the future.

It’s also important to stay resilient and persistent in the face of adversity. Don’t let setbacks or failures define you or your abilities. Instead, use them as motivation to work harder and become better. Remember that success is not a straight line, and there will be ups and downs along the way.

Finally, it can be helpful to seek out support from others. Talk to friends, family, or colleagues who can offer encouragement and support as you work to bounce back from setbacks or failures. Surrounding yourself with positive influences can help you stay focused and motivated as you pursue your goals.

12. Give yourself time.

A lot of times the difference between results is time.  If you only chase instant successes, you miss out on opportunities. Walk, crawl, run.

Or, if you’re like me, sprint and sprint again ?

Giving yourself time is a key element of cultivating a growth mindset. This means recognizing that meaningful change and growth take time, and being patient with yourself throughout the process. Here are some ways to cultivate a growth mindset by giving yourself time:

  1. Set realistic goals: One of the keys to giving yourself time is setting realistic goals for yourself. Make sure your goals are challenging but attainable, and give yourself a reasonable amount of time to achieve them.
  2. Embrace the process: Remember that growth is a journey, not a destination. Embrace the process of learning and growing, and be patient with yourself as you encounter setbacks and challenges.
  3. Celebrate small wins: Recognize and celebrate the small wins along the way. This will help keep you motivated and reinforce the idea that growth is happening, even if it may not be immediately obvious.
  4. Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself throughout the process, and avoid harsh self-judgment. Remember that growth and change are hard, and that it’s okay to make mistakes along the way.
  5. Trust the process: Finally, trust the process and have faith that with time and effort, you can achieve your goals and cultivate a growth mindset.

13. Start with Something Small.

Build momentum.  Jumping an incremental set of hurdles is easier than scaling a giant wall.

Starting with something small is a powerful way to cultivate a growth mindset because it allows you to build momentum and gain confidence as you take on increasingly challenging tasks.

When you start small, you set yourself up for success by making it easier to achieve your goals and see progress.

This positive feedback loop can help you stay motivated and focused on continuous improvement.

To start small, identify a specific area of your life or work where you want to improve and break it down into manageable tasks or goals.

For example, if you want to learn a new language, start by learning just a few basic phrases or vocabulary words each day.

Or if you want to develop a new skill, start with a simple project or task that will allow you to practice and build your abilities over time.

By starting small and building on your successes, you’ll develop a sense of momentum and accomplishment that can carry you forward as you take on bigger challenges.

And as you gain confidence and competence, you’ll be better equipped to tackle more complex tasks and goals, and to push yourself to reach new levels of achievement.

See Start with Something Simple.

14. Build on What You Know.

Now matter where you are or what you do, you take yourself with you.  Bring your game wherever you go.

One way to cultivate a growth mindset is by building on what you already know. This means taking the knowledge and skills you already have and using them as a foundation to learn and grow even more.

For example, if you are already proficient in a particular software program, you can use that knowledge to learn more advanced features or to explore related programs. You can also apply your existing skills to new areas of interest, such as learning a new language or picking up a new hobby.

Building on what you know also means seeking out new opportunities to learn and grow in areas where you are already confident. This can help you build a sense of mastery and competence, which can in turn fuel your motivation to take on new challenges and learn even more.

To build on what you know, you can seek out books, courses, or workshops that are relevant to your existing skills and knowledge. You can also seek out mentors or experts in your field who can offer guidance and feedback as you continue to learn and grow.

Additionally, you can seek out opportunities to apply your skills and knowledge in new and different contexts, such as volunteering or taking on new projects at work.

By building on what you know, you can continue to develop your skills and knowledge, and cultivate a growth mindset that allows you to thrive in a constantly changing world.

15. Learn to like what growth feels like.

I used to hate the pain of my workouts.  Now, I know that’s what growth feels like.

The better I got at some things, the more I hated how awkward I was at some new things. 

Now I like awkward and new things.

It’s growth.

To cultivate a growth mindset by learning to like what growth feels like, you can start by reframing how you view discomfort and challenge. Instead of seeing these experiences as negative, see them as opportunities for growth and learning.

Embrace the fact that growth is a process and it often involves feeling uncomfortable or uncertain.

Here are some specific strategies to help you learn to like what growth feels like:

  1. Focus on progress: Celebrate the small wins and milestones along the way. Recognize that each step forward, no matter how small, is a sign of progress.
  2. Change your self-talk: Instead of telling yourself that you’re not good at something or that you’ll never improve, focus on positive self-talk. Tell yourself that you’re capable of growth and improvement, and that you’re making progress every day.
  3. Embrace challenges: Seek out opportunities to challenge yourself and take on new experiences. Embrace the feeling of discomfort that comes with new challenges, and see it as an opportunity for growth.
  4. Find joy in the process: Instead of focusing solely on the end goal, find joy in the process of growth and learning. Enjoy the journey, and take pleasure in the small victories along the way.

By learning to like what growth feels like, you can cultivate a growth mindset that allows you to embrace challenges, persist through setbacks, and ultimately achieve greater success.

16. Find a Mentor or Coach.

Having a mentor or coach is one of the most effective ways to cultivate a growth mindset. It allows you to learn from someone who has already achieved success in the areas you want to improve.

Mentors and coaches can provide you with valuable feedback, guidance, and support to help you achieve your goals.

They can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and provide you with strategies and techniques to improve your performance.

Additionally, having a mentor or coach can help you stay accountable and motivated, as they can offer encouragement and help you stay on track.

By learning from someone who has already succeeded, you can adopt their mindset and habits, and accelerate your own growth and development.

It doesn’t have to be official.  Find somebody who’s great at what you want to learn.  Most people like sharing how they got good at what they do.

It’s their pride and joy.

I used to wonder where the “mentors” are. Then I realized, they’re all around me every day.

17. Have a Learning Approach.

Having a learning approach is a crucial aspect of cultivating a growth mindset as it fosters a continuous cycle of improvement and development.

By embracing a learning mindset, individuals become more receptive to new experiences and ideas, and are more willing to take on challenges and risks.

With a learning approach, individuals are able to view mistakes and setbacks as opportunities for growth, rather than as failures, and can use these experiences to gain new insights and skills.

By consistently seeking out new learning opportunities, individuals can expand their knowledge and expertise, and become more adaptable and resilient in the face of change.

Ultimately, having a learning approach helps individuals to cultivate a growth mindset by enabling them to see the world as a place of infinite possibilities, where growth and development are always within reach.

For me, I use 30 Day Improvement Sprints.  Timeboxes, little improvements at a time, and focus go a long way for results.

I use 30 Day Improvement Sprints to add experiences or skills  I cycle through a new improvement sprint each month, so each year I get 12 new themes of focus for each month.

Practice for Progress (Not Perfection)

Cultivating a growth mindset is an ongoing process that requires deliberate effort and practice.

By adopting these 17 ways to cultivate a growth mindset, you can shift your perspective and develop the resilience and determination needed to achieve your goals and overcome challenges.

Remember to focus on progress over perfection, embrace failure as a learning opportunity, and seek out opportunities for growth and self-improvement.

With these practices and mindsets, you can unlock your full potential and achieve greater success and fulfillment in all aspects of your life.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make progress: a crucial step in cultivating a growth mindset.

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