“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” ~Abraham Lincoln
Christina is one of millions who follow popular DIY accounts on Instagram and other platforms where average home spaces are transformed. At one point, it dawned on Christina that she was waiting for her husband to add accent walls, floating shelves, and extra storage, and that she was practicing self-limiting beliefs by thinking she could not do it herself. So she chose a project she had been wanting to get done forever, watched a million YouTube tutorial videos, bought and borrowed the necessary supplies, and got to work. The result was a beautiful board and batten accent wall the length of her entire entryway that her guests comment on even years after the fact. Since then, she has coached herself through many home improvement projects. She finds great joy in the process of learning, doing, and growing.
Christina perfectly demonstrates the power behind what is commonly referred to as “growth mindset.” Simply stated, mindsets are beliefs about ourselves and our abilities. Dr. Carol Dweck, psychologist and professor, has been the leader in this area of thoughtwork for over 30 years and authored the popular book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, where she outlines two different types of mindsets: Fixed and growth:
Fixed mindset is essentially believing one’s basic qualities–like intelligence or talent–are fixed, static, and unable to change. Individuals with this mindset believe they simply are the way they are and that cannot be undone. These people tend to avoid challenges, give up easily, see their efforts as useless, ignore potentially useful criticism and feedback, and feel threatened by others’ success. These individuals often will achieve less than their full potential.
Growth mindset, on the other hand, is believing one can accomplish anything he/she sets his/her mind to. These individuals thrive on a challenge and see failure as a springboard for growth and developing abilities. They believe that intelligence and talents are susceptible to growth with concerted effort, that they can become better through hard work and help from others and that brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilient, ever-trying attitude. They embrace challenges, persist in the face of failure, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism, and find inspiration from the success of others. At the end of the day, these individuals reach high levels of achievement and experience greater life satisfaction than their fixed-mindset counterparts.
Now for a moment of self-reflection…let’s think about our lives and personal circumstances. What are some things we tell ourselves we cannot do? What things are we waiting on someone else to teach us or do for us? How could we take the bull by the horns and just…do it ourselves? Which self-limiting beliefs are ingrained in us that we would like to not pass on to the next generation?
The good news is that if we identify with the fixed mindset and would like to have a more growth oriented mindset, we can! Our brains are amazing and can adapt to new information and help us create new habits and patterns. Here are three suggestions to begin moving from a fixed to a growth-oriented mindset :
- Pay attention to the right voice. Let’s start by listening to our internal dialogue to discover what type of mindset we have. If the voice says, “What if we fail?” or “If we don’t try, nobody will see we fail,” that is a fixed mindset voice. Instead challenge our inner voice by saying things like, “I may not do it perfectly, but I am going to start somewhere!” or, “Not trying at all is actually the failure.” It is a process of auto-correct, but this new voice will help us drown out the fixed mindset voice that is stifling our thoughts and ambition.
- Just…go for it! Let’s put ourselves in situations that are challenging and will help us practice our new voice. For instance, if we are interested in photography, we can volunteer our services and offer free or heavily discounted photoshoots to practice and gain experience! School is another great place to start to practice a mindset of growth. With new challenges around every corner, there’s many opportunities to thrive from setbacks and trials. Or be like Christina from the beginning of this blog: Pick up a brad nailer and get going on that board and batten!
- See “failing” as learning. Recognize that “failing” is just a new way of learning; it will make the possibility of failing less daunting. We will mess up in the process of learning new skills. Our lived experience will help us be better, more efficient, and more knowledgeable about whatever pursuit we are going after. We will never know how to take good pictures if we do not point and shoot with the wrong settings or with the incorrect lens. We learn by doing. Even “failing” or doing something wrong is still doing it, and we will glean knowledge from those efforts.
When I started my men’s group, I, myself, had more of the fixed mindset. What held me back from starting a men’s group initially was the thought of failure–not being able to fill it up–before I even began. Once I had the nudge from clients who really needed a group, I made the decision and just went for it by picking a date to start and inviting my male clients to attend the group. In the two months that I have run this group therapy exclusively for men, I have learned that I will mess up and that when I do, if I take responsibility and apologize to the group, they respect me more. I can see that even in the past two months I have moved to more of a growth mindset as I have challenged myself to step outside my comfort zone. An amazing thing has happened…the group members have stepped outside their comfort zones too and strengthened their connection with each other! It has been so worth it!
I urge each one of us to make 2024 our year by believing in ourselves and by going after the things we want. No one is holding us back but ourselves, as I learned with starting my men’s group! Should you like additional help to overcome a fixed mindset to become the person you want to be, my door is always open. Contact me today!
Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.
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- Dweck, Carol: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
- Eastern Washington University: Mindset
- Farnham Street: Carol Dweck: A Summary of Growth and Fixed Mindsets
- Harvard Business Review: What Having a “Growth Mindset” Actually Means
- Mindset Works: Decades of Scientific Research that Started a Growth Mindset Revolution
- We Are Teachers: 70+ Growth Mindset Quotes To Inspire Hard Work and Perseverance
- Western Governor’s University: What Is A Growth Mindset? 8 Steps To Develop One.