The “Growth Mindset” is a psychological concept that Stanford Professor Carol Dweck popularized back in the early 2000’s. Since then it has hit the “pop psychology” scene and could be seen to some degree as a precursor to Angela Duckworth’s concept and popularization of “Grit” as the next hot topic. Indeed, Amazon even markets the two pioneering books together.
Here’s the basic background on a growth mindset: it is the belief that the brain is like a muscle that can grow stronger through hard work. This contrasts to a “fixed mindset” where one believes that your mental assets are, well, fixed.
Recently we saw yet another push toward emphasizing our ability to push the mind further with Eliud Kipchoge’s incredible sub-2 hour marathon. The message he chose to promote, appropriately, is that “No Human Is Limited.” With a marathon at that pace being as much mental as physical, it’s a great example of how hard work and belief can drive you to unparalleled heights.
Here’s one way to view it that brings all these together. Belief in a growth mindset gives you the internal motivation to put forth the effort (or grit) needed to improve and succeed at hard things. The stronger this push is, the closer you can come to Kipchoge’s “No Limit” mindset that led him to do something no other human has ever done.
So with that all said, let’s focus on the growth mindset as it is the start of it: “the belief that the brain is like a muscle that can grow stronger through hard work”. How does one build that belief, either for yourself or for your kids? As Dweck herself says, a lot of the advice here has been spurious at best.
Summarizing it: the best systems to encourage a growth mindset are ones that link true effort to true growth. True effort requires actual work to be exerted, and true growth requires real measurement and feedback of the outcomes of that work.
Putting it into Practice
As you can probably tell, this all ties closely to what we are trying to do here at WeAchieve. Our belief is that the best way to give yourself (or your kids) an understanding of true effort or true growth is to track how you are doing!
On the effort side, tracking a habit is essential to ensure you aren’t giving yourself an easy out and letting your brain make excuses for you. We all do it, but having a system to hold yourself accountable is key to ensuring that the effort is exerted.
And on the growth side: it’s a bit harder. Not everything is measurable! But when there is a good proxy, tracking your performance is incredibly motivating! Case-in-point: seeing a trend of your weight steadily dropping is a huge motivator and builds excitement around executing the effort – the habits that go into it.
When speaking to children, Dweck recommends the phrase, “wow, you practiced that, and look how you’ve improved!” With WeAchieve, you can not only provide your child (or yourself) evidence of both parts of that statement, you can teach them some math along the way!
This approach can be used in conjunction with any educational game or tool to show kids that ongoing work leads to better outcomes. Or that practicing a game or a sport can help them improve. Or that exercising and eating healthy can help you lose weight.
Here’s one example: say your child is struggling at math. An easy habit would be to study 15 minutes each day. You can easily track that to ensure that it does actually get done each day, and then track performance – either in school or in various online programs to act as a proxy for the desired outcome: getting better at math!
This type of mindset easily crosses over to other areas of academics and life, so teaching it in one place will pay dividends beyond the initial subject.
As adults, we’re a bit tougher to train, but a growth mindset is something that can be developed. Our advice is pretty simple: pick one thing you want to get better at. Then, set a basic goal to work on it for 10 minutes each day and do that every week for six weeks. We can promise: you’ll be amazed by how far you’ve come in that time. Don’t know where to start? Here are a few ideas:
- Practice a Second Language
- Clean Up Around the House
- Do One Important Task
- Send a Note to a Friend
- Clear out your Inbox
- Read a Book
- Do 10 Burpees
- Learn Something New
We could go on, but you get the idea. Progress isn’t made in leaps and bounds. Rather, it comes from steady effort. A growth mindset is about being patient and recognizing that discipline now will pay off later. Get started today!