Learning Culture & Growth Mindset

moving to a growth mindset:

Strength development & becoming life-long learners


Like many people, I guess, since lockdown I’ve been spending much more time exploring the realms of social media and on the weekend I found a YouTube video clip of a Deep Purple song titled “Perfect Strangers”.  The band formed way back in the late 60’s and early 70’s and were very much into “prog rock” on the heavy end.

If you don’t know them, their most famous song would be “Smoke on the water”.    I loved them way back in my early teens and still love them now but rarely do I play their material.

The song I watched was performed live in Germany in the late 90’s and typical of the prog rock genre the song went for about 10 minutes which included the most extraordinary introduction/keyboard solo that ran for at least five minutes.   John Lord is a true keyboard virtuoso and was the keyboardist and founding member of the band.  The introduction truly displayed his extraordinary prowess with piano and organ.

As I watched him I reflected on his talent and what a gift it is.  How did he get that good?  Was he always that good?  Was he born with this talent?  And as these questions went around in my head I considered Carol Dweck’s definition of a strength and how strengths are formed within her concept of Learning Culture and Growth Mindset.

So what is a strength? 

For most of us we would define this simply along the lines of “something we are really good at.   Carol Dweck’s concept is more complex than that however and involves 3 parts.  Her definition is anything that:

  • We are capable of performing at very high levels.
  • That we are internally motivated to perform (we don’t see it as an effort)
  • It provides value and meaning and provides a sense of fulfilment.

I thought to myself how lucky John Lord is to be able to have a career where he can engage in his strength as defined by Dweck and make a living from it.  I also wondered if he created this luck and if so how?

Carol Dweck’s notion of strength development is integral to another of her concepts, namely Growth Mindset.   Growth Mindset suggests that we adopt the challenge of becoming life-long learners, ever on the search for ways to refine our knowledge and skill.  It holds, as its central tenet, that our ability to develop skills comes about from dedication, hard work, perseveration and a fearless approach to mistakes (of course in health there are mistakes that can harm others for which we must recognise our limits to safe practice) for this is how proficiency and expertise is attained.  Natural ability is recognised but seen as a starting point rather than something one has or doesn’t have.

There is good evidence that as our performance increases and we become more and more expert we are more likely to develop a strong commitment to achieving greatness.  We practice for longer, and gain higher levels of fulfilment from the task.  How lucky are we if our career choice enables us to experience this?


Here are some tips to move closer to a growth mindset.

  1. Embrace a challenge and encourage those coming up behind us to do the same for challenges extend our reach.
  2. Setbacks are an integral part of progress. Learn to make your peace with them. Expect them to show up for they enable us to develop persistence.
  3. Learning is not like being on a bike coasting downhill. In fact it more often than not feels like going uphill. View effort as the key that opens the door to the mastery you desire.
  4. When your performance is criticised. Thank the person providing you with feedback for showing you areas for improvement. Without them it may have taken weeks or months to find this out on your own.   Respond by asking them the direction toward the door to mastery.
  5. Watch other learners. Take joy in their success and be curious about their effort, setbacks and approaches to problem solving. Above all, take joy from watching them.

If this has triggered your curiosity and desire to develop deeper mastery I recommend this reference:

Dweck, C. (2007) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House. Chicago.

And in the meantime I might just go back to listening to the virtuoso belt out the organ riff in “Highway Star”.

Murray Bardwell

Education Co-ordinator, Going Rural Health Ballarat

Mental Health Nurse & Clinician