Having a growth mindset means that you believe that you can get better at things if you try hard. You think that your abilities are not fixed but can change over time. This means that you are more likely to try new things because you know that you can improve if you practice. A growth mindset is essential for learning new things and can help you become more successful in life. It also determines how we bounce back from setbacks.

Just like getting in shape takes a lot of hard work, effort, and dedication, having a growth mindset requires the same thing. You have to be willing to put in the time and effort to learn new things and grow as a person. Carol Dweck’s growth mindset is key to unlocking your potential and achieving your goals.

Having a growth mindset can be beneficial for all age groups but is also particularly pertinent to teenagers. When it comes to the teenage years, there are a lot of things that go on. It’s a time when people are trying to figure out who they are and what they want. With so many changes, it can be tough for some teenagers to stay focused and motivated. However, having a growth mindset can help them attain their goals and be happier and less anxious. It means that we can develop our abilities over time. There is a strong link between growth mindset theory and resilience theory, having profound implications for classroom teachers and educators globally.

Teens with a growth mindset tend to do better in school and have higher self-esteem. People with a growth mindset are happier. Mindset means that you believe through constant effort, hard work and embracing critique, you can be better at what you are trying to do in life. This means our talents can be developed and move us from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset.  All of this is based on sound research about brain activity and the positive effects of the interplay between growth mindset and abundance psychology. 

The brain and the work of Carol Dweck

The good news is this works for adults too. Neuroscientific evidence tells us that too many adults believe their abilities are carved in stone. A study by Professor Carol Dweck and her colleagues at Stanford University found that when adults adopt a growth mindset, they are more likely to take on challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, and enjoy challenges more. People with a growth mindset also experienced greater personal satisfaction and better health and were more likely to give back to society.

Carol Dweck’s work is based on neuroscience and brain plasticity. Even as adults, our brains, literally, can grow the more we learn. 

Growth & Fixed 

Carol Dweck’s hypothesis about two types of mindset – growth mindset and fixed mindset. People with a growth mindset recognise that their abilities can be developed. They embrace the learning process. They are not obsessed with higher grades but want to develop their intelligence and abilities. They try new things even if they risk failure.

A growth mindset instils core beliefs that intelligence and abilities can be developed over time. People with this mindset don’t see setbacks as failures but instead, view them as opportunities to learn and grow. They focus on their effort rather than their ability, which allows them to continue working hard even when they don’t succeed at first.

People with a growth mindset believe that their efforts will lead to success. They think of themselves as smart, capable and talented. They feel confident and optimistic. They are able to bounce back from failure because they know they can improve.

fixed mindset: look smart at all costs

A fixed mindset is an unchangeable core belief that our intelligence can not change.

Fixed mindset students often lack motivation because they don’t understand why they need to improve. They get discouraged when they fail. They worry about being ridiculed for making mistakes. They are afraid to ask questions and admit they don’t know something.

Many struggling students feel discouraged when they can’t do things. This can be indicative either of a fixed mindset or of a false growth mindset. Carol Dweck’s work and leading academic neuroscience research indicate that fixed mindset triggers often include hiding from difficult tasks, cheating, engaging in avoidant behaviour and fear that admitting mistakes would make them look dumb.

Carol Dweck & The Learning Process

Carol Dweck’s work shows that intelligence is malleable and linked to neuroplasticity. When we learn something new for the first time, we grow new connections in our brain – new neural pathways are formed. So, our brains can grow and make new connections when we learn new things. A common misconception around mindset is that we just need to say things like ‘keep going’ – from a learning & teaching perspective, there is a need for a series of growth mindset interventions in the classroom in order to scaffold the learning process so that it feels attainable for the student. We need to focus on rewarding effort.

The right kind of praise is crucial to help ourselves, each other and our children develop a growth mindset. A common mistake that people make is to praise intelligence. The work of Carol Dweck shows that we praise intelligence we encourage others not to take risks in learning situations or where we might make a mistake or fail. We should praise effort – not the result. Remember, this is about treating learning as a process and not just the higher grades!

1. Be aware of your thoughts and assumptions. Are you assuming that everyone else is doing as well as you are? Do you think that others are smarter than you? Are you assuming that your abilities will not improve with time? Is this thought always in the back of your mind? If so, you are not alone. We all can get caught up in cycles of stuck, repetitive thinking. Such a pattern of behaviour impacts how we deal with setbacks and whether or not we bounce back from failure.  We need to remind ourselves that there is no such thing as negative feedback. We all have the capacity to develop our innate ability.  Writing down in a journal the pros and cons of a situation in order to stand back and look at where you can take action can be helpful, and to focus on your own personal growth.

2. Be aware of how your thoughts affect your feelings and actions. To be aware of your thoughts and feelings, you need to pay attention to what is happening in your head and body. For example, if you are feeling angry, you might notice that your heart is racing and your fists are clenched. If you are sad, you might feel a heaviness in your chest. Paying attention to these signals can help you understand what you are feeling and why. School students should be taught these basic emotional literacy steps to help with their well-being. Keeping a reflection book or journal to record you feelings and thoughts can be helpful in the reflection process.

