Is Growth Mindset Simply About Leading with Soul?
I recently re-read Dr. Carol Dweck's “Mindset” book, and I came away with a new understanding. What if a fixed mindset is all about Ego? Conversely, what if a growth mindset is just an expression of Soul?
According to Dr. Dweck, a fixed mindset is the belief that talents are innate gifts. Growth mindset, in contrast, is the belief that talents can be developed. People with a growth mindset worry less about “looking smart” and put more effort into learning. Not surprisingly, they are more resilient.
Ego, often referred to as false self, is what we attach to ourselves as our identity: our image, personality, talents, achievements and perceived faults. As Brené Brown states, ego says we have no inherent worth, so we have to “hustle.” Ego makes judgments, desires to feel special, and separates us from others. Its main operating system is fear of “not enoughness.”
Our Soul, or essential self, is our innermost being that emerges when we let go of the false self. It knows we are not our title, our talents, our past, our body, or the size of our house. Instead, we are inherently worthy and full of love. We are one with others. Whereas ego craves individuation, Soul craves connection.
Isn’t then the fixed mindset, which is obsessed with protecting labels, the learned way of building and protecting ego? We focus on activities that will lead to “gold stars” and make us stand out. Failure is an affront to our worthiness; when it happens, we feel lost. As such, we avoid scenarios that could lead to that outcome. Growth mindset emerges when we let go of ego and focus on our natural curiosity. We start asking: What will lead to the most growth? In other words, what would we do if we weren’t afraid? As failure simply becomes part of the natural learning process, we simultaneously become courageous.
So how do we switch from the tepid, egoic fixed mindset to the courageous, soulful growth mindset? As a lifelong gold star collector, I learned that I couldn’t intellectualize myself through this change. Instead, the shift clicked when I looked inward. Which is why it's so interesting that the MEA retreat ended up being for me and others in my cohort, a Spiritual one.
Part of the process of believing in my worth has meant surrendering to a higher power; believing, as Dr. Lisa Miller puts it, that I’m “loved, guided and never alone.” And at MEA, I could access that feeling via connection with other “compadres” on the same journey to that deeper truth. Not surprisingly, Saul the shaman transmitting love and Teddi the mindfulness coach espousing fluidity, non-judgment, and non-attachment played a big role in my week in breathtaking Baja.
As I personally shift from the corporate to the entrepreneurial arena in my early forties, I’m learning to fuel up not by the desire to attain a specific outcome and continue to project “success,” but by the invigoration and ease I feel when I’m fully present, connected, and curious while guided by purpose.
This shift has made the transition into the startup space, notorious for mental health challenges, a meaningful and magical one (most days!). It also has, more practically, made me a lot more energy efficient as I ask better questions, seek help, remain open to new ideas from unexpected sources, cycle through setbacks at a much faster clip, and better support others’ own growth. These days, I’m less the anxious young warrior hustling to break down walls and ceilings and more the wise, older surfer learning to ride increasingly bigger waves.
Gabriela Gonzalez Bux has spent her career designing and managing human-centered experiences that leverage digital technologies. Most recently, she co-founded Tango, a travel services company providing personalized, intent-driven, soulful trips for curious travelers.