Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and colleagues developed the concept of a growth mindset, which is the belief that a person’s capacities and talents can be improved over time. People with a growth mindset tend to embrace challenges, persist in the face of obstacles, learn from criticism, and find inspiration in the success of others.
This contrasts with a fixed mindset, where one believes their abilities are fixed traits and therefore can’t be changed. People with a fixed mindset may also believe that their talent and intelligence alone lead to success, and effort is not required.
The problem with a fixed mindset is that when you believe that you achieve because of your God-given abilities, it makes it more likely that you will get discouraged when you encounter life’s inevitable setbacks and challenges. On the other hand, with a growth mindset you believe that with effort and learning, you can find a way to overcome the obstacles you face.
When my kids were growing up, I would often tell them how smart they were. I thought I was building their self-esteem and confidence. Ironically, Dweck discovered affirmations like this encourage a fixed mindset, not a growth mindset. It emphasized their talent, not their effort.
Now that I have grandkids, I don’t tell them they’re smart (even though I think they are). Instead, I tell them how proud I am that they work hard. Effort trumps talent every day.
A growth mindset will help you to face the many challenges that you face as a church leader. But I encourage you to embrace a “modified” growth mindset. As Christians, we believe we can do nothing good apart from the grace of God. So, keep learning and trying. Believe you can overcome any obstacle. But understand that it’s God’s grace that will get you there. Then you can give God the glory.