3. Seek out feedback and criticism from others. Ask for feedback and criticism from your coach, partner, or significant other. Observe how your feelings change when you ask for feedback from others. Are you open to taking as many opportunities to learn as you can?  If you want to develop a positive mindset, getting better at acting on feedback is crucial. 

Be aware of your thoughts and assumptions that hold you back from taking the next step. Our repetitive thinking can stop us from changing our mindset. Are you afraid to leap? Are you still running from a fear of failure? If you find yourself constantly held back by your thoughts, here are a few tips to help you get started:

Start by meditating, a favoured technique by people with positive mindsets. This can help you learn how to focus on the present and tune out distractions. You can also try keeping a journal to document your thoughts and feelings, which can help you track patterns or triggers. Alternatively, try practising yoga or another exercise that helps you focus on your body and breath. By paying attention to the present moment, you’ll be less likely to get caught up in your thoughts. Meditation can help shift brain activity and focus and help you achieve greater clarity of thought.   Mindfulness can also help our academic performance, and contribute to you having a more positive mindset.

Fixed: stuck thinking & feedback

Your story-telling mind is adept at making you believe that your past is the reason for your present and future. Are you stuck in a cycle of reliving your past failures? Are you letting your mistakes from years ago dictate your present and future? Remember, mistakes are an important part of the learning process. If you find yourself lacking an abundance mindset – e.g. becoming resentful or jealous of others’ success or that you are reinforcing negative stereotypes, it is time to stage a series of growth mindset interventions for yourself! Here are three tips that will help your academic performance, strengthen your positive mindset and help you shift into an abundance mindset:

1. Write down your biggest failures and mistakes from the past. This can be tough, but it’s important to face them head-on. Once you have them all written down, read through them and try to see what lessons you can learn from them.

2. Ask your friends and peers for feedback. Often others can see us more clearly than we can see ourselves. Seek out feedback on how your past failures are impacting your present and future. Have you got things in perspective?  How can take the feedback and turn that into something you can take concrete action on?

3. Create a plan for moving forward. Once you’ve acknowledged your past mistakes and received feedback from those around you, it’s time to create a plan for moving forward.

Realistic goals for life

How to set realistic goals? It can be tough to figure out how to make your goals achievable and still challenging. But don’t worry; we’re here to help you get out of your comfort zone!  There is a strong link between having goals and a growth mindset in a large majority of the current neuroscience studies.

The first step is to come up with smart goals. This means developing specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goals. So rather than saying, “I want to be fit,” you might say, “I want to be able to run a mile in eight minutes.” Remember your talents can be developed, but it takes time and deliberate practice. Your goals should be attainable so that you stay motivated. Don’t worry if you suffer a setback – this is normal. Having an accountability partner – someone who can help with your motivation can help you with your perseverance. Having someone who has high expectations and encourages you is important. This can really help struggling students get over fixed-mindset triggers, and once they are secure in their learning take more risks and try new things. Smart goals really help with the human motivation factor and the overall learning process as you can see that you are making progress in bite-sized chunks.  

Mindset: dealing with a setback

Once you have your smart goal, it’s time to test it. Can you do it? If not, can you modify it so that you can? Remember growth mindset is not just about higher grades. Be sure to aim high – but also be realistic about what’s possible and enjoy the process It’s okay if you feel frustrated. Once you have achieved your goal, shifted weight, passed a course, or started that business you always talked about- now what? Celebrate success and enjoy your achievement, but don’t forget to stay focused and keep working hard.  Consider using a reflective journal to capture your positive mindset in context – what were you doing at the time?  How did you deal with negative feedback?  People with growth mindsets are more likely to be practising reflection techniques. 

It’s also important to get honest feedback from your friends and family- they may see things you’re not seeing in yourself. Dealing with difficulties is a part of any journey, so be prepared for bumps in the road. With the support of those around you, anything is possible!

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is when people are motivated by what they want to do rather than by external rewards. It’s also known as self-motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is often associated with growth mindsets. A growth mindset is when you believe that you have the ability to learn and grow from challenges.

If you’re looking to get motivated by doing something enjoyable, then intrinsic motivation is probably going to work best. When you’re intrinsically motivated, you’ll find that you will stick with something even when there isn’t much reward at stake. You’ll also be less likely to procrastinate because you won’t be thinking about extrinsic rewards like money.

To motivate yourself, think about why you want to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. What would happen if you did succeed? Would you feel proud? Would you feel happy? Do you care about other people knowing about it? Think about these questions and answer them honestly. Then write down all the reasons why you want to achieve your goal. Use these reasons to remind yourself every day.

