The power of a ‘Growth Mindset‘ is a trending topic. I’m thrilled about this! But what I notice in my job is that as adults we know that it’s important to help kids to develop a growth mindset… but we forget about ourselves! A growth mindset is easy to preach but so, so difficult to practice! These are 3 essential areas for adults to develop a growth mindset in. Changing your mindset will unlock your potential in these areas!
What is a growth mindset?
The term ‘growth mindset’ first came from Dr. Carol Dweck in her absolutely incredible book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Honestly, it’s a book that everybody should own!
She used the term ‘growth mindset‘ alongside a contrasting term- a ‘fixed mindset.’
People with a FIXED MINDSET believe that their qualities and traits (such as intelligence and talent) are fixed, set in stone, and are inherent. They don’t spend time developing these but instead spend their time documenting their traits.
A GROWTH MINDSET refers to the belief that people’s traits and abilities can grow and be developed. These people put more effort into learning, developing and improving. They see that there is room to grow. They accept mistakes as part of a learning journey, not as a failure.
She carried out research to see the impact of different types of praise for kids, and how it could create one or the other of these types of mindsets.
Too often as adults we can fall into thought patterns that we know aren’t the most helpful. How often do I try to convince myself, I’m smart enough, I’m pretty enough, I’m enough!
But this is exactly what I don’t do with my kids!
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I know that by telling my kids that they’re ‘smart’, I’m encouraging them to have a ‘fixed’ mindset. Although this seems like lovely affirming praise for a parent to give, it can actually be dangerous!
By praising their level of intelligence, I’m actually encouraging them to see intelligence as something that is set in stone (‘fixed’), and I’m teaching them that they can earn my praise based on this factor. If they weren’t intelligent enough, they wouldn’t earn my praise. Maybe you can see the logic.
But why is it so negative? Well, Dr. Dweck’s research into this field has actually shown that by praising the ‘result’ (in this case- intelligence), the result can all too easily become the only thing that matters to kids.
When children are given this kind of praise, it creates an atmosphere of fear and striving to be ‘good enough.’ In her study, the kids who were praised in this way found it incredibly difficult to admit mistakes- after all, if our kids show a weakness or make a mistake, will we think that they weren’t as intelligent as we had first thought? They might worry that they will lose our praise– that we’re no longer proud of them.
These kids were also less ready to take risks, fearing the failure that may come with it. They would rather do an easier task and get it right than challenge themselves with something more difficult if there was a risk they may seem unintelligent.
And if that isn’t enough, the kids who were praised in a way that fostered a ‘fixed mindset’ even enjoyed their work less!
All of this was in contrast to the kids who were praised for the process– these children were praised for their hard work, focus and persistence– all of the skills they showed in the process of actually completing the work.
This developed a ‘growth mindset.‘ In future tasks, they were more willing to take risks, take on new challenges, and were OK with setbacks along the way- they knew that this did not equal failure. They knew that not giving up, working hard, showing resilience and problem-solving were the things that were valued by their parents and teachers.
And of course, it isn’t only about academic intelligence. A ‘growth’ or ‘fixed’ mindset can apply to almost anything- sporting ability, creativity, and even social skills such as sharing or kindness.
When you praise your kids for the effort they have made, the process of problem solving, and the way that they try new things, you are helping them to develop a growth mindset.
It’s not about the end result, so the end result loses its power- it’s not the most important thing. Rather than the result, I want my kids to develop the right systems- this is what they will need in life.
Willingness to take risks and to try even when they might fail. To work hard and to explore. To be able to accept feedback and to know that everything is a progression, and for them to strive to improve, and at the same time, never to feel that they have ‘got there’ but to keep pushing their limits to continue growing.
But adults need reminded of this too!
So how do adults develop a growth mindset?
If you’re like me, maybe you’ve read the research, you know the science, and you wholeheartedly adapt this approach with kids. However, it’s all too easy to forget the positive impact that a growth mindset will have on our own lives!
It’s so important for adults to develop a growth mindset! It will help us to be happier, healthier and more successful. And also be a great example for our kids!
Try this easy mindset questionnaire to see what kind of mindset you have.
Key Areas for Adults to Develop a Growth Mindset
The areas of relationships, work, and parenting, are three of the most crucial areas that I believe we as adults need to re-consider our mindset in.
Do we have a fixed or growth mindset in these areas?
DEVELOPING A GROWTH MINDSET IN RELATIONSHIPS
We all grew up with Disney Princesses, right? They were perfect from the beginning to the end of the movie, and they found their perfect match. Is that real life? Of course not! A ‘fixed’ mindset in relationships will assume that a person is either right for you or wrong for you. Full stop. It might even say that there is only one person who is right for you.
I know what it’s like to think that someone is perfect for you. It’s incredible and there’s a huge amount of truth in it- your compatibility and enjoyment in each other’s company. But the danger is this fixed mindset is more subtle, because it masquerades as an amazing compliment in the early stages.
Here’s the thing- cracks will appear! Nobody is perfect. To think that someone is, is the ultimate fixed mindset. Just as we’re learning to give ourselves permission to not be absolutely perfect but rather to be learning and growing, so we need to give this permission to our partners, and to our whole relationship!
