shifting your mindset - outlines of 2 heads facing each other; one says fixed mindset; the other says growth mindset

Shifting Your Mindset: Fixed vs Growth

Shifting your mindset is the first step to making long-lasting, positive changes in your life.

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What is mindset?

One of the first things I learned about when I became an executive functions coach was something I had never thought about: mindset. As a teacher and as a parent, we always tell kids they can do whatever they want, they can be anything. We tell them to remove “can’t” from their vocabulary. Some kids believe this immediately; others don't, and then they need to undergo a shift in their mindset to affect change.

But many of us as adults carry some of the same ideas. How many times have you said (or even thought to yourself), “I just can’t organize my life?” Or “Planners don’t work for me?” As adults, we often think that because we’ve done some living and have experiences that our path is the only way things can be.

Do you believe that some people tend to skate through life, always achieving accomplishments and finding success in whatever they do, but others seem to struggle endlessly without making much progress?

Do you think those who accomplish more have more intelligence?

Often, we assume others are more successful than we are because they’re smarter. They know more. It may seem that way, but the truth is that intelligence has very little to do with it. More often than not, it has to do with the mindset and beliefs of people we’ve been exposed to throughout our lives.

question mark and face silhouette overlapping filled with mindset words

Impact of Environment on Mindset

If you grew up in an environment where your parents struggled for everything and made statements like, “Things will never get better unless I work harder.” Or maybe things like, “I’m not smart enough to make more money.” Or maybe they just spoke of how hard life is all the time and you adopted those beliefs.

I’m not saying life wasn’t hard for them or that they were necessarily wrong. Sometimes life sucks. But if no one modeled for you how to deal with difficult situations and to keep striving for something better, then it’s likely you’ve fallen into the trap of believing that you’re stuck where and how you are.

The truth is, your choices and your mindset have led you to where you are, whether that’s a good place or a place you can’t stand to be in. And it won’t be easy, but if you start shifting your mindset and working toward a better outcome, you can make progress.

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Understand your mindset before shifting your mindset

The first thing we need to do is determine which type of mindset you have. One thing I want you to think about is that mindset matters. Regardless of where you are, you can create a life that is successful in all areas, simply by working on shifting your mindset. Here's a video on understanding mindset:

Which Mindset Do You Have?

There are two kinds of mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset means that you are open to new viewpoints and can change the way you think. Here are 15 examples of the differences between a growth and fixed mindset. You might think that changing your mind is a negative; however, that isn’t the case. Changing your mind does not mean:

  • You can’t make up your mind
  • You’re indecisive
  • You lack integrity
  • You’re flighty
  • You’re unintelligent

Changing your mind, or more precisely, shifting your mindset, means you are working toward being a better person. It also means you are smart enough to know you need to change the way you think to create a new life for yourself, your family, and those around you. 

What Does Shifting Your Mindset Really Mean?

Changing your belief from thinking that intelligence is static to one where it can grow, is a process. Like anything else in life worth doing, it’s not going to happen overnight. The more you practice and train your brain to think differently, the more you grow. I’m going to talk a lot about how change is always a process. We live in a world of instant gratification. If we forget something at the grocery store, we can have it delivered. Amazon went from 2-day prime shipping to getting us things within hours. But real change takes time. It requires patience. If you stick with it, it will work.

Have you ever noticed how one fiasco in your morning routine (such as spilling your coffee or misplacing something important) has the power to ruin the rest of your day? You don’t just let that mishap get to you, you focus on it. You cling to it for starting your day off wrong and letting it affect the rest of your time. When you do this, of course the day is going to continue to suck. These limiting thought patterns hold you back.

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How do you shift your mindset?

The next time something goes wrong, stop, take a deep breath, and focus on having a better mindset. It’s not easy and requires practice, but it’s worth every minute of effort. Take a moment to recognize that you are not the only one that things like this happen to. Thousands of people spill their coffee in the morning. They don’t let it ruin the rest of their day. Moreover, they don’t let it rule the rest of their day…or their lives. It’s simply spilled coffee and not worth having a meltdown over.

