The Fearless Five: Unlock a Growth Mindset

October 19, 2021
by Timothy Wier

The Fearless Five Unlock a Growth Mindset

(Editor’s Note: The Fearless Five is our weekly newsletter that gives you five things to inspire, motivate, and challenge you as you start your week. To get the weekly emails, subscribe here.)

Are you “stuck” in a negative mindset?

Do you feel bogged down by low self-esteem?

Do you feel like you could do more, but end up spinning your wheels? 

If so, these 5 insights will help you unlock a growth mindset so you can take your life and career to the next level.  

1. Growth mindset vs. fixed mindset.

Over 30 years ago, Dr. Carol Dweck, an American psychologist & professor, noticed some interesting behaviors in students. 

When faced with challenges, some rebounded easily.

Others were devastated by the smallest setbacks. 

After a comprehensive study of thousands of children, Dr. Dweck coined two terms to describe the underlying mental beliefs that drove these behaviors. 

They are: fixed mindset and growth mindset. 

People with a fixed mindset believe the way they are is static, that change is impossible. 

And those with a growth mindset believe they can get smarter, that effort makes them stronger.

Not surprisingly, people with a growth mindset put in extra time and effort, leading to higher achievement. 

Basically, if you believe you can grow and change, then you start to behave like it. 

And as a result, you grow and change. 

2. Your brain is constantly growing. 

We all know the saying: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” 

The idea being that once your brain reaches a certain age, you become “set in your ways.”

After that point, changing your behavior is nigh impossible.

Except that it’s a total myth.

Recent research on neural plasticity shows that connectivity between the neurons in your brain changes with experience, over time.

In fact, the ability to grow new connections and strengthen existing ones is a fundamental property of nervous systems. 

Which means that the ability to grow and change is essential to proper brain function. 

What’s more, neural plasticity continues throughout your entire life. 

Until the day you die, you are capable of growing and changing. 

Just take a second and let that sink in. 

You can grow and change until the day you die. 

Which means that it’s never too late to learn new tricks. 

So how do you form new neural connections? 

Again, according to the research, neural networks are formed not through thought, but action.

So you can’t change how you think by just thinking about it. 

You change how you think by doing something about it. 

If you want to adopt a growth mindset, you have to take action on it. 

Do the things that someone with a growth mindset would do. 

As you do, your brain will literally reprogram itself to adopt those new synaptic patterns.

And you will transform your mindset. 

3. Praise effort, not talent.

If you’re leading a team, raising children, or in a situation where people depend on you for guidance, you have a strong hand in the development of their mindset. 

And the mindset you’re inculcating depends on how you give praise. 

You see, from early childhood, most of us receive praise in a certain way. 

People praise our innate characteristics, as if they were something beyond our control.

We say kids are “talented,” “smart,” “pretty,” etc. 

And while well intentioned, these praises can actually be damaging.

Because they reinforce a fixed mindset, not a growth mindset. 

It sends a message that the child either has an ability or they don’t, and there’s nothing they can do to change that fact. 

What Dr. Dweck’s research found is that the type of praise that develops a growth mindset is called process praise. 

It emphasizes the effort a person puts into accomplishing a task.

So instead of saying, “Congrats on passing that test. You’re so smart.”

Say: “Congrats on passing that test. You worked really hard on your studying.” 

See the difference?

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