With the start of the new year, we begin to reflect on our past and look towards our future goals. In order to achieve success, we also need to acknowledge our failures. Our mindset is the set of beliefs that shape how we make sense of ourselves and the world. It can impact our failure or success. When we encounter different situations, our mind can trigger a specific mindset that can directly impact our behavior. According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, there are two different mindsets that people can have: a fixed or a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset is when we view our abilities, talents, and intelligence as innate and unchangeable over time. While a growth mindset views things as learnable, and that we are capable of improvement through effort.
So how does learning the difference become an asset?
If we have a fixed mindset we tend to believe that if we’re not good at something, we may never be good at it. With this mindset, there is a tendency to focus more on our results, we may not deal with failure well, and it can in turn make us play it safe by doing things we are already capable of thus shrinking our own potential. On the other hand, a growth mindset sees challenges as opportunities to learn. It can allow us to move into new fields, and perceive our past failures as part of the process of growing and succeeding in different areas of life.
So how do I shift to a growth mindset?
Change the narrative
The first step to shifting to a growth mindset is being aware of the interpretation of our own story when faced with a challenge or setback. Some examples may be:
- Fixed mindset: I’m not good at this. → Growth mindset: I can try again and do better.
- Fixed mindset: This is too hard so I give up. → Growth mindset: It’s okay to fail, I can keep going and try a new strategy
- Fixed mindset: It will be embarrassing if I fail. → Growth mindset: Everyone makes mistakes, and I can use this as an opportunity to learn and get feedback.
When we are faced with a new challenge or a setback, the anxiety we feel may trigger a fixed mindset. However if we catch ourselves in the moment and instead think about how we can grow from a situation, that momentum can be used for self-improvement and our past failures as part of the process in succeeding in a new venture.
Utilize past failures
When we experience a failure, it can take a hit to our confidence or self esteem. We may become guarded, and avoid taking risks to minimize any future discomfort causing us to shift to a fixed mindset. However, we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. We can reflect and identify what didn’t work for us, and devise a plan for next time. Some steps we can take to utilize our failures to improve are:
- Self-reflection: write down any mistakes or areas of improvement that you would like to see in different areas of your life
- Ask questions: reach out to others and embrace constructive feedback as opportunity for growth
- Make choices: think about what area of your life you’d like to focus on for improvement
By practicing these steps we can develop more resilience, flexibility, and creativity which can help us overcome different obstacles we may face in the future.
Set learning goals and be consistent
When facing a challenge there is a difference between feasibility and impracticality. A growth mindset focuses on effort as opposed to performance. It focuses on the process while making small continuous efforts towards a goal. After reflection, think about areas of your life you want to improve on such as your relationships, health, or career. Then think of a task that is neither easy or too difficult, something that is a little over your abilities that you can make consistent improvement on. Some examples of a performance vs learning goals are:
- Performance goal: I will lose 25 lbs this year. → Learning goal: I will eat a healthy meal every day.
- Performance goal: I will get a master’s degree. → Learning goal: I will attend my classes and make time to study every week.
It can be helpful to use daily or weekly planners to track different learning goals and cultivate healthy life habits that can help you reach your long-term performance goal.
“Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training”
Our mind can play a powerful role in how we think and approach challenging situations. It can play a major role in our motivation, resilience, and achievement. It is not possible to have just one type of mindset all the time. We are a mixture of both fixed and growth mindsets. However, becoming aware of our triggers and how we approach criticisms, predicaments, and conflicts can shift from self doubt to potential growth.
If you are having trouble putting these steps into practice, contact a therapist here at Pacific CBT who can help you reflect and shift from a fixed to a growth mindset.
Cote, C. (2022, March 10). Growth Mindset vs. fixed mindset: What’s the difference? Business Insights Blog. https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/growth-mindset-vs-fixed-mindset
Dweck, C. S. (2016). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballantine.
Smith, J. (2020, September 25). Growth mindset vs fixed mindset: How what you think affects what you achieve. Mindset Health. https://www.mindsethealth.com/matter/growth-vs-fixed-mindset
About the Author: Ashley Carreon currently works as a Behavior Therapist in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and a minor in Psychology from University of California, Davis. Ashley is interested in understanding intersectionality in mental health, and is planning to pursue a Master’s degree.