Having a growth mindset means training your brain to view life, learning, and circumstances as a learning experience, something positive. If you have a static mindset, then everything in life is viewed as negative and you can’t see how things will ever change. Developing a growth mindset can be life changing. 

Shifting Your Mindset in Order to Change Your Life

Take a Look at Your Own Points of View 

Take some time to evaluate your own points of view. Don’t hold back; be completely honest with yourself. 

  1. Do you have a more negative outlook on life? 
  2. Do you ever get annoyed in the company of others who take on a more positive attitude? 
  3. Are you so set in your ways, you are unwilling to explore, learn, and re-create your life?

If, you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then there is one more question to ask. 

Are you ready to charge of your mindset, and do the work to create the most growth?

Once you have examined your views, thought patterns, and beliefs in total honesty, you are ready to move on to the next step.

  • Are challenges an excuse to quit?
  • Do roadblocks lead to a pity-party for yourself?
  • Do you procrastinate because you’re a perfectionist?
  • Are you jealous of the success of others?
  • Are you fearful of challenges?

If you answered yes to any of these, that’s okay. You can unlearn the negative behaviors and thoughts. I know you can’t just tell yourself to stop. That doesn’t work. But with practice, it will take shape, and change will start to happen.

Are You Willing to Work Toward Shifting to a Better Mindset?

The questions above are not meant to tear you down or make you feel bad about yourself. Every coin has two sides. It’s all about perspective. How can you look at those same qualities and see the positives? Are you willing to be open and explore new possibilities? Change can happen if you are willing to do the work. With practice, any new process or routine becomes a habit. It’s your choice whether you want to have a habit of positive growth or negative decline.

Challenges Should Lead to Growth, Not Be Used as Excuses to Quit

When faced with a challenge, it is easy to spend time and energy focusing on the challenge itself. Watch out for the “woe is me” thoughts that creep in – Why does stuff like this always happen to me? Instead, try to view the challenge as a way to grow and expand. 

If your boss tasks you will a job you don’t know how to do, you might become frustrated and feel like a failure. Or, you can decide to learn about the new task and how to be successful at it. That new responsibility could lead to more money, a higher position, a transfer with a promotion, or just a happier life in general. This is how to view your situation from a growth mindset point of view. 

Do roadblocks lead to a pity party for yourself?

If you have a deep belief that everything that could go wrong happens to you, then the chances are high that you invite roadblocks into your life. Sometimes it’s easier to host a pity party than to come up with creative and intelligent ideas to solve the problem at hand. As I said earlier, sometimes life sucks. I’m not saying you can’t feel bad when it does. It’s about what you do after. Set a timer and limit your self-pity. Then move on. What would happen if you viewed a roadblock as an opportunity to use your creativity to go around it or under it?

In a growth mindset, you view a roadblock as a way to stretch, grow, and improve rather than a reason to feel sorry for yourself and an excuse to quit. 

Do you procrastinate because you’re a perfectionist?

Does the thought of not being good enough haunt you, so you procrastinate? What would happen if you were to approach a project or a challenge as an opportunity to expand your horizons or to recreate yourself as a master of the task at hand? I’ll admit that this is a tough one to overcome. We already want to be the best we can be, but somehow, we never quite measure up to the idea we have in our head. Learning to accept something that is not perfect is tough, but it allows us to grow and learn. A growth mindset allows you the opportunity to change your perception, face the task head-on, and learn to sometimes fail. 

Are you jealous of the success of others?

If someone else experiences success, you have a choice. You can either be happy for them and inspired by them, making you want to do better, or feel resentful or jealous. Many people choose to allow the success of others make them feel bad about themselves. However, it does not have to be that way. 

