When I moved to the Valley in my 20s, I noticed all the browns of the surrounding mountains and asked, “where are the colors?” I wasn’t accustomed to a desert landscape. But over time, I’ve learned that winter hides the seed growth that burst into colors in the springtime. Now I look forward every year to seeing the flowering buds of spring. My walks in the desert become filled with yellows, purples, and greens with a little rain and the warming temperatures.
We can think of ourselves much like our resilient desert flowers. We may feel stagnant or broken by the proverbial winter winds and storms in our lives. We may experience setbacks or see our challenges as never-ending rather than opportunities to learn and grow. It may take effort to focus on the budding seedlings in these moments, requiring a shift in our focus towards a growth mindset.
A Fixed VS Growth Mindset
A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens that we can’t change in any meaningful way. “Success” is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence. People with a fixed mindset find themselves striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs in an effort to maintain that sense of being smart or skilled. Ironically, this striving can lead to heightened levels of anxiety, depression, and self-doubt.
A person with a “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge. They see failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a springboard for growth and an enthusiastic stretching of existing abilities. These two mindsets manifest from a very early age and spring forth a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.
Tips For Developing A Growth Mindset
The Power Of “Yet”
A simple way to start changing to a growth mindset, is by the use of a little word, yet. In essence, the word yet means a realization that some things are worth waiting for, and those things take work. It’s not always easy, but the power of this small word allows for success. Changing your words can help you begin to make the change from a fixed to a growth mindset.
Redefine “Failure” And “Success”
People with a fixed mindset often fall into extreme, black and white thinking patterns. For example, “I am either a success or a failure” in any given situation. This trap of all-or-none thinking often causes people to feel that taking risks is too…well…risky. It can be helpful to redefine “failure” and recognize that mistakes are part of the process. Actively engaging in calculated risks is a learning opportunity to figure out what works and what needs tweaking. It wouldn’t be a “risk” if everything would work out 100% of the time. Redefine “success” as the process of putting yourself out there rather than solely the outcome. This is where creativity and growth can happen.
Consider “Problems” to be “Growth Opportunities”
One way to increase value from failure is through actively talking about the experience and how we can use it for growth. To quote the writer, Frank A. Clark, “If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” Active and open-ended questions are a great way to help yourself or your child develop their own ideas on how to proceed when they face difficulty.
Consider questions like:
- “What happened in a given situation?”
- “What information did you have at the time that led you to make the choices you made?”
- “What was the outcome?”
- “Did you learn NEW information afterward that would alter your initial choice?”
- “What’s your plan moving forward and how do you think you’ll keep your motivation through other, unforeseen roadblocks?”
This type of questioning strengthens one’s metacognitive skills (thinking about thinking). This improves one’s ability to predict outcomes, as well as creates an environment where mistakes are an expected and acceptable part of the process.
In summary, our mindset is an interpretative process that tells us how to view ourselves and the world around us. Shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset will allow you to adopt a more fruitful and nourishing mindset, build resilience, and experience more joy in life.