How to Cultivate a Growth Mindset
By Sweta Bothra, Lead Therapist at InnerHour, a Mental Health Platform
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
What kind of mindset do you have? Is it one that drives you to become the best version of yourself, even when times get tough?
A mindset can be defined as the way in which a person perceives themselves and the world around them. Your mindset can hugely impact your behaviours, ideas and choices you make when it comes to your goals. It can even affect your work, relationship with others and daily routine. Ultimately, the kind of mindset you have defines you who are and who you can become.
There are two types of mindsets – fixed and growth. Let’s look at each in a little more detail.
A person with a fixed mindset typically believes that their qualities are set in stone and therefore cannot be changed. They are more likely to shy away from challenges mainly because of their fear of failing. While a fixed-mindset person would try and avoid making mistakes at all costs, if they do end up making any, they often try to pin them on other, external factors. When it comes to feedback, a person with a fixed mindset usually struggles to accept it. They might become defensive in their approach and might engage in arguments.
How does a fixed mindset develop?
The type of mindset you have typically depends on childhood experiences. Children who were discouraged from embracing challenges and were raised with the idea that everything in life is either black or white most likely grow up to have a fixed mindset. As a result, when life gets tough, children who grow up to have a fixed mindset find it difficult to adapt to changing circumstances.
On the flip side, a person with a growth mindset would welcome challenges and look at them as opportunities to grow. They are more likely to see the glass as half full – which means that they’re able to find the silver lining even when times get difficult. Such individuals are under the belief that their qualities are not carved in stone and can in fact change over time. They are open to feedback and typically use it as a means to better themselves.
How does a growth mindset develop?
Children who were given the opportunity to explore, make their own mistakes, and embrace new challenges and experiences usually grow up to have a growth mindset. They are able to build resilience and pick themselves up after facing setbacks. Such individuals tend to live happier, more fulfilling lives because they’re not afraid of failure and they stay away from the pressure to meet society’s expectations.
Common misconceptions about growth mindset
It can be difficult to develop a growth mindset if we don’t have a good understanding of what it is. Let’s look at some common misconceptions that might be interfering with your ability to change the way you perceive yourself and the world around you.
A growth mindset is something you either have or don’t have
Wrong! Just because you were raised to have a fixed mindset, doesn’t mean that you’re going to think in a fixed manner forever. The good news is that a growth mindset can be developed with the right kind of strategies in place. You can train your mind to bring positive changes in the way you think.
If you have a growth mindset, it means you’re always positive
It’s almost impossible to expect yourself to have a positive ‘can do’ attitude all the time. Bad days are inevitable and that’s okay. Having a growth mindset is not about being in denial about your limitations; instead it’s about embracing them and knowing that in spite of these obstacles you can still persevere and achieve your goals.
A growth mindset only involves focussing on outcomes
While it’s important to focus on outcomes in life, it’s equally important to acknowledge the learning and progress made in the process of attaining an outcome. Important aspects of the process include taking support from others, exploring new techniques and trying out new ways of tackling a concern. When progress and process are rewarded, you are likely to be motivated to keep going even when you encounter setbacks.
Having a growth mindset automatically yields a positive outcome
While a growth mindset sets you up for success, there will be times when things don’t work out the way you wanted them to. But this is all part of the learning process! When you encounter failure, finding opportunities for growth and rewarding the useful lessons learned can make all the difference.
How to shift your mindset
Now that you’re aware of the different facets of a growth mindset, you can take steps to learn about what all can be done to cultivate and strengthen such a mindset.
This might seem obvious, but recognising that you can change the way you think is the first step to fostering a growth mindset. The best part about your brain is that it is “plastic” (ie flexible) and therefore can be molded over time. While simply having awareness may not prompt you to immediately change your thoughts, it can give you the much-needed push you need to make the shift.
Have a morning mindset routine
A great way to foster a growth mindset is to start your day on a positive note. For instance, listening to motivational podcasts or focussing on positive messages first thing in the morning can help make the rest of your day a lot better. This will even improve the quality of your work by boosting productivity and focus.
Challenge your inner critic
How often do you find yourself thinking, “I am not going to be able to do this” or “I will most definitely fail if I try?” While you may not be able to stop yourself from thinking in such a way, you can find ways to take control of your thoughts. Something that can help is maintaining a log of your thoughts; this will help you catch yourself when you are thinking negatively and identify what is triggering such thoughts. When you do find yourself dwelling on the negatives, try and flip into healthier ways of thinking such as, “I am capable of doing this if I put in effort.”
Become accepting of criticism
No one likes to receive negative feedback about their work. However, if you always receive praise for everything you do, it leaves no room for growth and improvement. Think of criticism as an opportunity to learn. More often than not, people are only trying to help you get better at what you do. If you want to cultivate a growth mindset, it’s important to carefully pay attention to others and learn how to embrace criticism. It might not be easy initially, but over time it’ll be worth it!
Similar to a child living in a state of wonder and curiosity, it’s important to keep questioning everything around you to enhance your learning. Whether it’s in a work meeting, at the dinner table or even when you interact with new people – ask questions. Be curious about others’ lives so you can learn and grow from their experiences and mistakes.
Write out a realistic action plan
Think about all the goals you want to achieve, and then, write out your action plan to meet these goals. While creating your action plan, it’s important to be specific about what you want to achieve and how long it will take for you to do so. Additionally, you must also ensure that you’re setting goals and timelines that are realistic. Don’t worry about making mistakes, it’s important that you take the first step and know that the rest will eventually fall into place.
Create an achievement checklist
As you come to the end of your day, spend a few minutes making a mental note of all that you have achieved. The list doesn’t even have to be big or contain huge wins; the purpose of this activity is to help you realise that success doesn’t have to be something monumental. It can even be something as simple as eating a healthy meal or completing all your household chores for the day. While keeping track of your failures can help you grow, dwelling on them can interfere with your productivity and motivation. Instead, ending your day on a positive note will inspire you to wake up the next day feeling a lot happier.
While your thoughts can be influenced by the environment you’re in, remember that you are in charge of what goes on in your mind. With simple strategies in place, you can cultivate healthier thoughts and ultimately, change your life for the better.
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