How to develop a Growth Mindset

Those with a growth mindset embrace challenges rather than avoiding them, and they persist when obstacles present, so says Dr Michelle O'Driscoll
How to develop a Growth Mindset

Those with a growth mindset embrace challenges rather than avoiding them, and they persist when obstacles present. Picture: Stock

MINDSET is impacted by our conscious or subconscious beliefs, which can either support us in fulfilling our potential, or hold us back.

We are all unique individuals, with our own talents, intelligence and personalities. How we view these facets of ourselves determines whether we have a fixed or growth mindset.

A fixed mindset is the belief that these things are permanent, unchangeable, set traits. You work with what you have now currently, and there is no further development of these possible.

A growth mindset, on the other hand, is the belief that these things can be learned, enhanced, changed, worked upon.

Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: How You Can Fulfill Your Potential, describes how having a growth mindset allows us to be passionate about our journey and to thrive in live.

These mindsets reveal themselves in how we handle life events. 

If you’re of a fixed mindset, then challenges are avoided, and you tend to give up easily. Why bother if your situation is not going to improve anyway? And if you do put yourself out there and “fail” then it’s a negative reflection of you as a person. It might confirm your worst fear, that you’re dumb or inadequate?

For this same reason, criticism tends to be received negatively and more personally, as an attack on you as a person. The success of others can feel very overwhelming, because from a fixed mindset perspective, they are achieving things that are not currently the reality for you and therefore never will be. Effort to achieve anything feels like a waste because change is not going to come from it. Your journey feels pre-determined and out of your influence.

Does any of this sound familiar? If you’ve currently got a fixed mindset, it possibly does. A plethora of protective mechanisms kick into play as self-preservation – but such actions actually end up self-sabotaging our true potential. What would it look like if instead you believed that growth, change and development were possible, and you opened yourself up to such opportunities through perseverance and hard work?

That is what a growth mindset achieves.

Those with a growth mindset embrace challenges rather than avoiding them, and they persist when obstacles present. 

They are fuelled by a desire to learn, and apply these learnings to develop intelligence and personality. Criticism is viewed as something to take on board and add to the vault of experiences, and effort is deemed to be the best way to bring any development to fruition.

Seeing others succeed is not viewed as overwhelming, but rather inspiring – if they can grow and develop in that way, then so can you.

How much more liberating does all of that sound? No fear of failure, but gratitude for the journey it brings you on. No avoidance of life experiences, because they all contribute to the bigger picture. No sense of feeling stuck, rather a feeling of freedom, achievement and free will. A growth mindset sees a current situation as the starting point upon which you can build, and there are no limits to what can be achieved.

A growth mindset is something that we can all develop. 

Parents to young children have a vital role to play here; rather than rewarding achievement or final results, praise for the effort being put in is more supportive. Rather than a simple win or lose, pass or fail view of life, the journey that a child goes on to develop a skill is seen and acknowledged as the most important piece. “Great trying, well done!”

Being open with kids about your own struggles and processes helps to normalise them too – Mom or Dad doesn’t always get it right but that’s OK, that’s all part of learning and growing. And if all of the above isn’t what you experienced as a child, can you give yourself the gift of offering those perspectives to yourself from now on?

Language plays a vital role in fostering a growth mindset. Is it that you “cannot do” something, or that you just haven’t done it “yet”? that one little word changes one’s whole perspective from failing to being in a process of growth and development, where anything is possible. Just because it isn’t the reality right at this moment, doesn’t mean it couldn’t be in the future.

Other supportive statements can be embedded into one’s experience also. Rather than thinking “I’ll never be that good”, can your attitude be switched to “I’m going to work on this?” Rather than saying “That didn’t work”, can you follow up with “let’s learn from it and try Plan B”. Instead of concluding that “This is too hard” can you remind yourself “this will take time”? Ensuring that failure is not defining, but just part of a process, is the biggest take away from it all.

A growth mindset is the key to achieving a sense of potential, motivation and freedom. If it’s not something you currently have, it is something that you can develop.

Over time, the language around how you speak about yourself and your efforts can be changed, which will give your outlook and mindset the overhaul it may well need to start fully living.


Dr Michelle O’Driscoll is a pharmacist, researcher and founder of InTuition, a health and wellness education company.

Her research lies in the area of mental health education, and through InTuition she delivers health promotion workshops to corporate and academic organisations nationally.

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