How to Develop a Growth Mindset
By Vaidehi Bulusu, Press & Written Media Team
Imagine this: you’ve been working on a math problem for a little over an hour when you give up and think to yourself, “I can never solve this!” Or you’ve been trying to write but the inner critic in your head won’t let you get past the first two sentences.
If you’ve ever been in either of these situations, or similar ones, you are not alone. At school and in your extracurricular activities, it is normal to encounter unfamiliar situations and challenges — whether it’s a math problem you can’t wrap your head around or writer’s block. It is important to respond to these challenges in a productive way that allows you to learn and grow instead of beating yourself up. In other words, it is important to respond to challenges with a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset.
In this article, we will be talking about the two types of mindsets that shape our self-beliefs: the fixed vs. growth mindset. We’ll also provide some tips on how you can develop a growth mindset to maximize your potential as a student!
Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
Fixed and growth mindsets are two types of mindsets that govern our beliefs about our potential and abilities. The distinction between the two was made by Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University and author of the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, in which she writes about how the mindset we embrace impacts our success in different areas of life.
The main difference between them is that those with a fixed mindset believe that their abilities and personality traits are innate and cannot be improved over time, whereas those with a growth mindset believe that their characteristics have the potential to improve over time. As Dweck puts it:
In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.
Through her research, Dweck found that there are some crucial differences between the attitudes of people with each of these mindsets. Those with a fixed mindset tend to avoid challenging tasks or situations, be less resilient to obstacles, believe that they cannot improve their abilities by putting in more effort, and be less open to negative feedback. On the other hand, those with a growth mindset tend to embrace challenges, be more resilient in the face of obstacles, believe that effort is necessary for improvement, and learn from negative feedback.
It’s especially important to develop a growth mindset if you are a student as it allows you to focus on learning. This in turn would not only help you improve your performance at school, but also make the process of studying and taking on new challenges more enjoyable. You can also more easily bounce back from a bad grade or rejection.
How Do You Develop a Growth Mindset?
So, now that we’ve seen why it’s important to develop a growth mindset, let’s understand the how. Here are 5 things you can do to develop a growth mindset!
- Pay attention to your self-talk
Everyone has an inner voice in their head. We have an inner dialogue with this voice throughout the day without even realizing it. However, a lot of the time, our self-talk tends to be negative. When we give ourselves negative labels (e.g. “stupid”) or criticize our work for not being up to the mark, it affects our motivation and productivity. This is why it is important to reword any negative self-talk in a more positive way.
- Focus on your effort rather than the outcomes
Another practice that will help you develop a growth mindset is focusing more on the effort you’re putting in than the outcomes. For example, when preparing for an exam, focus more on the amount of time you spend studying and the learning strategies you are using, rather than the scores you are getting on practice exams. If you are studying the right way for a sufficient amount of time, you will automatically perform well on your practice exams.
- Ask for feedback
Constructive feedback is an important part of the learning process. Oftentimes, we are not the best judge of our areas of improvement so it’s useful to ask other people to help us identify them. At school, for example, you can ask an instructor who knows you well to provide feedback on your performance in class or specific assignments. While it can be uncomfortable to hear criticism from others, it is really beneficial.
- Bounce back and learn from setbacks
It’s normal to face setbacks such as poor performance on an exam, a rejection from an internship or job or conflict with a close friend. Having a coping mechanism that works for you is crucial to recovering from these setbacks. Some people prefer to talk to their close ones while others prefer to journal about their experience.
Once you are in a better headspace, you can also reflect on the obstacle to learn from it. For example, if you’ve faced rejection from an internship you applied to, you can think about how you can improve your application process the next time around.
- Prioritize rest to avoid burnout
Burnout is becoming an increasingly common problem among students. Burnout negatively impacts your mental and physical health, as well as your performance at school or work. Alongside your other commitments, make sure that you prioritize getting enough rest as well. Apart from getting enough sleep every night, this means setting some time aside throughout the day to relax.
Keep in mind that it takes time and consistent effort to change your attitudes and beliefs, so it’s important to be patient with yourself.
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