If you believe that someone is perfect, there is a crisis in store- they WILL slip up. We know logically that no-one is perfect. So when they do, what does it mean for the relationship? Well, with a fixed mindset, this might be what it means: huh… they’re not perfect. Maybe they’re not perfect for me, after all. But there must be somebody out there who is perfect for me!
In contrast, a growth mindset in your relationship might look like this: no, they’re not perfect, but neither am I- nobody is! We are learning about each other. We’re learning how to care for and love each other in the way that we both need. We know that we’re learning, so we give each other the room to learn. We can each take responsibility for the relationship- to work at developing, strengthening and growing it.
Rather than saying, ‘you should know what I’m thinking by now,’ we can provide another ‘learning opportunity’ and know that we’re making a little bit of progress every time in growing the strong and healthy relationship that we want. A growth mindset frees us to work at the relationship, to persist, and not be terrified of the small setbacks that will inevitably be along the road.
This would be a no-brainer when it comes to teaching kids!
DEVELOPING A GROWTH MINDSET IN PARENTING
I heard something incredible this week. Somebody told a mom, ‘I know you’re a good mom.’ It sounds like a lovely statement on the surface… until you think more about it. Labeling a woman as a ‘good mom’ implies that there are others that aren’t- the ‘bad moms.’
This mom challenged the statement on the spot. She responded instantly, ‘there’s no such thing as a good mom or a bad mom. There are just moms who have good days and bad days.’
Wow! What a different way to frame our thoughts around parenting. There is so much room for forgiveness and grace in this statement. It’s a statement that shouts of opportunities to grow and learn and a motherhood ‘path’ rather than a dividing wall. This encouraged me so much.
It also challenged me to change my thinking around parenting and showed me that a growth mindset is absolutely essential in this area!
After all, it’s probably the most challenging time of many people’s lives! Don’t fall into the trap of fixed mindset parenting!
DEVELOPING A GROWTH MINDSET IN WORK
This is the area that challenges me the most! I’ll admit that I like work that I feel that I can do well. I hate mistakes!! I want to do my work perfectly from the very first moment, and not to hear a single word of criticism.
The problem with this is that feedback can very easily sound like criticism to me. And so I tend to avoid situations where people might provide me with this feedback that might actually help me to develop. My natural inclination is to not share- to not invite people to watch me work or to make comments that might challenge and grow me.
I can do the ‘best friend’ test here. If my best friend was telling me this fear, here is what I would say.
- When you’re new at something it will take time to learn and develop your skills
- When people make comments about your work, it’s no reflection on you as a person- take the feedback and develop, there is absolutely no reason for it to upset you!
- It’s good to challenge yourself- it’s the best way to grow and to be even more skilled at what you do.
And can I apply this wonderful advice to myself? With great difficulty! This is the area that I need to work the hardest at developing a growth mindset in.
I have to actively open myself to feedback and to new challenges. I have to push myself out of the comfort zone into a situation where I’m scared that I might not be ‘good enough’ and that my weaknesses might be exposed. This is where the things that I teach my kids must be applied to myself. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about learning and growing.
The Power of Yet
Ever since I heard Dr. Dweck’s thoughts on the ‘Power of Yet’, I’ve been a convert! ‘Yet’ is a small word that you can add to any statement which completely transforms it from negative to positive.
- ‘I can’t do that… yet.’
- ‘I don’t feel confident in that area… yet.’
It changes your mindset from fixed to one of growth. It reminds you that you can grow and learn and frees you to enjoy it as you do!
So why does this all matter?
For me, one of the most powerful things behind the ‘growth mindset’ is all the research that’s gone into it. The psychology of adapting this mindset is that it actually makes us much more likely to take risks. It also helps us to stay motivated- you’re learning about something, NOT failing in it!
This motivates me to keep going; to keep working at something that I don’t experience immediate success with, or see immediate results. It helps me to maintain focus- to hang in there. I’ve often been guilty at dropping something far too quickly. I’ve had the mindset, ‘maybe that wasn’t for me, I wasn’t good enough at that.’ If only I’d added in the word ‘yet’!
So, whether it’s achieving your goals, your attitude towards work, or even your attitude in relationships, adapting a Growth Mindset will help you to realize your potential and give you much higher levels of success than if you limit yourself by clinging to a fixed mindset.
It’s so important for adults to develop a growth mindset. I honestly believe that this is the most important mindset shift you will ever make!
Think about the 3 vital areas of relationships, work, and parenting and honestly assess your mindset in these. What are your thought patterns like? Do you need to shift to a Growth Mindset to unlock your potential in these areas? If you do I can promise you that it will be so worth it!
If this has inspired you as to why adults need to develop a growth mindset or even just got you thinking, be sure to check out Carol Dweck’s TED talk for even more ideas and inspiration.
You might also enjoy:
- How to Praise Your Kids so They Succeed in Life
- How to be Successful in Life: It’s Simpler Than You Think!
- 5 Science Backed Strategies on How to Achieve Your Goals
- 4 Awesome Ted Talks That Will Show You How to Get Stuff Done
- 7 Surefire Tips for Setting Goals You Will Actually Achieve
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Thanks for reading!