How to Develop a Growth Mindset

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Mindset is a collection of your thoughts, and beliefs. It’s how we see the world around us, our perspective and how we behave towards it. So, what exactly does a mindset come in handy for? Firstly, it has a lot to do with our attitude, how we learn new skills and how we respond to difficulties, failure or hardships. It is representative of our self-esteem and even affects how we speak to ourselves. In short, a healthy mindset instils you with confidence and equips you to make good decisions and face life’s challenges.

Professor Carol Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset. Dweck’s interest in failure stemmed from her curiosity behind students’ underlying beliefs about intelligence and learning. Why is it that some react with positivity and enthusiasm in the face of challenge? This is what’s known as a growth mindset. While for some, when dealing with challenges, negativity and the need to run from difficulty overcome them, also regarded as a fixed mindset. Let’s dive into the differences between the two, how to develop a growth mindset and set yourself up for success.

Fixed Mindset Versus Growth Mindset

Despite contrary beliefs, we get to choose whether we want to have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. In fact, it’s normal to switch between both mindsets in life. However, we have the power to choose which is our dominant mindset. So, let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two mindsets.

A fixed mindset is largely driven by fear or negativity. Things appear too difficult and clouds of negativity result in a tendency to give up easily. A common response from someone with a fixed mindset would be something like “I can’t do it”. The fixed mindset is commonly held back by negative beliefs like “it’s just who I am” or “what’s the point of trying?”. These limited beliefs are detrimental to our self-esteem. With a fear of difficulty and obstacles, those experiencing a fixed mindset rarely take on a challenge or push themselves out of their comfort zone.

The growth mindset, however, is driven by curiosity and positivity. By adopting an optimistic approach, reaching goals and overcoming challenges are feasible through effort and perseverance. This mindset recognises obstacles as a normal part of any journey. Failure is a learning curve. Offering us knowledge and wisdom, setbacks and failures make us stronger and more perseverant. Though those that develop a growth mindset still experience fear, they do not let it hold them back. A growth mindset promotes resilience, high self-esteem and emphasises the importance of effort.  

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Tools to Develop a Growth Mindset

The Power of “Yet”

When faced with negativity, for instance take the common example of “I don’t know how to… or I don’t understand XYZ” we can turn it around with positivity. By adding “yet” at the end, you acknowledge the fact that, though you don’t know or understand something now, you will get there. It paves the way for goal setting and taking steps towards overcoming any challenges you face. A challenge, whether it be academic, social or hobby-related, can be regarded as a learning curve. The more you work at it, the better you will get. Progress is inevitable if you stick at it. Basic abilities can be improved, and it doesn’t mean you’re not good at something, you just haven’t mastered it yet.

Mistakes Help us Grow

Perfectionism doesn’t exist. In fact, it creates never-ending high expectations which lead to extra pressure and self-doubt. You’ll find yourself exhausted or dissatisfied with the results. Don’t fret over mistakes, learn from them. Everybody makes mistakes, nobody is perfect. Think back to a time in which you made a mistake. What did you learn from that? How did it help you grow? Mistakes teach us what doesn’t work, or invite us to try new techniques and strategies that will pave the way for future success.

Praise Wisely

Why is it that we praise people for good grades or winning? Dweck points out that, particularly in children, this type of praise teaches them that intelligence or talent should be sought after, making them vulnerable. What happens when we don’t get what we want? With this fixed mindset that values intelligence and talent, we tend to beat ourselves up over our failures. Limited beliefs begin to arise such as not being clever enough in a subject or not being good enough at a certain skill. Not only does this damage our self-esteem, but it also increases our chance of giving up.

Instead, Dweck highlights that we should praise wisely by praising the process.  Whether it be to praise yourself, children or loved ones, focus, perseverance, hard work, learning strategies are far more valuable. Praise effort and dedication in order to teach the beauty of challenge seeking and resilience.

Leave your comfort zone

When we push ourselves out of our comfort zone, we experience a certain level of uncertainty. Leaving our comfort zone involves activities that wouldn’t normally form part of our routine, or make us feel comfortable. A Neuroscience professor at Yale explains that “we only learn when there is uncertainty, and that is a good thing.” Studies show that neurons in the brain form stronger connections, making us smarter. To enter the growth zone, begin to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

To Sum Up

For those that commonly experience a fixed mindset, fear, negativity and low self-esteem are commonplace. However, you can develop a growth mindset. A growth mindset values the power of challenges, and mistakes. Effort and perseverance are essential tools for a growth mindset. We are all able to learn, improve, and grow. Build a mindset and environment that promotes that growth. Motivate yourself through an optimistic approach, learning curves, and the power of “yet”.

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    19 Comments

    1. I really enjoyed reading this post! I am a perfectionist and it was such a nice reminder that there’s no such thing as perfect. Thank you for that! I needed to hear that today.

    2. This is something I’ve been trying to work on for years! It is so difficult to switch your mindset after growing up a certain way. But fixed mindsets DO really limit your opportunities in life. Makes me really want to encourage a growth mindset in my kids so they can skip all of struggles I’m dealing with!

      1. That’s amazing dedication, well done πŸ™‚ You’re right, it’s something that can be continuous in a way because there’s always a chance that you’ll say or do things with a fixed mindset. But acknowledgment is a powerful tool. Me too! Teaching a growth mindset from a young age will help engrain that optimism and confidence in them, for sure!

    3. I recently read a book that spoke about what you call praising wisely. I resonate a lot with that point but find it difficult to give it a solid place in my actions. I also really love the point about leaving your comfort zone as I personally think this is one of the most rewarding things a human being can do! Great post!

      1. What’s the book called? It would be interesting to learn more about how to praise wisely. You’re right, leaving our comfort zone is so rewarding. Thank you!

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