Do you love a challenge, or do you stick to your strengths? Do you believe talent is innate or that it can be grown and developed? How you answered these questions is an indication of whether you have a fixed or growth mindset.
What is fixed mindset?
“You are so smart.” “You are so good at basketball.” Growing up, the world tries to build us up with affirming comments on our skills and abilities. While their intentions are good and the compliments feel good in the moment, over time these messages can deemphasize progress and discourage you from self-improvement.
A fixed mindset is rooted in the belief that your basic intelligence and talents are innate and that skills cannot change. People who hold a fixed mindset believe that they are born with a certain number of skills and efforts put forth to develop more are fruitless. These individuals often won't try new things and avoid challenges for fear of being criticized or simply from the worry of looking "dumb". A person with a fixed mindset takes feedback personally or thinks it defines them.
What is growth mindset?
On the flip side, a growth mindset is the belief that your knowledge and abilities aren’t innate. In fact, they can be nurtured and developed with time, experience, hard work and practice. Those with a growth mindset understand that challenges present opportunites to learn and overcome, and that effort is the path to mastery. People who adopt a growth mindset acknowledge that mistakes aid in growth and improvement. They welcome feedback, which enables them to learn and work harder. A growth mindset can correlate with good physical and psychological health.
How to foster a growth mindset
Your fixed beliefs about yourself can hold you back from making positive changes that can benefit your life and your health. If you have a trait you believe cannot be changed, such as weight or bad habits, you will avoid situations that could make you uncomfortable. You may be unknowingly holding yourself back from growth and well-being.
Dr. Rena Szabo, the director of the psycho oncology department at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, shares that the brain is more malleable than we ever knew. There is a great amount of research on brain plasticity that has shown the connections between neurons can change with experience. We can increase our neural growth by the actions we take and the thoughts we think. Remember that your thoughts and beliefs truly determine your reality. Dr. Szabo offers several growth tactics to help you get on the right path to a growth mindset.
Become aware of your fixed mindset
It is important to acknowledge that we all have fixed-mindset thoughts at times. The key is to recognize when the fixed mindset arises because that is the essential first step in the process of change. Acknowledge and embrace imperfections because hiding from your weaknesses means you’ll never overcome them.
View challenges as opportunities
Having a growth mindset means relishing opportunities for self-improvement. Make a decision that you are going to change and practice it daily.
Keep learning with curiosity
Lifelong learning is a conscious and joyous effort to keep learning as we grow. Every day, commit to learning in four ways:
- Learn to know
- Learn to do
- Learn to live together and with others
- Learn to be
Try new things on a frequent basis
Trying new things and taking risks not only keeps our brains sharp, but also feeds the growth mindset. When you broaden your perspective, you start to realize there is far more left to learn than you ever imagined.
Once you develop a growth mindset – own it. Acknowledge yourself as someone who possesses a growth mentality and be proud to let it guide you.
“It may be easy to get discouraged if this way of thinking is new to you, but don’t give up,” Dr. Szabo says. “Adjusting to a growth mindset can open you up to new opportunities, experiences and improved self-awareness.”
Still struggling? Speak with a licensed clinical or health psychologist who can help you work through your challenges and get you on the path to a growth mindset. To find a Banner Health specialist, visit bannerhealth.com.