Building a Growth Mindset in Yourself and Others

A label can be a curse–even when it is a positive one.


Read it again.  And consider your own experience. 

Have you ever been given a positive label that later created an unrealistic expectation, a standard that you felt obligated to uphold at all costs? 

Perhaps you were labeled as the best player on the team or the smartest person in class.  The funniest.  The best looking.  The most likely to succeed. 

Well-meaning people can create a lot of pressure.  We can feel that continuing “best-in-class” performance is required to uphold our identity.  This creates a dis-incentive to take risks, to learn new skill sets, to embrace the failure that comes along with learning.

This self-limiting way of approaching life is called a fixed mindset.  It says, “I am _________ (insert positive identity)” so I must live up to a certain standard of success.  Or “I am ___________ (insert negative identity), so it there is no use trying, I will always be a __________.

Thankfully, there is another way of looking into the future.  It is called a growth mindset.  Whereas a fixed mindset believes that it has a fixed identity to be defended, the growth mindset says, “I am becoming.  I am learning.”  It is a hopeful humility—a confident humility.  This mindset believes that it is doing the best it can with what it has, but it is always learning, always improving—because it can always put in effort.  It can always try.

The Fixed Mindset invests in the label.  These labels usually come from outside (they are controlled by another’s perception) and create a pedestal to be defended.  In contrast, A growth mindset is based on something that everyone can control—effort. 

This makes all the difference.  The growth mindset sets you free to learn and to grow without having to risk losing a label.  You can work hard.  You can have grit.  You can learn.  And the willingness to do so will lead to improvements and often to success.  This is true for you and for your kids.

So, be careful with your praise and recognition.  Place more emphasis on effort than on labels.  Tie outcomes to effort, not innate ability.  Be a builder of growth mindsets in yourself and others.