How to use your personality type to enable your growth mindset
Growth is core to Western culture, especially in business. For individuals, we applaud when people keep trying to improve.
When it comes to self-awareness and personal growth, you have to know what your starting point is to be able to move forward. Think of personal development like a really long hike. You can stare at a map and plot out your course as much as you want, but unless you know where you’re starting the hike, knowing the course doesn’t do you much good when it’s time to lace up your boots.
Defining the Growth Mindset
Before we talk about growth mindset, what exactly is a mindset? A “mindset” is a set of assumptions, methods, or beliefs held by an individual or a group.
It’s also helpful to start understanding growth mindset by looking at its opposite, the “fixed mindset”.
A fixed mindset is when people believe their abilities are innate and cannot be significantly improved.
People with a fixed mindset tend to explain failure by lack of aptitude, bad fit, etc. You don’t have to think too hard to understand why this is stifling from a personal development perspective. And you can probably think of a few people you know who might have this mindset.
While aptitude is real, rarely do we human beings enter any new situation (whether it be a project, job, relationship, etc.) as an ideal fit. We usually don’t have all the perfect skills for that job right when we’re starting. That means you’re going to have to grow into it. And sometimes that growth is hard! Even personal growth.
Enter the growth mindset, developed by psychologist Carol Dweck (see her great TED talk here). Basically, she says that some individuals believe they can acquire almost any ability if they put forth enough effort. Those individuals tend to do better in life.
The great part is if you aren’t naturally one of those people, you can train yourself to have a growth mindset. And one way to start that is by looking at your own personality type.
When an organization adopts a growth mindset, employees more easily recognize the value in developing new skills. Which yields better performance, more innovation and other positive results. If you’re looking to get the MBTI for your small team, check out the new MBTIonline Teams experience here.
The Role of Personality Type in Fostering a Growth Mindset
Personality type (specifically MBTI type in this case), shows people their innate preferences across four key dimensions:
- Introversion/Extraversion. Are we inclined to focus attention on the outside world of people and things (Extraversion) or the inner world of thoughts and feelings (Introversion)?
- Sensing/Intuition. Is our first instinct to trust and use information based on experience and the evidence of the five senses (Sensing) or consideration of the future and how things connect to make the big picture (Intuition)?
- Thinking/Feeling. Do we tend to make decisions on the basis of objective logic (Thinking) or of values and on how the decision will affect people (Feeling)?
- Judging/Perceiving. Do we tend to live in a more structured, organized way (Judging) or in a more flexible, spontaneous way (Perceiving)
Some confuse these preferences being “innate” with the idea that the behaviors associated with them are “fixed” or permanent. While the MBTI type theory suggests that we’re born with our psychological type preferences, let’s be clear that we have the ability to control and shape our own thoughts and behavior.
So if I have a preference for Intuition, the fact that my natural instinct as I take in information is to make connections at the ‘big picture’ level doesn’t mean that I can’t also make the conscious decision to gather in detail through my five senses.
In fact, if I’m working on my personal or professional development, maybe that’s something I even make a point to do!
Personality Type Helps Uncover Areas for Improvement
Knowing about personality type, when used the right way, empowers us instead of limiting us.
Using personality type the wrong way is how you end up with the criticism that it stereotypes or pigeonholes people. Unless you are a pigeon who has no control over their behavior, personality type doesn’t pigeonhole you (no disrespect to your friendly neighborhood rat-with-wings).
Thinking back to our Sensing/Intuition example, consider a scenario in which someone who normally looks at the big picture really needs to look closely at details (maybe they’re buying a house or doing taxes). Or maybe they’re an instructional designer who builds online learning programs.
The instructional designer who prefers Intuition probably enjoys developing the essence of course content and defining a clear purpose. But they’ll also need to tap into their Sensing preference to review the step-by-step instructions in a detail-oriented fashion. This way, they make sure the students have concrete steps to follow in the course (and that all those steps work).
Who is more likely to adjust their behavior to look at details?
Someone who is aware that they naturally don’t tend to look at details, or someone who is oblivious to the fact that they naturally don’t look at details?
Of course, the person who is aware of their own natural tendencies will be more likely to exert the conscious effort required to adapt. On the other hand, the one who is ‘oblivious’ may not even realize that they need to adapt. Self-awareness can empower a growth mindset by giving you direction about your blind spots.
Identifying a Starting Point and Optimal Path for Growth
Think about the SAT's. Students will generally take an assessment like the pre-SAT to determine their starting point. However, if you choose to study on areas that you’re not as strong in the SAT, you can increase your score by the time you apply for college.
When used properly, assessments can help identify strengths and weaknesses so people can focus their efforts on the areas where growth is needed (or wanted). Proper use of personality assessments doesn’t tell you “You’re an ISFJ, and that’s all. You’ve just got to live with yourself.” Rather, it helps you understand where you are naturally, so that you can figure out what steps you need to take to get to where you want to be.
Beyond that, understanding one’s own MBTI preferences can help us outline the optimal path to getting where we want to be.
Going back to our example, imagine that the instructional designer with a preference for Intuition decides they need to get some training to develop their skills at observational detail. They quickly learn that a number of educational options are available, including one option that involves a series of in-person group seminars, and another that involves mostly self-paced online learning. If they also know that they have a preference for Extraversion (vs. Introversion) and that they learn best in group settings, they may decide that the group seminar option will be the most pleasant, energizing and stimulating option.
Knowing our personality type doesn’t pigeonhole us or confine us, but rather gives us the self-awareness that a true mindset of growth requires.