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How to build your growth mindset

Dr. Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and author of the book “Mindset: How you can Fulfil your Potential” has spent decades studying why some people reach their full potential, while others with just as much talent and ability don’t, and it's got everything to do with building your growth mindset.

In her studies she talks about the difference between having a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. She says “A fixed mindset is when people believe that their basic qualities – their intelligence, their talents, their abilities – are just fixed traits”. In other words, they are parts of you that can’t be changed.

These people might give something new a try, then if they can’t achieve it exactly how they would like to in the first or few attempts, they give it up, believing that they just aren’t able to get there. They also tend to feel bad about that as well, and feel a bit threatened when others achieve more.

People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, have a completely different approach to life. They believe that change is possible and that basic talents and abilities can be developed over time through experience, application, persistence and effort.

People with a growth mindset are not necessarily focused on how smart they are, how they’ll look, what a mistake will mean. They challenge themselves and grow and develop through persistence and practice.

People with a growth mindset have a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of set backs and learn from and find inspiration from the success of others, and they love feedback and even criticism.

And as you read this, it might seem clearer to you which mindset could serve you to get closer to achieving a goal or dream for your life that you might have in your mind right now.

You have a growth mindset if:

  • You are happy to try new things; to move out of your comfort zone, and risk getting something ‘wrong’

  • You see ‘mistakes’ as learning experiences although you prefer not to make the same mistake twice

  • You know you will always be learning, changing and evolving, every day of your life

  • You are proud of yourself and your achievements and at the same time you are aware that there is always another level of achievement or experience that you can strive for, if you choose to

  • You know you don’t have to be good at everything

  • You know it is always ok to ask others for help and support, and

  • You love seeing others succeed as well

One of the major keys to living a fulfilled life is to cultivate a growth mindset. There is so much freedom in this.

People with fixed mindsets care about how they’ll be judged, so they become afraid of challenges and of putting themselves out there. And that kind of thinking can get us to our final years of life, looking back with regret about all the things we would have liked to have tried or experienced but never started or persisted with, because we decided we just didn’t have the talent or ability or would not have been able to handle the perceived failure or judgement. With a growth mindset, people value how they are learning. This is such a resourceful way of thinking, and the wonderful thing is we CAN change our default way of thinking to cultivate a growth mindset.

Our success is not dependent on our intelligence or our experience. It is dependent on what we do with that intelligence and experience. When we work to improve ourselves, our brain functions better. It’s a muscle – it likes to be exercised.

So in order to have a winning mindset for success, look at your thought processes around your ability to succeed. Where is your thinking fixed and how can you change that to a growth mindset which will serve you?

Here are some tips for developing your growth mindset:

  1. Think back to childhood. Remember how you learned to ride a bike or tie your shoelaces? How many times did you try before you got it? We all start out with a growth mindset or some of us would still be crawling! Apply some of that childlike curiosity and determination to what you would like to achieve.

  2. Harness the power of YET. Think of something you would like to achieve, but currently believe you ‘can’t’ do, then add the word YET. In Carol’s TED Talk she talks about how the power of YET creates the opportunity for a learning curve. ‘Yet’ provides a pathway into the future full of possibility. And when you are learning, you are building new and stronger neural pathways.

  3. Give up judging others AND comparing yourself to others. You are you, you are unique and you have something to offer and a wealth of resources inside you. And when you give up judgement and criticism of others, it is amazing how you start to feel about yourself.

  4. Acknowledge yourself and others more for effort and progress than specific outcomes. Carol calls it ‘process praise’. You are achieving so much more with your efforts than the fixed mindset person who will never start.

  5. Apply some humour to the situation. Having a laugh at yourself relaxes you, lightens the situation and connects you with others and they with you. And play helps us to be more creative and better at problem solving as well so learning is enhanced.

So today, why not celebrate and acknowledge your progress in something you want to achieve, instead of fixating on the fact that you haven’t quite got to the level you want to yet. Feel good about your growth and tell yourself ‘I’m not there yet’, and then keep going.

Then you will be building your growth mindset and you will enjoy life even more.


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