Life will always present challenges.
Being out of our comfort zone and willing to take on new challenges is an important part of personal growth. When we shy away from challenges and don’t accept them ‘head on’, we not only hinder our learning, but our self-esteem can also suffer.
The Growth Mindset is a mental strategy that can help us better deal with, and overcome challenges and adversity.
As proven by countless studies, growth mindset exponents learn more and generally experience less stress and anxiety! They put faith into the knowledge that, over the mid to long-term, effort and persistence will lead to improvement. Challenges are viewed as ‘opportunities’ and self-esteem is preserved – even if success isn`t immediate.
Conversely, fixed mindset exponents believe that their talent & ability is predetermined. Immediate results define their true potential and challenges are more likely viewed as ‘threats’. Results define ‘ability’ and less opportunities for learning and growth are sought after.
Developing a growth mindset
Developing a growth mindset is an effective way to safe-guard against negative attitudes such as with defeatist and complacent thinking. It’s also a fantastic way to promote an optimal learning mindset; giving oneself the best chance of learning and improvement – all while keeping self-esteem in check!
Despite being a relatively easy concept to understand in theory, like with most things, it is more difficult to apply. Acquiring knowledge about the growth mindset does not mean instant application. In the first instance, accurate self-awareness and constant reflection is needed.
I have identified three focus areas that students can use to help acquire the specific attributes underpinning the growth mindset
1. Focus on Improvement & Growth!
Are you genuinely looking for and are clear on the opportunities you can take to improve?
Growth mindset students would;
• Value improvement as the most important aspect of test scores and results. For example, achieving a test score of 68% after achieving 55% in the same subject should be valued more highly than achieving two scores of 65%.
• Not get ‘defensive’ from teacher feedback; including with unexpected lower marks/scores. Growth mindset students would instead actively seek to ‘understand’ comments and feedback. Ultimately, feedback would be seen and valued as an opportunity to improve results.
• Welcome ‘challenges’ (e.g., difficult tests and subjects). Embracing discomfort as a ‘normal’ and ‘vital’ part of the learning process whilst seeking opportunities to learn.
2. Emphasise effort not outcome
Do you trust that the effort you give will take care of the results?
Students emphasising ‘effort’ over ‘outcome’ would ideally;
• Learn to be content with best efforts and have faith that results and improvement will come with continued application.
• Constantly look for ways to improve own study approach (e.g. how to work harder and smarter, how information could be learned & remembered more effectively).
• Not be distracted by results. Would show a stoic commitment to reaching one’s best, irrespective of whether performance was good, bad or otherwise.
3. Never give up!
When things at first don`t go to plan, how quickly can you pick yourself up off the floor and try again?
Students who never give up would ideally;
• ‘Acknowledge’ as opposed to ‘cover-up’ feelings of disappointment. However, would seek to ‘bounce back’ and ultimately view any hardship as an opportunity for improvement.
• Work on building personal resilience through various strategies; (e.g. ensuring adequate sleep, nutrition and exercise), as well as through positive thinking techniques (e.g. replace “I can`t do” with “I can`t do yet”).
• Make use of and draw inspiration from ‘famous failures’ (e.g. Michael Jordan not making the ‘first cut’ of his highschool basketball team) as a strategy to gain strength and encouragement.
In summary, there are many different thinking and behavioural attributes underpinning the growth mindset. I trust that these areas will prove useful for those wanting to ‘live’ the attributes of the growth mindset.
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