Can you remember the first time you tried to ride a bicycle? It’s likely that stabilisers, some scraped knees and a worried parent were involved.
But with time and encouragement, you eventually learned to ride a bike without mum or dad running after you, nervously gripping the back of your saddle.
Never learned to ride a bike? While this article won’t teach you how not to topple over, it might actually help you to gain the confidence you need to attempt your first cycle.
That’s because this article is all about the growth mindset, the belief that you can continually learn, adapt and improve.
As we’ll discover, the growth mindset can lead people to remarkable achievements. And it’s a mindset that’s particularly valuable in the world of tech, where things are in a constant state of flux.
Growth mindset: What is it?
Simply put, the growth mindset is the belief that you can change. When you have a growth mindset, you believe that you can improve, learn and adapt.
A growth mindset sits in contrast to a fixed mindset, the belief that you’ve reached the limits of your progression. A person with a fixed mindset might believe in natural or innate talents over the ability to develop through learning.
People with a growth mindset tend to relish a challenge and enjoy feedback as it allows them to further themselves.
In contrast, people with a fixed mindset tend to hide their shortcomings and can even be resentful of others’ success.
Growth mindset: How does it help?
A growth mindset helps you push yourself, leading to a higher success rate.
The growth mindset is self-fulfilling. When you believe you can learn new things, you learn more. If, on the other hand, you don’t think you can grow, you’re more likely to become stagnant.
While this might sound a little fanciful, it’s supported by research.
A growth mindset comes with benefits that include higher self-esteem, a lack of self-consciousness when trying new things, the ability to find learning rewarding, higher resilience, lower stress levels and lower rates of procrastination.
Can you learn a growth mindset?
In 1897, Ivan Pavlov published a study on classical conditioning. It’s one that you’re probably familiar with. He demonstrated that he could make a dog salivate with the sound of a metronome by creating an association between a dog’s food and the metronome’s ticking. The dog wasn’t consciously choosing to salivate upon hearing the metronome; rather, it had made an unconscious connection with the sound and the food.
This study gave rise to many findings (including our suggestibility to advertising).
But right now, we’re interested in another of the brain’s functions that the study demonstrated: neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is our brain’s ability to change and reorganise itself. Our brains are highly malleable and adapt to different circumstances. The brain can literally change shape, making new connections between neurons that change our cognitive abilities.
Pavlov’s dog’s internal wiring was changed by the exposure to the metronome sound and its association with food.
Likewise, our brains can change from fixed to growth mindsets through constant reinforcement.
We can do this ourselves, using affirmations like, “I can do this”, or, “I’m going to find a better way of approaching this task”, when we’re met with failure.
Teaching with a growth mindset can also lead to better results, as a 2015 study found. Teachers with a growth mindset can inspire a similar perspective in their students.
Interestingly, it is better to focus on the process rather than the results when trying to develop a growth mindset. This is true of teaching, too; rewarding effort and resilience garners better results than rewarding outcomes alone.
Celebrating successes while reflecting on how to improve can lead to both short and long-term satisfaction.
A growth mindset in tech
In tech, there is a constant need to learn. Working in the tech industry comes hand in hand with new updates, new software and new best practices.
A fixed mindset can make working in the tech industry extremely challenging and stressful. People daunted by the prospect of change or who feel that they can’t adapt will struggle to navigate the industry’s constant developments.
What is remarkable, however, is that people who do have a growth mindset can excel within tech, even with comparably little experience. At CodeClan, for example, many of our students have little tech experience before joining us, and most go on to start new careers in the tech industry.
If our students had a fixed mindset, this would be all but impossible. They would find working in the tech industry inconceivable due to their lack of tech skills. The fact that our students do go on to achieve successful tech careers is a testament to their hard work and the value of the growth mindset.
How we teach growth mindset
For the reasons we’ve described above, much of our teaching emphasises the growth mindset. In our immersive courses, alongside technical education, we also help our students to believe that they can exceed their own expectations.
Constantly reinforcing the growth mindset helps our students to push beyond their limits. We encourage them to reflect on their successes, evaluate how they could improve, and understand that what they don’t know is simply knowledge that they haven’t learned yet. We also encourage our students to focus on the learning process and to celebrate overcoming challenges rather than getting things right on the first attempt.
A growth mindset is invaluable for anyone who wants to begin a career in tech. And, like most things, a growth mindset can be learned.
Try it out today: when faced with a challenge, reassure yourself that it’s possible to overcome it. Instead of focusing on any negative feelings that arise, consider what alternative approach you can take. Failure might happen, but if it does, praise yourself for participating in the process and try again. That’s growth.