Growing Your Growth Mindset: Nine Strategies
Read Time: 7 minutes, 16 seconds
Where you are in your life right—is it where you want to be? The way you feel about yourself right now—is it the way you want to feel? The future you see in front of you right now—is that the future you want?
A growth mindset recognizes the possibility of change in your circumstances, feelings, goals, ideas, abilities, resources, and even thought processes. When you have a growth mindset, you believe that new experiences, intelligent risks, and new strategies are worth taking regardless of the result because they teach you something, sharpen your skills, and open new ways of thinking; you are not looking for success but for growth.
With a growth mindset, the SMaRT techniques make sense. They improve your ability to adapt to change, communicate, make decisions, lead, problem solve, create a strong team, and manage time. They increase your resilience, self-awareness, and mindfulness. Why bother with any of that if you are incapable of change?
Sometimes, in the midst of stressful situations, after a painful failure, or when our resilience is low, we forget that change is possible. Here are nine strategies to increase your growth mindset and remind yourself of your potential for growth.
Exercise your brain.
As one set of researchers puts it, “the brain is like a muscle that grows stronger and smarter when it undergoes rigorous learning experiences.” You will persist longer in a difficult task, even through failure, if you view it as an exercise for your brain that will bring success closer and make the next challenge easier. Exercising the brain produces new physical and neurological connections that increase your ability.
Surround yourself with people who have a growth mindset.
The support of like-minded people, who appreciate a growth mindset, is important. Those with a fixed mindset, who believe that change is impossible, and you will always be what you are now, undermine your belief in yourself and your power. Moreover, as long as people are willing to put in the work and believe in themselves, your own growth mindset supports their goals—with positive results for your team and family dynamics as you learn and grow together.
Figure out where you want to go.
You cannot reach a goal until you define the goal; you cannot take the first step toward growth until you know where you are headed. To put it another way: if you don’t know where you are going, you will go nowhere. Everyone needs a purpose. Find yours. Read and research, try new things until one resonates for you, volunteer, listen to what other people consider our strengths, keep a journal—these are many ways to find your purpose.
Analyze your strengths, weakness, and motivation.
First, you must recognize and accept that you have strengths and weaknesses and that improvement is possible even in tasks where you excel. The better you know yourself at this moment, the better you can figure out where to expend your effort and how to motivate yourself. Objective feedback from others with a growth mindset will ground your self-analysis in reality.
TIP: Face your failures as firmly as you face your successes and take note of what has motivated you in other areas of life.
Obstruction is easy; criticizing other people is easy; dwelling on missed opportunities is easy; blaming others is easy. Catch yourself when you slide into negative actions and thoughts; they close doors and limit your ability to see the potential. Be aware when you are tensing, becoming angry with others or yourself, or approaching burnout—and back off.
Emphasize process over results.
Carol S. Dweck, a Stanford University professor who has extensively researched the growth mindset, states that constantly praising people (or seeking praise) for great talent and high intelligence creates a fixed mindset, where a person is unwilling to risk their label by stretching their talents and challenging their intelligence. Instead of anticipating success or fearing failure, concentrate on the process, enjoy the effort, and reward yourself for your grit. If you have trouble concentrating on the process, gradually train yourself by taking on a task that is steeped in pleasure—working on a puzzle, swimming across a pool, or photographing a bird, for example. Then remind yourself during more challenging tasks to enjoy the process the same way.
Use the word “yet.”
This is one of Dr. Dweck’s favorite words because it reinforces the idea of process and grit. You have not achieved what you want to achieve yet. You are not an expert in your field yet. You have not mastered this task yet. When the future is open, growth is still possible. Positive affirmations have a tendency to come true.
TIP: Avoid putting undue stress on yourself to reach a standard of perfection that is unrealistic, at a speed that is unattainable.
Look for what you could do differently.
As you progress toward your goal, you will meet obstacles to change. These are opportunities to open, rather than slam shut, the door of growth. Ask different questions. Try different strategies, rather than sticking with one that hasn’t succeeded so far. You may need to break your main goal into smaller, more attainable stages. Part of a growth mindset is a willingness to not only think but re-think.
The purpose of a growth mindset is to do something, to try, to take a risk, to take a chance on yourself. Without action, all the previous steps simply dissipate into “might have been.” You reach a goal one step at a time, and the growth mindset is the nudge that sets you in motion.
In achieving a growth mindset, you may need a reminder to use SMaRT techniques such as visualization, creative problem solving, and self-efficacy. You may need a mentor or a coach or a meeting with your personal or professional support team. The ability to ask for and accept feedback and help is a good sign of a growth mindset.
The 9 strategies to grow your growth mindset are:
1. Exercise your brain.
2. Surround yourself with people who have a growth mindset.
3. Figure out where you want to go.
4. Analyze your strengths, weakness, and motivation.
5. Practice mindfulness.
6. Emphasize process over results.
7. Use the word “yet.”
8. Look for what you could do differently.
9. Take action.