10 Ways to Be a Better Learner: No. 1 – Adopt the Right Mindset

by Jeff Cobb

Image of seedlings growing

Note: This post has been updated and incorporated into 10 Ways to Be a Better Learner – an essential read for the serious lifelong learner.

As we head into the second month of the year it’s a good time to reflect on what you have learned so far in 2011, and what you might do to become a better learner throughout the year. I’ve started jotting down some tips along those lines. Here’s the first:

1. Adopt a growth mindset in all things

If you have not yet read Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, put it at the top of your list. Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford, has spent years researching what differentiates people who achieve and maintain success and she’s boiled it down to a simple dichotomy: consistently successful people have a growth mindset – a belief that they can always learn, grow, and become better at whatever they set their sites on. This is in contrast to the fixed mindset that holds back so many people – a belief that whatever talents or abilities you have are basically innate and not changeable to any significant degree.

Now, I would assume most people who self identify as lifelong learners already possess a growth mindset to at least some degree, but as I read Dweck’s book, it became clear to me that there are more than a few areas of my life in which the fixed mindset rules. Take a close look at your own life, and I suspect you will find the same.

One key to becoming a better learner is to ferret out these fixed mindset areas and replace them with a growth mindset. As long as you are willing to put a little time into reflection, that’s easier to do than it may sound. A particularly powerful conclusion of Dweck’s work is that simply being conscious of the dichotomy between growth and fixed can make a tremendous difference. So what are you waiting for – start putting a growth mindset to work today.


February, 2011: Just came across this post on Carol Dweck by Dan Pink. Links to the transcript of a talk given by Dweck as well an infographic on the two mindsets.

January 2012: Harvard Business Review has posted a good podcast in which Dweck discusses mindset – find out more.


P.S. – The next tip is coming soon. To be sure you receive it, I highly recommend subscribing to Mission to Learn either by RSS feed or e-mail.

posted on February 8, 2011

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