When you think to yourself “I was born this way, I can never change,” or “others are just naturally better at this than I am,” then you’re setting yourself up for failure.
If you catch yourself thinking this way most of the time, you might have to consider that you have a fixed mindset.
Someone who has a fixed mindset dislikes challenges. They love preserving the status quo. They don’t want to hear about their performance. Don’t read books, listen to advice of other people, or possess strong observation skills in order to learn.
These are the people who say “we’ve always done it this way, why do we need to change?”
Having a fixed mindset is a tragedy. It’s a vicious cycle that systematically sets you up for failure.
And it does not only inflict young people, but more established, “successful” people who’ve made it too.
“Oh, I’’m already an expert at interaction design, I don’t have anything else to learn.”
People think this way even if there is an overwhelming certainty that they actually are inept at the skill they claim to be good at. This illusory superiority is called the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
Once they start thinking they know everything there is to know, it’s game over. There’s no chance to improve.
No chance to explore unlimited possibility.
On the flip-side, there are people who thrive on a pure, essential, and burning desire to learn.
These are people with the growth mindset.
These people are FEARLESS.
They’re not afraid of failure. Not afraid of risk-taking. Not afraid of learning from others, even if it makes them look stupid. Not afraid of dusting away their ego. Not afraid of self-reflection.
At the end of day, all people have gaps.
The sooner we can acknowledge this, and create a mindset that thrives on understanding how we can improve, then we can truly change the game not just for ourselves — but for everyone around us.
Here are 5 reasons why designers with a growth mindset can get ahead of the pack:
1. They are capable of receiving harsh, critical feedback, and process it effectively.
Designers with a growth mindset can control their emotional state when it comes to design critique. When on the receiving end of a tough design critique, they see it as a chance to improve their fundamental UI design or product thinking skills.
They see feedback as a response to behaviour they’ve exhibited, not as an attack on them. They just see it as it is, and work their way towards being better.
Tanner Christensen goes out of his way to document his work and behaviour, and proactively informs his peers on things he wants to get better at. The peers can then vouch for him if he improves through observable behaviour. To me, that’s a designer who passionately craves feedback.
2. They are open to all spectrums of perspectives, frameworks, and paradigms.
By virtue of being in a growth mindset, designers become open to new perspectives. You’re more open to working with a diverse set of people. You’re mind is open to the spectrum of possibilities that you have not considered at all.
You can start to understand the problem space or industry you’re working with in a depth you’ve never considered before.
You don’t draw from one source. You read all the related literature, compare perspectives, and draw a conclusion that was only possible because you have the openness to unearth it.
That’s a powerful ability that’s enhanced though a growth mindset.
3. They don’t have an ego.
You can’t learn if you think you already know.
When you have a growth mindset, you start recognising your unhealthy belief in your own importance and self-centered ambition.
Because you care so much about self-improvement, you can take and receive feedback from hearing outside sources. You get new mentors, coaches, and advisors all the time.
You stop thinking how things can be “beneath you,” and that you’re a superstar in a skill or two. You take a look at that pride, and throw it away—because if you’re looking down, you can’t see what’s above you.
You acquire and cultivate humility.
4. They are strong at self-awareness.
“The ability to evaluate one’s own ability is the most important skill of all. Without it, improvement is impossible.” — Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy
You have the proactiveness to seek for others’ feedback. Be it from your design manager, peers, mentees, or cross-functional teammates.
You deliberately schedule time to think about things like what you want to accomplish, what you could do better, and how you can change your habits, behaviours, and routines to fit your new goals.
In my high school valedictory speech, I remember sharing that the core skill to success was introspection. I still believe that’s true.
Introspection is how you sharpen the saw. It’s the machinery that processes the feedback you receive.
As a designer, this might mean investing more time engaging in mindfulness and meditation. You may even enjoy embracing reflection at the end of the day.
5. They have the ability to take advantage of all resources presented to them.
You intentionally put yourself in places where you’re the least knowledgeable person, and engage in the endless process of learning.
You become the eternal student. Always absorbing and filtering. Always creating new neural pathways. Always enlarging your brain.
Books, courses, teachers, and technology are more accessible to us than ever before. There is no more excuse for not being able to learn and curate your own education.
The designer with a growth mindset deftly navigates different systems and platforms of knowledge at her disposal — be it academic journals, blog articles, podcasts, real people on Twitter, conversations at lunch, or the real-time observance of events—there will be always something to learn.
Originally for Kalibrr Design