“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor,” – Henry David Thoreau.
Have you ever tried a new hobby, sucked at it, and as a result of said sucking, immediately given it up? Or, are you the type of person to be motivated by your own suckyness to learn more about the hobby, develop your skills and ultimately improve?
If you’re in the latter group, you likely have more of a growth mindset — a term coined by Carol Dweck, a psychologist and the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
What Is a Growth Mindset?
Essentially, Dweck posits that someone with a growth mindset carries the belief that their talents are subject to growth and improvement with practice, while those with a fixed mindset are more likely to believe they’re more or less stuck with the skills they were born with.
How to Adopt a Growth Mindset
While the term growth mindset has become a major buzzword in business, education and self-help circles, it’s important to acknowledge that we all have a mixture of both ends of the spectrum within us. We can all strengthen our growth mindset muscle through a variety of daily practices, consistent effort and positive habits.
Here are three ways to adopt a growth mindset and empower yourself as a result:
1. Identify Your Fixed Mindset Persona
To fight back against a fixed mindset, Dweck recommends identifying the part of you that feels the urge to get defensive when faced with criticism or constructive feedback. Learn to recognize this voice when it pops into your head and challenge its commentary so you can ultimately form new beliefs about your own abilities.
For example, your boss may ask you to rework an assignment because it missed the mark. Instead of getting carried away by the voice in your head telling you you’re bad at your job, you’ll never succeed and you might as well just quit while you’re ahead, challenge these assumptions through logic and reason. Counter these thoughts by remembering all the times your boss has given you great feedback in the past, and remind yourself of the things you’ve done right in your career so far.
2. Find a Mentor or Public Figure to Inspire You
Studies have shown that our mindsets may be influenced by observing others along their path to success. For example, this 2020 study in the International Journal of STEM Education found that students were able to adopt a growth mindset by observing their peers who were succeeding in class through a shift in attitude and consistent effort.
Whether you’re still in school or you’ve already entered the workforce, this concept can be applied to any setting or endeavor. Find a mentor or even a public figure you look up to who can reaffirm your beliefs in our inherent ability to grow and improve overtime.
Some examples include tennis player Mardy Fish, who recently appeared in the Netflix documentary series Untold: Breaking Point. The documentary chronicles Fish’s mental health struggles as a top tennis player in the world, but it also illustrates the concept of improving ourselves through conscious and consistent effort.
The concept of improving our mindset by observing others was also illustrated by the story of the four-minute mile, which was originally thought to be an impossible achievement. However, the barrier was broken by Roger Bannister in 1954, and since then, over 1,400 athletes have done the same.
3. Learn to See Setbacks as Opportunities, Not Problems
People with a growth mindset tend to view challenges as learning opportunities. The next time you’re faced with a challenge or setback, try to remind yourself that there’s a nugget of wisdom hidden behind every perceived problem.
Again, challenge the voice in your head that tends to catastrophize, generalize a situation, or persuade you to give up on the goal you’re trying to achieve. And remember — don’t believe everything you think.
Research has shown that a growth mindset will help you navigate stress and the challenges in your life more successfully and can lead to higher levels of wellbeing, so give it a try!