Whether you’re managing a new project at work or just trying out a new recipe at home, there is an opportunity to ditch the fixed mindset and employ the growth mindset.

The popular business terms refer to how we think, how we interact with others and how we lead. Those with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be developed and are open to new knowledge and challenges. A growth mindset also means you’re curious, open to possibilities, collaboration and the unknown, all while being willing to explore.

Conversely, a fixed mindset means you’re closed off, more focused on being right than getting it right. Those with a fixed mindset believe intelligence is static, often avoiding challenges and the effort it takes to improve.

Karen Collins, an adjunct faculty member for Executive Education at the Daniels College of Business, is passionate about exploring the potential of the growth mindset. The executive coach and founder of Empowerlead said that even the best leaders can slide into the fixed mindset.

Karen Collins

So, she looks for small, low-pressure situations for people to lean into their growth mindset.

“If you can start and play small in those spaces, it’s going to give you the muscle memory to do it in a higher-stakes environment like at work or in a job interview,” Collins said.

“I learn more about how to have a growth mindset with my kids who are 6 and 7 than I do anywhere else,” she added. The key is learning to recognize what that growth mindset feels like for you and how you can bring it to all aspects of your life.

Why you need a growth mindset

For business leaders, Collins said having the growth mindset is crucial to creating a culture of curiosity and learning.

“When there’s inspiration and collaboration, you’re going to have more innovation,” she said.

It’s important to be aware of your emotions and the challenging situations you encounter, Collins said, because they often influence your mindset.

“When you feel yourself in these hyper-emotional states with fear, frustration, insecurity or annoyance, we are likely going to be in a fixed mindset,” she said, adding that emotions, thoughts and behaviors are all connected.

Having a growth mindset also allows a leader to step back from the responsibility associated with their title and realize they’re not always the smartest person in the room. It opens lines of communication and empowers people to share.

Collins also said it removes confirmation bias, eliminating the tendency to search for evidence that backs your existing beliefs. Lastly, it helps leaders let go of imposter syndrome and clear crucial mental hurdles that stunt growth.

How to develop a growth mindset

When it comes to developing and implementing a growth mindset, Collins has two specific techniques that she recommends to her students, colleagues and executive clients.

Take a NAP

The first method may evoke memories of daycare, but the NAP acronym doesn’t signify sleeping off the fixed mindset. Rather, it stands for name, acknowledge and perspective.

To move out of the fixed mindset, you first have to name the emotions you’re feeling and describe what’s causing them. This gives you a baseline to be able to look back at and check your progress.

The next step is to acknowledge and accept that you are in a fixed mindset. Collins points to psychiatrist Carl Jung’s quote, “We cannot change what we cannot accept,” as the primary motivator for this step.

Lastly, she recommends “perspective mining” by looking at your true values and charting a path forward. From here, you may ask yourself how can you approach a situation differently next time and how you want to move forward. Collins thinks this exercise works best after grounding your senses with a deep breathing exercise.

Try to CARE

If you’re looking for another exercise to employ the growth mindset, Collins’ second recommendation is to CARE: curiosity, authenticity, relate and evidence.

In this method, the first step is to let go of judgement and begin to ask yourself questions that begin with, “I wonder.” Approach your feelings authentically and ask questions that place your values ahead of the emotions you felt. The final steps help ground your decision-making in fact, relating it to previous experience and looking for evidence to support your next steps.

Have patience and give yourself grace

Changing your mindset takes time, Collins said. Change happens in three distinct phases: reflection, in-the-moment recognition and in a proactive fashion.

It takes time and effort to move through each stage of recognition, but Collins said it’s important to persevere and celebrate each step of growth.

So, whether you’re practicing the growth mindset on your 7-year-old or your boss, Collins said the key is creating a blueprint you can lean on in the future.

“Figuring out how to apply the growth mindset [at home] helps me figure out how to apply it in these higher stakes [work] environments,” she said.