A New Year, A New Mindset: An Introduction to Growth Mindset

With a new year, often comes a time for a mental restart for some of us. A time we can take to reflect on the past, set goals, resolutions, or intentions for the next 12 months. Whether you are a person that operates this way, or an individual that sees the new year as simply a continuation of time with no need to set such aspirations, I write this blog for you.

I would like to introduce to you the concept of Growth Mindset.

Growth Mindset is a way of thinking that may be able to increase your level of kindness and compassion toward yourself, your humanness, and your continuously learning and growing mind. As research over the years has continued, it has been learned that the human brain has the capacity to continue to grow and learn over time and throughout our lives. This is referred to as brain plasticity or neuroplasticity. This is our brain’s ability to grow, adapt, and change as we learn, practice, and experience things in our life. What a neat discovery! This is where a shift to a Growth Mindset from a Fixed Mindset is one of great importance, because we have the ability to influence our brain to expand and change rather than remain the same. 

A Further Explanation

Several decades ago, psychologist Carol Dweck, coined the term Growth Mindset while focusing on the mindsets of students in relation to failure and success. Growth Mindset is the notion that your learning brain is doing just that, growing and learning. It is a way of thinking that inspires an openness to challenge and difficulty due to the understanding that you can improve in some areas of your life through trial and error, mistakes and learning, and failure and success. It often looks like adopting an inner belief, self-talk, and attitudes that reflect a power of overcoming through perseverance, patience, and effort. Students that adopted this view improved academically in comparison to those with a Fixed Mindset.

A Fixed Mindset is that which remains static, and an overall belief that regardless of what one does, they are unable to learn, change, and succeed in certain areas of their life. It is a belief that you just are the way you are, and there is no changing it regardless of your efforts or attempts to do more. It may manifest in a belief you were born with or simply have skill sets and knowledge predetermined by various factors with little to no ability to change them. We all have various mindsets, either fixed or growth orientated within different areas of our lives.

For Example

Have you ever completely resigned from an area of your life that you truly believed you would never be good at? For me, it was in the area of math. This academic field, after elementary school, became my nemesis and I truly believed I was terrible at math and just wasn’t “wired” that way. It was not until college (elementary school to college folks!), where I had a delightful math professor that had a great ability to teach in helpful, unique ways, and for the first time in YEARS, I was able to learn and do math successfully. For me, it took the initial change in teaching approach, but was then followed by a belief and ongoing personal efforts that I could accomplish components of this subject that I had earlier given up on.

Now, I do know and acknowledge that we all have some natural unique gifts, strengths, and abilities, but it is important to know we can also grow in areas that do not necessarily fall into these categories. It is also okay to fail. It is okay to not be good at some things yet or even ever, but an honest effort or attempt shall not be a waste of time. We all hear a lot of messages throughout our lives about what we should be, what we should do, or what we should have. It is up to us to mow over these shoulds and create new terrain filled with effort and openness in trying things we want to be able to be, do, or have in order to expand our minds and likely our hearts too. This is where that increased positivity toward the self and others can come into play.

Learning self-talk or verbal statements to assist with this mental shift is important! Here are a few examples of how you may begin to shift your mind toward growth.

I can’t do this –> I do not understand this yet.

I cannot do algebra –> I have not learned the skills necessary to do algebra yet

I am dumb –> I want to know and understand more

I should quit if I make mistakes –> Mistakes help me learn and grow

I am not artistic –> If I keep practicing, I can improve some art techniques

Failing is not an option –> Even when I don’t succeed, I still have skills to gain

I failed –> I tried hard and did my best

Some Take Aways

What might you gain from adopting this new, more optimistic and self-compassionate stance in a Growth Mindset?:

  • Increased gentleness and kindness toward yourself along your life process.
  • Increased knowledge and understanding of ideas, topics, or things you may otherwise have left untouched or untried.
  • Improved positive self-talk.
  • An expanded ability of your mind and increased brain growth.
  • Self-acceptance and appreciation that you can change and impact your future endeavors.
  • Reduced fear of failure. Or even, an openness to embrace the byproducts of failed efforts.
  • Not only could this shift improve your personal life and thoughts toward yourself, but thinking of and seeing others as a part of their own process could improve your compassion toward those around you as they are journeying through their own life development and learning efforts as well.

So, go on, and feel free to embrace the process of learning that is growing your mind and abilities despite the inevitable difficulties that will arise. Below is a video to summarize some points and give some further examples of a Growth Mindset.

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Featured Photo by Ravi Roshan on Unsplash