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I'm not good at this "yet" (a growth vs fixed mindset)


What a little “YET” at the end of this sentence can do for you, or, the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset!


Let’s start with the word mindset.  We are talking about a mind that is set to a default mode. A fixed mindset believes in all or nothing. You feel either good or bad, intelligent or stupid, or that everything is either black or white. Thoughts like “I am just not good at sports! I am too stupid for math! I can only speak English, but not French.” There is a feeling that you have no control, that it is up to the universe or genetics, that you have no influence, and that there is no gray in between the black and white.

 

A growth mindset allows for shades of gray. It offers the possibility that you can learn along the way. You are in control of your mind and body, you can develop skills, and you can practice getting better at anything. You might not be “the best” and “100% perfect,” but I mean, who is??? Nevertheless, you can be convinced that you and your mind will grow in the coming weeks, months, and years. If you are interested, Carol Dwek’s TED talk explains more.

 

It has been shown in a lot of studies that if you push yourself out of your comfort zone, certain parts of your brain, a particular area of neurons, engage very actively. This has actually been shown in brain scans. If you challenge yourself again and again, those particular neurons make stronger connections among themselves, creating paths. It is like the shortcuts you take when you walk around campus, from one building to another. If you walk it again and again, it will get wider and well-worn, having been trodden down.


This is what happens in your brain. With continuous use, the neuronal paths will get stronger and faster. For example, when you first learned about the multiplication table, you had to practice it a lot, and it was a slow process. Now, after having used it for so many years, it is fast and easy. You remember it better, because your brain realized “Oh, we (the brain and you) have done this before, we have walked this path so many times, I better recall it for next time”.  This is what scientists also call neuroplasticity! Your brain is changeable and moldable throughout it's lifetime. We now know that everyone can learn and even improve their intelligence if they want!

 

All this background info makes it clear that a growth mindset is a fact! You can develop talents and skills through good techniques, persistence, and regular practice. You know that if you put energy and time into your learning, you are going for understanding, for getting better.

 

But why is it so hard? We all have triggers, things that will just set us off, make us explode and react spontaneously and put us back into default mode (aka a fixed mindset). Very often, these are the same triggers again and again: criticism from your parents or teachers, facing a challenge, or comparing yourself to others.  A low grade can provoke thoughts like: “See, I knew it, I am just horrible at physics. I will never get better. I better cry, eat cookies, and hide in my room.” Okay, let’s look at this. So, the grade was not what you thought it would be. Get your tissues out, have a cookie, and hide for 10 minutes. But then, take a look at yourself and reflect, talk to yourself like you would talk to a good friend: “This was not the grade I hoped for (be realistic) but I already understand English/French (insert your challenging subject) a little bit better than a month/year ago. I don’t understand it completely YET, but I notice I am getting the hang of it. What can I do to get even better?”

 

What happens if the trigger is negative feedback from your teachers or your parents? Well, talk to them. Tell them that you are working on improving, that you know you are making progress, and that you are really giving it your all. Ask them, “How could you help me with this? I really want to get better!” Get them involved! Maybe they offer to pay for an online course or tell you about extra help you could get.

 

Having a growth mindset is not easy in the beginning!!!!! Be prepared for setbacks, but have confidence in yourself. Other people in official studies have tried this out, it worked for them, and it will for you!

 

You can do this! Tell yourself that you are not there YET, but that you are on your way! 

 

Wishing you a great rest of the day,

 

Andrea

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