Tapping Into Your Growth Mindset

In Chapter 9: Be a Learner of Onward, Elena Aguilar shares that a growth mindset is the mindset of resilience. With a “growth” mindset, we assume that intelligence and talent can go up or down. A growth mindset thrives on challenges and sees failure not as evidence of a lack of intelligence but as motivation to grow and stretch abilities. Holding a growth mindset creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval; failure becomes an opportunity to learn.

Understanding your mindset is key as you do this resilience work. Carol Dweck’s research and book Mindset published in 2006 has guided our learning in this area. She compares a fixed mindset, one in which we assume intelligence and talent are fixed at birth, to a growth mindset, one in which we assume that intelligence can go up or down. For those of us in education, we adopted this mindset, hung posters on our walls, and set out to foster this mindset in our students. In our excitement though, we need to be careful that we are not oversampling her message.

As with all good things, we often latch on for the quick fix and boil it down to a 30 second soundbite. This MindShift blog, Carol Dweck Explains the False Growth Mindset That Worries Her, explores the fear that Dweck has when her message gets over-simplified: “She says often teachers and parents aren’t willing to take the longer, more difficult path of helping students identify strategies and connect success to those strategies. Instead, her complicated psychological research has gotten boiled down to, “praise the effort, not the outcome.” Dweck also explained what she means by a “false” growth mindset:

False growth mindset is saying you have growth mindset when you don’t really have it or you don’t really understand [what it is]. It’s also false in the sense that nobody has a growth mindset in everything all the time. Everyone is a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. You could have a predominant growth mindset in an area but there can still be things that trigger you into a fixed mindset trait. Something really challenging and outside your comfort zone can trigger it, or, if you encounter someone who is much better than you at something you pride yourself on, you can think “Oh, that person has ability, not me.” So I think we all, students and adults, have to look for our fixed-mindset triggers and understand when we are falling into that mindset.”

Bring this caution and awareness to your own reflection as you consider your mindset. Understanding your mindset and tapping into a growth mindset will help you as you learn how to cultivate resilience.