Recent research into how the brain works is transforming how we need to approach how we speak to ourselves and to those around us. It has a lot to do with our mindset.

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Recent research into how the brain works is transforming how we need to approach how we speak to ourselves and to those around us.

The main proponent is Carol Dweck, Ph.D, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation and professor at Stanford University. The results are astonishing and have broad implications as to what we need to do in business and relationships – and even as parents.

Dr. Dweck describes two mindsets: the FIXED MINDSET and the GROWTH MINDSET.

People with a FIXED MINDSET believe that their intelligence, talents and abilities are set. For example, they believe they are born “smart”. The problem with this mindset is that it fosters a fear of challenges and setbacks because anything that reflects poorly on them is considered very negative. Such people are supersensitive about being wrong or making mistakes and will easily give up or blame others. Sounds like someone you know?
A GROWTH MINDSET, on the other hand, is characterized by the belief that most basic talents and abilities can be developed through practice, learning and good mentorship. The good news is that Dr. Dweck believes the growth mindset can be learned and her research backs this up.


Katy Paus currently works in Statoil. She is educated as a Chemical Engineer from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also holds an MBA from University of Chicago. Katy has held several management positions during her career in the US and Norway. Currently in Statoil, she works with Exploration Strategy. She is married to Thorleif Paus and they have two children who are now young adults. She is active in networking and is interested in connecting with people who want to develop their full potential.

One crucial element is how parents speak to their children. We have all been encouraged to praise our children and tell them how smart they are. The idea is that this gives children confidence in their abilities and boosts self-esteem, but research shows this is wrong. Praising children’s intelligence fosters the fixed mindset – it makes them lose confidence when tasks become hard and it leads them to perform badly in the face of difficulty. When children achieve something quickly, easily, and accurately, we should NOT tell them how clever they are. According to Dweck, we need to look for ways to praise the process, valuing effort, perseverance and learning, rather than displays of ability.

At work, if we have direct reports, we need to avoid getting stuck with the initial impression and instead be sensitive to areas for improvement. Once we’ve learned and mastered the basics of being a manager, we need to continue developing ourselves into leaders with growth mindsets and, more importantly, to go forward as a good example of the right mindset. For example, try seeking negative feedback from your directs. I know from personal experience that doing this is really hard for a fixed mindset but this is key in growing and addressing areas for improvement.

When it comes to adjusting our own mindset, Dr. Dweck says the key is to be attuned to our inner monologue. The fixed mindset creates an internal monologue that is focused on judging: “this means I’m a loser”, “This means I’m a better person than they are”, “This means my partner is a jerk.” People with a growth mindset are also constantly monitoring what’s going on, but not in a judging way; instead they’re attuned to the implications for learning, improving and constructive action. Their inner monologue would be: “What can I learn from this?” or “How can I help my partner do this better?”

We need to recognize when we speak to ourselves in a fixed mindset and realize that we have an option to choose the growth mindset. A simple correction to change mindset is to use the word: “yet”. When we find ourselves saying, “No, way, I can’t do that”, we need to say “I can’t do that yet”.

Dr. Dweck’s research is uplifting as it shows that we can change and we can get smarter! We can promote a growth mindset by how we speak to ourselves, our children and those around us. I’ve started on my own journey towards the growth mindset and have shared this with everyone I know, and I believe it really works.

So get engaged and give it a try!

Copyright © 2014 Carol Dweck

This article was first published on the 5th Newsletter 2014 – Growth VERSUS Comfort Zone of the Professional Women’s Network in Oslo (PWN NORWAY)

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