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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Herriott, AMFT

Let Your Mind Bloom: Adopting a Growth Mindset

It sucks when things don’t work out the way you had planned. You spent hours each night for the past few weeks studying for your chemistry final, only to find out you failed the exam. You’ve been working hard to perfect your public speaking skills but forgot everything you had prepared to say the moment your presentation began. Perhaps you tried to practice setting boundaries at work, but then felt pressured into coming in on your only day off. Panic, confusion, anger, anxiety, and more leaves you feeling discouraged. Where do you go from here? What is the point of putting in effort if you’re going to fail anyways?

That’s the problem. You think you’re going to fail. While failing is a possibility and sometimes becomes a reality, we can't let our minds tell us that this will always be the case. When we give up easily and avoid putting in effort because we think it won’t get us anywhere, we have a fixed mindset. When others succeed, people with a fixed mindset feel that they are less-than in comparison. Someone with a fixed mindset might see constructive criticism as an attack instead of an opportunity to improve. This fixed mindset can become a vicious cycle; avoidance and lack of effort will often lead to undesirable outcomes, and these undesirable outcomes will confirm the person’s suspicions that they were incapable to begin with. This creates a negative pattern of thinking that can easily spiral without intervention and awareness.

Instead, we want to adopt a growth mindset. A growth mindset acknowledges that we can and will sometimes fail. We don’t need to necessarily enjoy these failures, but we do need to accept that they are part of the learning process. How are we supposed to know if we are capable of something if we don’t try? Many of us have heard the saying “practice makes perfect.” While perfection takes time and is not always realistically attainable, practice does help make us better. Sometimes we become better at the actual task we are trying to accomplish, and sometimes better means improving our ability to tolerate discomfort and embrace a challenge. People with growth mindsets seek out feedback from others and use others’ triumphs to inspire themselves. Instead of focusing on jealousy, those with growth mindsets will identify takeaways from others’ successes that they can then incorporate into their own journey. 

The following are some tips and tricks you can use as you practice developing a growth mindset:

  1. Identify your thinking patterns.

The first step in shifting your mindset is recognizing where you are currently at. Take a few moments to recall some recent events that did not turn out the way you had hoped. How did you react? Were you thinking with a fixed mindset or a growth mindset? Why?

  1. Use the power of “not yet.”

Switching from a fixed to a growth mindset does not happen overnight. It will take time for you to genuinely start thinking in a growth-oriented way. One way to do this is by trying to reframe negative thoughts. Imagine you find your dream job but notice that it requires experience you don’t have. Instead of thinking “I’m not qualified for the job, so I’m not even going to apply” tell yourself “This is my dream job, so I’m going to aim high and give the application my best shot” or “I may not meet the qualifications yet, but what do I need to do to get there?” Our present circumstances may determine where we start, but they do not determine where we will end–we have the power to take steps towards our goals.

  1. Practice self-compassion.

Be proud of yourself for doing the work to shift your mindset. Doing so takes effort and determination. Sometimes your efforts will work well and you’ll feel great! Other times, you may find yourself feeling disappointed or wishing you tried things another way, and that’s okay. It is important that we show ourselves grace in these tougher moments. This could look like telling ourselves “there is always room for improvement” or reminding yourself “I am worthy and capable.” It could also be taking a warm bath to unwind or taking a mindful walk outside; do something that feels true to you and attends to your needs.

Ultimately, adopting a growth mindset means recognizing that we have a choice in the way we view and interact with the world. Choose the path of progress.If you need support in accessing your growth mindset please make an appointment with me.

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