Become More Successful and Resilient with These Mindset Tips
When you’re struggling with something, do you approach the challenge with a mindset of “I can’t do this” or “I can’t do this yet”? Although the two statements are similar, one small word may leave the door open for more growth and learning.
These are simple examples of a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. With a fixed mindset, a person may believe that they were born with certain skills and abilities and are therefore limited in how much they can learn, improve, and achieve. By contrast, someone with a growth mindset may believe that their abilities can develop through continued learning, hard work, and persistence.
Dropping a fixed mindset and developing a growth mindset can make a difference in your mental well‑being.
Why You Should Develop a Growth Mindset
The term “growth mindset” was coined by Carol Dweck, Ph.D., a Stanford-trained psychologist who also wrote the 2006 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. A growth mindset comes from the belief that intelligence, skills, and talents can be developed.
“Without a growth mindset, we tend to see obstacles or mistakes as objective evidence that we have ‘topped out’ and reached our capability, and therefore think we might as well quit,” says Barbara C. Burt, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in Sedona, Arizona. Research suggests this type of thinking can lead to hopelessness and other negative thoughts and feelings.
By contrast, people with a growth mindset focus on learning new things and improving aspects of their lives, says Donna Marie Cozine, Ed.D., educator and leadership development coach. Due to the focus on growth, Cozine says these people:
- Embrace a challenge
- Persevere through setbacks
- Understand that effort is necessary to reach mastery
- Learn and appreciate constructive feedback
- Seek to learn from the success of others
“People with a growth mindset are more flexible and resilient when they have obstacles or big changes in life,” adds Gabrielle Juliano-Villani, a licensed clinical social worker in Boulder, Colorado. When you have a growth mindset, it changes how your brain processes and allows you to shift into a more positive outlook, she says, noting that if you're always focused on the negative, you'll never see the other opportunities that are there for you.
Also, research suggests that thinking from a growth mindset may actually affect how successful you are at whatever you’re facing, or even how capable you are of recovering from failure.
Developing a growth mindset for a better mood, more resilience, and increased success begins with recognizing that our brains can change and develop. It may take some time and patience to develop a growth mindset, but it’s very doable. Here’s how.
7 Tips for Developing a Growth Mindset
These steps can help you work on developing your own growth mindset.
1. Practice Believing in Yourself
The first step in developing a growth mindset is to believe you are capable of change. One way to help instill this belief is to use positive affirmations. A positive affirmation is a statement or phrase you can speak aloud, repeat in your head, and/or write on paper that frames your abilities and personal qualities in a positive way.
Researchers have found that people who use positive self-affirmations may be able to increase their ability to solve problems under pressure, demonstrating the value of this aspect of a growth mindset.
Try these growth-oriented affirmations, or come up with some of your own:
- I am capable of doing difficult things.
- I am open to learning.
- I embrace challenges and learn from mistakes.
2. Embrace Challenges and Lifelong Learning
A key part of a growth mindset is looking at challenges as opportunities for learning and growth. Practice flexing this muscle as often as you can. “Whether it’s learning how to cook a new dish, using new technology, or advancing in your own field, learning is the path to future success,” Burt says.
When you keep learning, you have the building blocks to create new ideas and find solutions that were not obvious to you in the past, Burt says. And accomplishing new things can grow your confidence to tackle bigger challenges later on.
3. Set Small Goals and Reward the Process
Along those lines, it may be key to set small goals that add up. People may have a fixed mindset because they see a goal as too big to accomplish, Cozine says. To change your frame of mind, look for smaller, doable steps in the process. “When you look at a task with a growth mindset, you create action steps, which are chunks of the larger goal and are often much more attainable,” she says.
For instance, if your goal is to learn to speak a new language, smaller first steps may be to research teachers in your area, sign up for classes, schedule dedicated time to study and practice, and participate in conversation groups.
As you accomplish the smaller action steps, Cozine says they should be celebrated. Praising the process, work, effort, and progress toward a goal is something you can do for yourself as well as for others, says Burt. “Don’t just celebrate when you complete your goal; reward yourself when you’re working hard and progressing,” she says.
4. Say “Yet” Frequently
A growth mindset matters for emotional well‑being because it allows you to embrace the power of “yet,” says Cozine. “Adding the ‘yet’ gives you permission to continue to work toward achieving a goal and the grace to know you don’t have to get there right away,” she adds.
Burt recommends incorporating the word “yet” into your self-talk often. For example, “This project is a work in progress, even if I haven’t gotten there yet.” This helps to transform effort and difficulty into steppingstones toward success instead of markers of failure, she says.
5. Be Open to Criticism
According to research from the American Psychological Association, receiving constructive feedback or criticism is critical for better performance and learning. Whenever possible, seek out constructive feedback—especially on the process as opposed to results—from friends, co-workers, peers, supervisors, and other trusted people in your life. Then, remember to take their feedback as information that can help you develop and grow, rather than as an indication of your limitations.
6. Practice Gratitude
Juliano-Villani recommends a gratitude practice to help focus on the positives in life. By practicing gratitude, you can train your brain to notice and appreciate the positives more easily, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Pulling your focus to positives in your life can help boost self-esteem and resilience, research suggests. These traits can help you find ways to appreciate and learn from even the most challenging situations.
To reap the benefits of practicing gratitude, try writing down at least three things each day that you are grateful for or appreciate, no matter how small.
7. Try, Try Again
By definition, an integral part of a growth mindset is the willingness to persevere, or to keep trying to succeed despite potential setbacks. Whatever challenge you’re facing, remind yourself that failure doesn’t have to be final; it can be a lesson. Learn from what didn’t work out so well. Then, practice picking yourself back up and continuing to try to build and develop a mindset focused on growth.
Consider giving some of these strategies a try when you’re ready to work on a growth mindset. If you’re struggling with ways to get started or feel stuck in a fixed mindset, it might be helpful to talk to a mental health professional or an expert on the growth mindset. They can help you develop a plan unique to your needs.
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