It’s become widely accepted that adopting the Growth Mindset can be a powerful mental model for personal growth and for self development. Developed by Carol Dweck, her groundbreaking research demonstrates the importance of the Growth Mindset for learning, for resilience, and for self development.
The definition of the Growth Mindset just as a refresher is “the understanding that abilities and understanding can be developed.” Adopting a Growth Mindset ‘leads to a focus on learning, increased effort, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.’
However, maintaining the state of being in a Growth Mindset can sometimes be difficult. For instance, as we become masters of our respective domains, there is often a parallel expectation for us to become experts, or to be seen as experts. This pressure can have the unintended consequence of pushing us into the Fixed Mindset.
Furthermore, you can see from the definition above that the Growth Mindset consists of several facets: A focus on learning, a focus on effort, and a willingness to learn from mistakes. Thus there can be a multitude of different skill sets and disciplines required to achieve the Growth Mindset.
If that sounds daunting, there is one simpler mindset you can adopt that can help you cultivate those skills, and make it easier for you to move out of the Fixed Mindset.
Introducing the Curiosity Mindset
“Great leaders are curious. They want to try new things, experience the world and learn from others. Their curiosity fuels their intellect.” -Simon Sinek.
The Curiosity Mindset is simply being in a state of curiosity about the world you live in, yourself, and your interaction with it. There are two components to it:
- Ask questions, and then continue to ask questions.
- Be open to what you learn, and don’t assume you have the answers.
By asking questions, it encourages you to explore the texture of information around you. Nothing is taken for granted, which means you are less likely to make assumptions while gaining greater understanding of whatever it is you’re curious about.
On the flip side, being open to answers immediately moves you away from a Fixed Mindset. That’s not saying you have to agree with the answers you find, but being openness simply encourages you to consider alternatives.
Both of these components work in harmony with each other. The more questions you ask and the more new information you receive - both about you and the world around you - the more open you’ll become, simply through sheer exposure to new ideas.
Structure your Curiosity
However, adopting the Curiosity Mindset isn’t just about asking endless open questions, which can be very distracting. Applying a small amount of structure to your curiosity helps you take action. It looks like this:
- Start with a question about something you’re curious about
- Now ask several sub-question that’s related to that initial question
- For each answer you identify…
- See if there are further sub-questions to ask
- Answer each of those to your satisfaction
- Then collate your answers up to a level
- And finally come back to answer your initial question
- Now what can you do with your answer? What’s an action you can take?
- Or is there a new question you want to ask?
Applying this simple structure to the challenges you face not only helps you achieve breakthroughs, it helps you design better solutions because you have a deeper understanding of the problem you’re facing.
“Wonder is essential for all scientists. If you’re an active scientist, you’re always at the drawing board. You find the place where our ignorance of the universe is most profound, that attracts you. Because at some point you have to learn to love the questions themselves. The answers are not always forthcoming. So it’s the search that gets you there. But in all cases, what’s driving you is the wonder, it’s, ‘Wow I wonder how that works and why, will we ever know? Am I asking the right questions? Am I bringing the right methods and tools to bear?’” - Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Your brain rewards you for being curious
That’s right. Neuroscience studies have shown that when people were more curious, brain activity rose in regions that transmit dopamine signals. The neurotransmitter is intimately linked to the brain’s reward circuitry, meaning that curiosity taps into the same neural pathways that make people yearn for chocolate, nicotine and a win at the races.
As human beings, we are geared to be curious. Young children are often the most curious among all of us, asking questions that we would never think about. The reason many people lose this ability is unfortunately a combination of modern education and professional pressures that create an expectation on having the right answers. All of these pressures thus contribute to people adopting the Fixed Mindset.
However, the good news is that that curiosity is a latent ability in all of us. It is a mindset that we can all adopt with a small amount of practice.
Be curious and you will unlock the Growth Mindset
“Curiosity frees you from judgment, giving you the motivation to strive for more.” - Elizabeth Gilbert
We designed the Curiosity Journal with the Growth Mindset in mind. We wanted to improve ourselves, the way we work, and the way we help others. But we understood the importance of bringing structure to that Curiosity so that it helps us learn.