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“The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.”  Carol Dweck

Your mindset is a set of beliefs that shape how you make sense of the world and yourself. It influences how you think, feel, and behave in any given situation.  Think of a tree and its roots.  You don’t see the roots, but what is happening under the surface is vital to a healthy tree.  Your mindset is like those roots – happening inside and not always easy to see but vital to your health and well-being.

In her book, “Mindset,” renowned Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck says that it’s not intelligence, talent or education that sets successful people apart. It’s their mindset, or the way that they approach life’s challenges.

Mindset is the stories you tell about yourself — about who you are, why you make the choices you do, and how much power you have over those choices. Once we understand that narrative we can work on change where needed.  In the end, true change starts at the roots and moves up to the leaves.

Change isn’t easy for anyone, but adopting and nurturing a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset is a great first step.

But first, why?

Research has confirmed that developing a growth mindset offers you many benefits, including:

  • Feeling more comfortable taking personal risks and striving for more stretching goals
  • Higher levels of personal motivation
  • Enhanced brain development across wider ranges of tasks
  • Lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression
  • Improved work relationships
  • Higher levels of performance

What is a fixed mindset?

A fixed mindset means we believe that our skills, intelligence, general qualities, and talents are fixed traits and cannot be changed. This attitude can often result in resistance to learning or attempts to improve our skills.  A person with a fixed mindset:

  • Believes intelligence & talent are fixed
  • Feels threatened by others success
  • Believes failure defines who they are
  • Views feedback as personal criticism
  • Hides flaws
  • Avoids challenges
  • Ignores feedback
  • Believes effort is fruitless

What is a growth mindset?

A growth mindset means we believe that our skills, talents and general qualities have the capacity to grow and can be improved by hard work and persistence. This mindset results in a positive attitude towards both learning and critical feedback. People with a growth mindset are also generally more open to trying new things.  A person with a growth mindset:

  • Believes intelligence & talents can be developed
  • Believes effort is a path to growth
  • Believes mistakes are part of learning
  • Views failure as an opportunity
  • Believes failure is temporary
  • Embraces challenges
  • Welcomes feedback
  • Is inspired by success of others

Nurturing a growth mindset

You may have predominantly a growth mindset in one area but not in another, often dependent on the environment.  The good news is that due to advances in technology we now know that that our brains are malleable and can be shaped by intentional activity, this is called neuroplasticity.  Here are some activities that can help remodel your brain:

Acknowledge and embrace your weaknesses and strengths

Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Ask your friends and family for feedback, as they can offer you a different point of view and give you a perspective on what to focus on.

Create good habits around both your weaknesses and strengths. Take small steps every day that will help you move towards your goals.

View Challenges are Opportunities

If you are afraid to take on a new challenge, then stop and reframe the situation in your mind in order to shift the perspective.

Consider new challenges as opportunities and new experiences that you can learn from and grow. Think of different ways you can approach the challenge and remember that fear is only natural.

Chose the Right Habits and Learning Strategies

Everyone is different, so it is important that you choose strategies that are right for you and your current abilities.

If you are able to identify the best habits and learning strategies for you, then you can optimize the time needed to reach your end goal. The right level and intensity will also feel like you are making faster progress.

Focus on the process and not the end result. It is the journey that matters and it is important to enjoy it and make the most out of it. Think of all the unexpected lessons and experiences you may encounter during the way to your goal.

Fully engage and put effort in the process. Focusing on the process will improve the results you aim for. Reward your efforts and actions and acknowledge the small wins on a daily basis.  Be proud of them!

Activate your growth mindset with these questions

  • What can I learn from this?
  • What steps can I take to help me succeed?
  • Do I know the outcome or goal I’m after?
  • What information can I gather? And from where?
  • Where can I get constructive feedback?
  • If I had a plan to be successful at [blank], what might it look like?
  • When will I follow through on my plan?
  • Where will I follow through on my plan?
  • How will I follow through on my plan?
  • What did I learn today?
  • What mistake did I make that taught me something?
  • Is my current learning strategy working? If not, how can I change it?
  • What did I try hard at today?
  • What habits must I develop to continue the gains I’ve achieved?


Sources and further reading:

Carol Dweck | Speaker | TED

Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House.