5 Ways in which mindset is relevant to health care professionals

In this article I explain why the growth mindset is an important pillar of the progress-focused approach. Next, I describe five ways in which the growth mindset is relevant to health care professionals.

Growth mindset as a pillar of the progress-focused approach

The growth mindset is an important pillar in the progress-focused approach. The picture below illustrates this.

Autonomous motivation is shown at the bottom left. This is when you really support what you are doing because you find it interesting or important. Autonomous motivation can be seen as an energy source. Hence the symbol in the drawing of a lightning bolt. Autonomous motivation is the energy to commit and persevere.

The growth mindset is shown at the top left. The growth mindset can be seen as the belief that progress is possible. Without that belief (this is called a fixed mindset) it is hard to show effort and persistence. After all, why would you do that if you don't believe you can make progress? A growth mindset is the belief that you can make progress through effort and good strategies. In the picture I symbolize mindset as a door. In a fixed mindset, the door is closed, in a growth mindset it is open.

The picture shows that a fixed mindset can always throw a spanner in the works. Even if you find something interesting or important, if you think you can't get better at it or make progres, why try it, why persist?

When are mindset interventions useful?

Interventions aimed at eliciting a growth mindset are not always necessary. Many people already have a growth mindset and many people are already able to cope with the circumstances in which they have to operate. But when people do have a fixed mindset and when they are in extra challenging circumstances, mindset interventions can be useful. Think of situations in which you are in a completely new situation that places new, different and higher demands on you than you were used to. Or think of a situation in which you are stereotyped in a certain way.

An extreme example of someone in difficult circumstances was a young man serving a life sentence. In 2008 he learned about the work of Carol Dweck. This evoked a strong growth mindset in him. In this article you can read the letter he wrote to Carol Dweck in 2019: "Do you really believe I can change?"

Mindset in health care

Recently, we gave several training courses on the progress-focused approach to a team of professionals working in addiction care and to a team of professionals working in rehabilitation. One of the topics in both training courses was the growth mindset. Most professionals saw this as a relevant topic for their work. Both groups of professionals work with people who have to deal with difficult challenges in an exceptional way. Think of a young person trying to overcome an addiction to drugs. Or think of a man who tries to learn to walk and talk properly through exercise after a cerebral infarction.

I spoke to two leading researchers in the field of mindsets and asked them if they were familiar with research into growth mindset interventions in sectors such as addiction treatment and rehabilitation. They were not aware of such research but thought that the growth mindset was relevant to these types of professions. I agree.

5 Ways in which mindset is relevant

While working with these professionals we noticed that the mindset is relevant in various ways for people in such occupations. Here are the five ways we identified:

  1. For professionals' own development: research has shown that professionals in all kinds of professional groups reach a plateau in their performance after a number of years. They have then reached a level of acceptable performance and are not growing beyond that. However, it is wise to continue to develop beyond that plateau. This requires a continuous investment in your further growth, through study, reflection and practice. A growth mindset is a precondition for this. (read more)
  2. In the relationship between professional and client (and their family members), when clients find themselves in such challenging circumstances, they may have a fixed mindset. In other words, they may doubt whether they can get better and solve their problems. Growth mindset interventions can play a useful role in such situations. (read more)
  3. In the relationship between managers and professionals: managers with a growth mindset invest more in the growth of their employees. Employees also see these types of managers as more fair to them. (read more)
  4. In the collaboration between colleagues: in organizations in which a growth mindset culture exists, employees feel more engaged and collaborate more with each other. More innovation is also taking place in such organizations. (read more)
  5. In raising their own children: professionals who are also parents themselves almost always see a relationship with the way in which they raise their own children. By promoting a growth mindset in their own children, they can help make learning and performance more fun and effective. (read more)