How a Growth Mindset Reveals the Gifts in Adversity

Why are some people so easily held back by obstacles, while others take it in their stride and simply march forward? The secret may be in how we perceive setbacks and failure. Those that view them as an opportunity to improve may have a growth mindset. This powerful approach to life reveals that within failure, challenge and adversity, there are gifts which are the seeds for our success. How we nurture them makes all the difference.

Achievers get cosy with failure

How far would you go to achieve your dreams? James Dyson, the inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, endured 5127 failed product prototypes, near bankruptcy, and multiple licensing rejections to develop the technology that helped his vacuums become one of the world’s most loved products and contributed to his 9.8 billion USD net worth.

Although his success required enormous amounts of perseverance and tenacity, it was his intimate relationship with failure that characterised his mindset. When his prototypes fell short of their objectives, he never gave up or took it personally because he understood failure as a sign to find another way of making his product work. He embraced the process and used it to drive innovation and ultimately his success.

“Everything can improve”, a phrase coined by James defines his dogged approach to innovation and is an ethos he still lives by today. Unfortunately, not everyone thinks like this, and in today’s high-pressure work environments where leaders face daily challenges, there are those whose mindsets sabotage their ability to overcome obstacles.

Leaders who don’t know how or are not willing to look at setbacks and failure as an opportunity to improve may struggle to take accountability when things get hard and could potentially fold in the face of a crisis.

The growth mindset advantage

Dr Carol Dweck, Psychologist and Author has studied the behaviour of thousands of students over the years, analysing their approach to failure. She found that some students rebounded when they failed while others viewed their defeat as final. She attributed this to them having either a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.

A growth mindset is an approach that views failure as a challenge and an opportunity for development. It also values growth as its main objective and encourages honest self-reflection of one’s shortcomings and that’s where the real essence and gift of it is.

Many times, the key to overcoming difficult setbacks is to move our ego aside and accept that either our skill or approach can be changed and improved. But if maintaining a perfect image is too valuable to us and we can’t admit there’s room for growth, we’ll struggle to change and evolve.

Leaders who possess growth mindsets are not governed by other people’s perceptions of them. They value continuous improvement, are more open to problem-solving, and are more likely to see opportunities to develop and innovate.

Coaching helps leaders turn adversity into growth

It’s promising that through coaching, the growth mindset can be developed in anyone that wants to learn how to use setbacks as a tool for progress and get a competitive advantage in the world.

Coaching initiatives that use Positive Intelligence help leaders develop healthy approaches to failure. The tool is effective in identifying and weakening the internal saboteurs that limit our performance, and it strengthens the mental muscles needed to overcome obstacles.

Coaching with Positive Intelligence also helps create a supportive team environment where mistakes and setbacks are viewed as an opportunity to grow. And in spaces like these, people are more likely to embrace their shortcomings as opportunities to move forward.

As a leading provider with 25 years of experience coaching leaders in blue-chip companies and government, Change Partners is perfectly positioned to help you advance.

Willie Snyman is an International Executive Coach at Change Partners with a wealth of experience in business and leadership development. He’s passionate about helping people go from coping to a life of significance, success, and happiness. Contact him at or on 082 456 1418 to help you unlock life-changing levels of performance.

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