Carol Dweck, a Stanford Psychologist, coined the term “growth mindset” to describe the idea that basic qualities, like intelligence or creativity, are things that can be developed, nurtured and grown over time. This is in contrast to the concept of a fixed mindset, where intelligence is static, leaving little room for growth or meaningful change.
The key word here is “mindset.”
These ideas are ways of thinking, and as such, fundamentally alter our behavior, decision making, and perceptions. A growth mindset is one of upward mobility, evolution, and opportunity. Individuals who adopt a growth mindset relish the opportunity to grow and improve as a result of their failures. As Carol Dweck explains in her TEDtalk, those with a growth mindset think in terms of “not yet” — what this means is failure to solve a problem or achieve a goal is no longer a finite result, but simply something that has not yet been accomplished.
The fixed mindset, is well, fixed.
The idea that qualities such as intelligence are static will fundamentally change the perception of challenges and failures. Challenges become opportunities to prove intelligence to others, rather than to nurture and grow as an individual. Failures become limitations of abilities, rather than examples of things not yet accomplished. The goals are not to learn and evolve, but rather to affirm a pre-existing level of ability.
At the time being, the notion of a growth mindset has largely been leveraged in education and business arenas, yet there is significant applicability to what we do as physical therapists.
With a growth mindset, limitations in our effectiveness for particular conditions are not artificial ceilings of our abilities, but opportunities to research novel treatments and solutions to clinical problems.
Mistakes made by ourselves and by others are not failures of some static level of ability, but chances to learn and teach to better one another. The concept of a growth mindset should also be instilled in those seeking our care. The reframing of limitations and impairments from fixed roadblocks to identifiable factors that can be modified and improved upon can be a powerful way to engage and empower patients.
We should not look at our current stature in healthcare as the ceiling for our potential, but as opportunities to grow. The perception of other healthcare professionals of acute care physical therapists as expensive techs who walk patients is not a negative thing per se, but a chance to educate and advocate for our profession. We must adopt a growth mindset at the macro level in our profession and in doing so develop “a voracious appetite for learning, constantly seeking out the kind of input that you can metabolize into learning and constructive action” — The work of Chris Hinze and Mike Eisenhart to transform society through community design, Todd Davenport’s passion for public health and educating physical therapists on their role in addressing health disparities, and the #GetPT1st movement to promote the benefits of physical therapy are examples of the type of action we need to truly transform society. Their efforts embody the “growth mindset” and highlight just what we need to evolve as a profession.
About Today’s Contributor:
Kenny Venere is a home health physical therapist in Salt Lake City who likes raw denim, coffee, Cormac McCarthy novels and the New England Patriots. When forced to have more academic pursuits, his main interests are evidence based practice, critical thinking and scientific literacy which he writes about (sometimes well, mostly poorly) over at www.physiologicalpt.com