Extrinsic motivation

When you’re extrinsically motivated, you’re driven by external factors such as getting praise or recognition, avoiding punishment, and earning money. Extrinsic motivation works well when you need immediate gratification, but it doesn’t last very long. For example, if you want to lose weight, you could go on a diet where you eat only healthy foods and avoid unhealthy ones. However, after a few days, you’ll start eating junk food again and find yourself relapsing in a moment of frustration. In addition, when you’re trying to learn a new skill, you may find that you’re bored with the task.

Extrinsic motivation means that you’ll often put off starting something until you feel ready. But if you wait until you feel ready, you’ll probably never start. To overcome this challenge, set small milestones along your path. Write down your thoughts and feelings about the challenges you’re facing. Were you happy, sad, angry, frustrated, etc.? What helped? What made you start doing something?

The relationship with culture change in our organisations

The ability to grow is one of the most valuable skills we can develop. It’s something that every person should have regardless of their age. The problem is that many people don’t know how to learn new things. They feel like they are stuck at a certain level of knowledge. If they want to progress beyond this point, then they must change their approach to learning. There is a strong link between neuroscience studies and research on the entrepreneurial mindset and success.

The concept of growth mindset was first introduced to psychology in 2006. It is defined as “the idea that people’s mindsets – their beliefs about themselves and their capabilities – determine their success”. The research shows that the mindset of individuals influences their performance on many different levels. For example, if someone believes that he/she is unable to do something, then they won’t even try to do it. In this case, the person will never make any progress towards his/her goals. On the contrary, when someone believes that s/he can do anything s/he wants, then s/he starts working hard and achieves great results.

Growth Mindset Culture within your organisation means a work environment where employees believe that they can learn new skills, grow professionally, and improve their performance. This kind of culture encourages employees to seek opportunities for personal development, to take responsibility for their own learning, and to support one another in developing their potential.

In order to develop a growth mindset culture, there must be a change in the way that managers treat their employees. Managers should encourage employees to ask for feedback, give constructive criticism, and help them to solve problems. They should also provide ample opportunity for employees to learn from mistakes and successes.

How can we achieve culture in our organisations? Here are some ways to start building a growth mindset culture in companies:

1. Create a growth mindset culture inside your team. Encourage your team members to ask for feedback, offer constructive criticism, and help each other solve problems.

2. Provide training programs for your employees. Offer courses that teach your employees how to use new technology, acquire new skills, and build their knowledge base.  Help them understand the processes of motivation, and brain functions, and create challenging learning activities. 

3. Make sure that everyone knows what the company values and mission statement is and make sure that statements relating to mindsets are very prominent.

4. Encourage staff to share their favorite books, ideally ones that encourage the activity of growth mindsets in practice. Reading is a way of making learning fun – so having a book group in the workplace where staff share professional reading and discuss their favorite books. 

5. Training for staff should help them deconstruct a challenging moment and then apply performance-related feedback to improve their situation.

6. Staff should be given opportunities for additional study to enhance their skills in the area of knowledge entrepreneurship. Building opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and the development of knowledge growth helps with motivation levels as staff grow in confidence. 

7. Create a regular time for reflection. 

A word of caution.. beware false mindset!

Carol Dweck’s research has a cautionary note. Many schools, individuals and organisations tout the growth mindset as the key to success. While a growth mindset is important, a false growth mindset can hinder your success and lead to you not bouncing back from setbacks, and this is a problem that many school students suffer from. They simply believe that what is being asked of them is not attainable. This is a challenge of scaffolding the learning experience, effective differentiation in the classroom and working with students to encourage them to take risks. We are all a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets depending on the situation and the context. We need to apply the neuroscientific evidence and combine it with behavioural evidence. One without the other does not lead to the last effects of change – and in this way – the best growth mindset interventions use cognitive psychology – and one that shifts from a scarcity mindset to more abundance psychology.

Individuals with a false or fixed mindset are often praised for their accomplishments, even when they are not due to their efforts. They do not take criticism well and may not act on it, preventing them from improving their skills. If you are unable to take criticism, you will remain stuck in a comfort zone. You will do anything to look smart at all costs and are not open to opportunities to learn from mistakes.  People with growth mindsets embrace challenge and critique.

Organisations with a false mindset at the cultural level may give employees false praise or rewards for accomplishments that are not due to their efforts. They may also be less likely to take criticism and act on it, leading to stagnation or failure. We need to educate staff about the brain, help people identify fixed-mindset triggers, make learning fun, and help staff give effective feedback to each other. Creating a growth mindset culture requires a whole series of growth mindset interventions and for there to be recognition of the interplay between growth mindset and performance and appraisal systems and processes in the organisation. Crucial to the personal growth of staff are systems that celebrate positive mindset development and are focused on rewarding effort.  

In conclusion, developing a growth mindset is essential for success in life. Carol Dweck’s work tells us that embracing perseverance and learning from failure are basic abilities to help us thrive. It allows you to see your failures as opportunities for growth and to continue learning and growing no matter what life throws your way. By following the tips provided in this article, you can start developing a growth mindset and start reaching your goals.

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