Developing a growth mindset is the foundation of all things related to personal growth and development. It’s the first thing I talk about to clients when we discuss executive function skills. Why? Because many people with executive dysfunction have a fixed mindset and simply don’t think they can improve their executive functioning. They believe it’s “just the way they are.”
The first step in improving your executive functioning is to make a mindset shift and believe you can get better.
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What is a growth mindset?
Psychologist Carol Dweck is the original creator behind the concept of a growth mindset. A growth mindset embraces challenges and encourages learning. A person who has a growth mindset believes that through practice, any skill can be improved. Your potential is not predetermined and can be developed through effort, learning, and practice.
A growth mindset allows us to view mistakes as learning opportunities rather than failures. When faced with obstacles, you look for a new path instead of giving up.
These beliefs foster a positive outlook on life and make us more confident.
Benefits of a growth mindset
Developing a growth mindset can have a powerful impact on your life. You begin to believe in yourself and your abilities, even when challenged. People who have a growth mindset tend to be more curious and open to new ideas and experiences. They also tend to be more motivated.
Another huge benefit of a growth mindset is resilience. When you learn to view mistakes as learning opportunities, you bounce back from them much more quickly than if you were to see them as failures. You learn to take steps to overcome obstacles and challenges. You use feedback—both positive and negative—to further develop your skills.
Recognizing a fixed mindset
The first step in developing a growth mindset is to recognize when your mindset is fixed. It’s time for some real honesty here. You need to look deep in yourself and truly evaluate your beliefs.
A fixed mindset tells you that your intelligence and abilities are predetermined and can’t change. Therefore, if you’re bad at math, that’s all there is to it. You can’t get better at it. If you’re always running late because of poor time management, you figure that’s your lot in life.
People with a fixed mindset give up easily when challenged. It’s easier to avoid obstacles than run the risk of failing.
When you have a fixed mindset, you look at the success of others and assume it was easy for them, that they didn’t have to work for it because they have a natural ability that you lack. You also might be jealous of their success.
The good news is, you don’t have to stay stuck with a fixed mindset—even if you don’t believe me right now. You can make the choice to develop a growth mindset and then take the steps toward doing so.
Strategies for developing a growth mindset
It takes work to shift your mindset. It’s not easy, but it is doable. Think about it. You’re undoing years (probably decades) of limiting thoughts about yourself. Let’s look at some strategies to help you take those steps toward a growth mindset:
Challenge your beliefs and assumptions:
Instead of assuming you can’t do something, begin to ask yourself, “Why not?”
Reflect on past successes and failures:
When you look back on times you were successful, ask yourself how you managed that. When you think about when you failed, why? How often did you play down your successes because you didn’t think about the real effort you put in? When you failed, was it because you assumed it would be too hard?
Be open to new ideas and experiences:
This goes along with asking yourself, “Why not?” The only way to really learn and grow is through struggle. If you stay inside your comfort zone, nothing will change. When you take a risk, your confidence will grow and your motivation will increase.
Focus on the process:
This is a big one for developing a growth mindset. For many people, they want to know the goal or outcome of doing something. I’m not saying that the goal doesn’t matter; goals give us direction. However, it’s the journey that gives us knowledge and experience. It’s the process that helps us grow.
Besides taking risks to try new things, you want to choose to take on tasks that you know will be difficult for you. First, this shoves you right the fuck out of your comfort zone. Second, even if you don’t fully succeed, you will have learned something that you can apply next time you’re faced with a similar challenge—which leads us to how we view mistakes.
View mistakes as learning opportunities:
As difficult as it will be, you need to not be afraid to make mistakes. I could almost feel the shudder from all of my perfectionists in the crowd. This is going to be HUGE for you. At first, this thought alone will paralyze you. It goes against your entire being. But you know there’s no such thing as real perfection. Start small and test the waters. But you have to let yourself experience some “failures” in order to learn and grow.
When you’re learning something new, receiving feedback is so beneficial. We all love positive feedback. I mean, who doesn’t love being told they’re doing a great job? But again, that’s not going to help you improve. Negative feedback can be hard to hear, but if it’s given thoughtfully, you should take it as advice, not criticism. Feedback will help you adjust what you’re doing and get better at the task.
Looking for a more structured approach to help you understand and shift your mindset? Check out this journal with over 60 prompts.
Maintaining a growth mindset
You can probably guess what I’m gonna say here—it’s a process. Once you’re on your way to developing a growth mindset, there might be times when the old, negative, self-limiting thoughts return. It’s easy to beat ourselves up. Keeping a positive outlook is much harder.
However, if we take the time to reflect on our progress, we’ll see the successes along the way. It’s also important to practice self-care. If positive thinking is difficult for you, you need to do even more of it. You might want to try daily affirmations to help build your confidence.
Developing a growth mindset is the first step in building sustainable confidence in yourself. You have to believe in your abilities and that you are capable of learning and growing. Although developing a growth mindset takes a lot of work, you will become more resilient. With effort, you’ll discover potential you weren’t even aware you had.