Going beyond a growth mindset

Combining ambition and altruism to make a difference

Growth mindset vs Benefit mindset

If you work in education or are a parent of a young child, you’ve likely heard of a growth mindset. Over 30 years ago, Dr. Carol Dweck made observations that led her to coin the term “growth mindset”. In essence, people with a growth mindset learn from their mistakes and persist through challenges to reach higher levels of achievement. They seek development of their strengths, focusing on self-confidence and self-improvement through their process and progress.

To contrast, the benefit mindset builds on the foundations of the growth mindset, seeking to combine personal ambition with altruism, from a “me” focus to a “we focus, in order to make a difference. As Ash Buchanan describes it, “It is a purpose-driven mindset that is redefining success; from being the best in the world, to being the best for the world.”

Why and how ESSTEAM Lab programs utilize the benefit mindset

The benefit mindset aligns well with our mission, and in many ways, is similar to our philosophy of a maker mindset. Throughout our programs, while developing the skills in knowledge in STEAM disciplines for individuals, we recognize that there is a power and value in “we” vs “me”. Ultimately, we are all humans on our one Earth, and no action has zero consequence.

“Imagine what would be possible if we had generations of students finishing school with a rich appreciation of how their unique strengths could make the world a better place. Imagine the ripples of change that would be possible with whole generations living their lives with purpose. Imagine a world where individualism and collectivism flourishes side by side.”

Ash Buchanan

We spend a lot of our time in programs focused on collaboration- it’s an essential step in our design thinking process- as well as sustainability education. We work to develop communication skills, practice empathy and inclusion, explorations of passion + purpose, and respect for self and others. We do this through teambuilders, design challenges, and intentional program design. We also place a strong emphasis on sustainable development education, believing that sustainable practices support environmental, economic, and societal wellbeing. We find that ensuring well-being in three areas rather than focusing on one, is much like the strength and balance of a tripod compared to a single balance point.

Other resources for developing a benefit mindset in education

  • Here’s a good resource for a 21-day Benefit Mindset challenge for a school, from Ash Buchanan
  • An article introducing the benefit mindset and 4 specific actions to take to develop that mindset
  • The top resource for teaching a benefit mindset in education: a blog by Robert Ward. Take the time to read several of the posts to really understand, appreciate, and apply a benefit mindset. He also has a book, which I have yet to read, but is definitely on my reading list
  • A Benefit Mondset organization, not necessarily education focused, but good resources.

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