Why we all need growth mindsets

Every now and then I come across a term that makes perfect sense to me. When I first heard the word entrepreneur, I realised I had been one for many years already. When I was told I was dyslexic, it put the troubles I had experienced at school into context. Another term I learned that helped to explain my world was ‘growth mindset’.

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I came across the phrase when my children and nephew were setting up Big Change, which was created to drive positive change for young people in the UK. They wanted to do things differently and apply a growth mindset to their decisions. This means being willing to learn, being happy to make mistakes, being eager to experiment.

That’s the way I’ve run businesses for nearly five decades. Like most entrepreneurs, I’ve always been willing to fail – it’s the only way we learn. I have always been keen to take calculated risks, and live with the consequences. All too often, talented people have fixed mindsets and are unwilling or unable to make the necessary changes to improve. When that happens, ideas stagnate, businesses stop growing, people stop learning. 

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Far too many young people are taught to think with fixed mindsets: concentrating on exams, worrying about failing, wonderfully multi-shaped talents fretting about fitting into square holes. Big Change supports projects that enable young people in the UK to develop a growth mindset, and concentrate on growing and improving in real life, not just in the classroom.

This isn’t simple, or easy to get your head around. So Holly, Sam and Noah came up with the Virgin Strive Challenge to get our message across. It is a physical challenge; this year we travelled from the base of the Matterhorn to the summit of Mount Etna, under human power. But it is much more than that – it is a group of people coming together bound by our belief in a growth mindset. Put simply: growth happens when you step out of your comfort zone to achieve bold ambitions; magic happens when you do it with others.

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As writer Matthew Syed told our Virgin Group CEOs at a recent talk in London, whether you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset affects how you behave. In his book, Black Box Thinking, he details how being willing to learn from failure has shaped the development of entire industries, and how having a growth mindset can categorically improve performance.

As Big Change put it: “A growth mindset isn’t simply a positive mindset. This isn’t just about being happy. It is about a fundamental belief that you can grow, learn and change for the better – through failure and success alike. This mindset motivates you to try, to reflect, to get back up, to ask for help and to learn. Ultimately changed minds is what brings about a big change.”

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Do you think you have a growth mindset? What could help you to grow even further? Get in touch on social, and share your own stories of learning from failure.

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