Do you ever hear something that makes you stop and really think? Maybe a brand-new idea you've never heard before or an angle you've never considered…

That happened to me last week.

I was at a conference called the Art of Leadership, and one of the talks was by Dr. Mary C. Murphy, a professor at Indiana University who has spent the bulk of her career studying something we've all heard about but in a whole new way: growth vs. fixed mindsets.

The concept of a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset was initially developed by Dr. Carol Dweck at Stanford. At the highest level, a growth mindset means you see qualities like talent and intelligence as things that can be developed, while a fixed mindset means you see these qualities as fixed or static.

“I'm just not a math person.” would be an example of a fixed mindset.

“I'm not sure how to do that, but I'll figure it out.” is a growth mindset.

When Dr. Mary was doing her graduate work at Stanford, she observed how different environments tended to trigger either a fixed or growth mindset response, and approached Dr. Carol about the concept of our environment impacting mindset, and their partnership was born.

Okay, so let me share the three key concepts that I found most interesting:

1. We've always thought you have either a growth or a fixed mindset, not both.

This isn't true! We all have both, and certain circumstances trigger a growth mindset, while others may trigger a fixed mindset.

It turns out that assuming you either have a growth or fixed mindset is kind of, uhhhh, fixed mindset thinking. Ironic, huh?

There are 4 mindset triggers that can often trigger a fixed mindset, especially in a work setting. They are listed below (yep, this is a photo of Mary's slide!):

One of the best things you can do is think about these 4 circumstances and which ones tend to trigger a growth vs. fixed mindset for you. Now you have some awareness. What can you do to help move yourself back into a growth mindset in these instances?

What other factors set you up to be triggered? For me, it's easy: when I'm overbooked, overwhelmed, and not getting enough sleep and exercise, I'm much more likely to be triggered. The days I'm not engaging on LinkedIn are probably those days!

2. The ability to develop a growth mindset does not depend solely on being told what to do but also on being in a growth mindset culture.

This part is so interesting to me because we've always put the onus on the individual to create and have a growth mindset. Maybe you've been beating yourself up because at work you're feeling discouraged. Perhaps you're not feeling inspired by your colleague's promotion ahead of you, no matter how hard you try!

Well, this may be the situation itself (success of others), but it may also be your work culture.

Understanding growth and fixed mindsets is important because each has an individual component, but being around others who are also growth-minded is key to maintaining that mindset.

So ask yourself—who am I surrounding myself with, both at work and outside of work? Are my friends complainers who look at their retirement countdown timer every week and do the bare minimum, or are they always looking to get better and share big ideas?

3. It's never too late to develop a growth mindset

I think this is really important: Even if you're someone who identifies with a fixed mindset and it feels challenging to move into a growth mindset, it's never impossible.

Our brains are so malleable! And the truth is, believing you can do something is half the battle (heck, maybe 80% of the battle).

I'm not sure about you, but these concepts really shifted my perspective on growth and fixed mindsets and, frankly, took some of the pressure off! If you're interested in this topic, ​you should check out Dr. Mary's book here​. Note that I have no affiliation, nor do I make money if you decide to buy the book!

Until next time friends… ✌️💜