What Is A Growth Mindset?

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"All behavior is belief driven" - Jim Kwik

The growth mindset theory has been developed by Dr. Carol Dweck a professor at Stanford University. Dr. Dweck focused her theory more in the area of child development but the foundational belief applies even to adults in the area of career development, parenting, health, etc. Dr. Dweck’s foundational belief is that we each have either a growth or fixed mindset and that it is not intelligence, talent, or education that creates success but your mindset to life challenges.

Here is a brief test to see if you have a fixed mindset:

  • Do you avoid challenges?
  • Do you find yourself easily discouraged or give up?
  • Do you often feel putting forth effort to reach goals as pointless or fruitless?
  • Do you find yourself thinking more negative, critical thoughts about yourself and others?
  • Do you feel threatened or defeated by the success of others?

If you answered mostly yes you likely have a fixed mindset and probably have not reached your full potential. If you answered yes to some you may have some fixed ways of thinking that may hold you back from really embracing challenges.

Our thinking about ourselves, our abilities, and our situations can become fixed once we face challenges or maybe it was the family environment we grew up in, leads us to think some things are out of reach. “It is what it is so why bother?” When we challenge our negative thinking, we allow for a different perspective which can then promote new ideas. Dr. Dweck’s work with children was to create a growth mindset where mistakes or setbacks do not mean “I am a failure or I will never be able to do that” but simply mean “not yet.” Dr. Dweck examined the brains of individuals identified with fixed and growth mindsets which showed that individuals with fixed thinking reacted more to successes and failures but also had no interest in learning from their mistakes. The focus of a growth mindset is being eager to learn from mistakes and embrace challenges, persist when met with setbacks, see effort as path towards increasing productivity, and recognize when you have applied a lesson learned to problem.

Dr. Dweck says we can take small steps towards developing a growth mindset even as adults. Starting by tuning into your thinking, what do you say about yourself? Challenge your thinking, instead of “I can’t or I will never” try “I am not sure but I can…” And finally, recognize you have a choice and by reacting from a growth mindset you can decrease negative symptoms from thinking of self as a “failure” and promote personal success.

For further information, or if you would like to discuss ways in which you could develop more of a growth mindset in your life, please reach out to me at lisa@kkjpsych.com.


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Lisa Foss, MA

I offer therapeutic services to help with anxiety, depression, women’s issues, pregnancy difficulties, perinatal anxiety/depression, stress management, parenting stress, trauma, grief/loss, divorce, and life adjustments for all ages. I assist with psychological evaluations and provide child, adolescent and adult individual, and family therapy services.

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