Individuals with a growth mindset hold the belief that intelligence can be learned and developed and it is not just for the elite few. It is available to anyone with a desire to improve. The brain is trainable. If you truly believe that, then you, too, can have that same success.

Are you fearful of challenges?

When faced with a challenge do you become overwhelmed and debilitated by fear or do you grasp on tight and face it head on? Your mindset will determine how you handle a challenge and ultimately what the outcome of that challenge will be, as well. Stepping outside our comfort is tough. Something we learn early on as teachers is that there is no learning without struggle. If a kid is skating through class, they aren’t learning. They might be producing what is expected of them, but there is no growth and no real learning until they are uncomfortable. Having a growth mindset means you have to get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable. 

People with a growth mindset know that a challenge is way of doing things differently, thinking smarter and working harder.

woman crossing on a rope on an obstacle course

Focus on the Process, Not Just the End Result

As a parent, are you tempted to praise your child for every success both big and small? If you look at fostering a growth mindset, you will discover that praising the process is more effective. The process is what’s important because that is what leads to more learning. That means that you even celebrate the failures. Failure allows you to find a new process or method to achieve your goal. 

Use Constructive Criticism

Criticism of any kind is thought of in a fixed mindset way, as though it is negative. However, constructive criticism offers a new model and method of teaching by showing what doesn’t work and questioning what will work. Shifting your mindset in how you take criticism will help you grow.

Offering and receiving constructive criticism allows the opportunity for you or your child to figure out how to fix something in a positive light. I suggest thinking about it as critique. When you critique something, you talk about the good and the bad, as well as ways to improve. When I grade a student’s essay, I mark everything that occurs to me as I read, not just the mistakes they make. So while I insert the missing commas and correct misspelled words, I also tell them when they’ve made an effective argument. In addition, I offer suggestions for ways to improve their work. Ultimately, they decide how or whether to implement those suggestions.

Shifting Your mindset - outlines of 2 faces facing each other: one says fixed mindset; the other growth mindset

How to Develop a Growth Mindset

Start and Keep Learning

In a fixed mindset point of view, you will want to learn as much as you can for the sake of looking good. Being intelligent means that you look good and others will be impressed by your intelligence. You will also automatically be successful. On the other hand, if you have a growth mindset, you’ll be curious and intrigued, ask questions, and want to learn more. Sometimes, you’ll fail the task at hand, but it might lead to a new, creative solution.

With a growth mindset, you want to learn and will focus on learning rather than perfection. A fixed mindset might view the ‘A' as the end of learning; the ultimate goal has been achieved. A growth mindset has no problem taking on more learning in exchange for the perfect grade. This shift in mindset lasts longer than just earning a grade.

Put in Some Hard Work to shift your mindset

In a fixed mindset, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that if you have to work hard, you are not actually smart. If you’re smart enough, everything would be easy. A growth mindset highlights hard work, and effort equates being the best you can be. The harder you work, and the more effort you put into something, the more success you'll attain.

Develop the Ability to Face Setbacks

In a fixed mindset, setbacks are seen as an excuse, a reason to give up, or a reason to place blame elsewhere. In a growth mindset, a setback is a reason to work harder, to spend more time studying, or to take on more organized skills and practices. 

Keep Moving Forward

Now that we’ve looked at some differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, you can see that having a growth mindset is an achievable goal. If you want to work toward shifting your mindset to be a growth mindset, remember some important tips:

  • Work hard. Achieving good things require effort.
  • Remember to persevere, especially through struggles.
  • Work on tasks that are more difficult for your skill level so that you can train your brain to succeed. Don’t be afraid of stretching yourself. However, start small and learn new things in steps or stages.
  • Keep your mind focused on learning new things and creating a better future for yourself.
  • Highlight strategies for learning that are working for you and keep learning in ways that work best for you.
  • Eliminate strategies that don’t work for you.

What would your future look like if you continued to encourage yourself to work hard? Think about the possibilities. Growth really can be fun and rewarding…if you shift your mindset and your perception about it. 

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