Nothing prevents us from reaching our full potential, whether in the classroom, on the athletic field, or in the boardroom, than staying set in our ways and unwilling to consider how we might change our own mindsets.
Mindset makes all the difference in whether we fail or succeed, but it also does not guarantee success. Failures are inevitable, but a positive, growth mindset is necessary to grow and learn from failures rather than stew in them.
A growth mindset will keep you moving forward, while a fixed mindset might find you treading water or, worse yet—drowning.
Mindset strategies are incredibly important for educators. Teaching can take a tremendous emotional and physical toll on individuals, and when a teacher is worn down, discouraged, and defeated, students will sense that and, in many cases, mimic that mindset and the behavior that accompanies it.
To ensure you are always growing and moving in the right direction, practice implementing growth mindset strategies, and by doing so, you will set the right example for your students to follow and encourage students to take on the learning process in a different way.
Mindset Comparisons: Growth Versus Fixed
Before strategizing about changing your mindset, it is important to fully understand the differences between growth and fixed mindsets. Spoiler alert: you should be choosing growth here!
In a fixed mindset, an individual operates in their daily lives with the assumption that their abilities, talents, and general personality traits are set in stone; hence the name “fixed.” This type of person will limit herself in terms of what she is willing to try based on the notion that certain talents are either innate or simply not present.
For example, a person with a fixed mindset and little to no experience with sports might say, “I am just not athletic, so I will pass,” when asked by a neighbor to take pickleball lessons. Fixed mindsets have strict limits, so anything out of the ordinary or out of one’s comfort zone is seen in a negative light.
Those with fixed mindsets cannot see failures as opportunities for growth; instead, they see a failure as a permanent mark, a blemish that can never be erased, and a sign not to try that activity again.
Alternatively, challenges are met with joy and enthusiasm when a growth mindset is present. The “unknown” is an exciting prospect to an individual with a growth mindset who sees every new experience as an opportunity to learn. They embrace failures and mistakes as an opportunity to learn, grow, and improve.
People with growth mindsets are more adaptable to new situations, willing to take risks, and, most importantly, believe that skills and talents can be improved through effort and practice and are not set in stone.
If asked to take pickleball lessons by a neighbor, the individual with the growth mindset might say, “I have never played any kind of racquet sport, so this sounds like a great way to learn!”
Five Strategies to Shift Your Mindset
Here are five things you can try to shift your mindset from a fixed to a growth mindset approach, ensuring you set the right example for students.
1. Set Realistic Goals
One reason many people stay stuck in a fixed mindset is by setting goals that are simply unrealistic. For example, if you have never participated in debate, it might be out of reach to consider putting your name forward to serve as the school’s debate team advisor.
However, setting a more realistic goal—such as assisting the current advisor and learning more about debate—would be doable and give you a “win” you need before setting your next goal, which might be to serve as the debate advisor in a few years, after you have more experience under your belt.
2. Focus on Gratitude
Negative thoughts cloud fixed mindsets, and nothing pushes those thoughts aside quite like intentional gratitude. Take time every day to think about what you are grateful for and, better still, write it down. This can lead to a mindset shift that results in a more positive attitude.
3. Celebrate Small Victories
Recognize that not every goal can be met overnight, and it is worth celebrating small victories along the way. Perhaps you celebrate after a long week of testing with a pedicure, or maybe you decide after making a breakthrough with one of your more “challenging” students that you will treat yourself to a night out with friends to celebrate.
By celebrating our own achievements, we also focus on the positive aspects of our lives rather than dwelling on shortcomings.
4. Analyze Failures—The Right Way
When you are unsuccessful at something, consider what you could try differently the next time instead of just feeling down about the failure. It is okay to be disappointed and even sad when we fail, but it is equally important to channel disappointment into action.
Consider what went wrong in your attempt to try a new activity, and think about what skills you could hone or sharpen to improve your chances of success. If your first time leading the debate team on your own was less than successful, ask yourself what you could do better next time.
Were there ways you could have better prepared the team? Did you spend enough time reviewing current events? What tools or resources do you need from your school administration to better serve the students and did you ask for them?
5. Find a Growth Mindset Partner
Many of us look to friends and family when we need to be held accountable for something. For example, we might make a weight loss pact with a sibling and check in weekly to compare notes on diet and exercise, or we might partner with a coworker to quit smoking once and for all.
You might consider reaching out to someone in your life, such as a colleague you trust, who can hold you accountable and provide constructive criticism as you shift to a growth mindset. It may seem intimidating to ask and it may feel like a challenge, which is all the more reason to try this!
A fixed mindset might be embarrassed to ask for support, but a growth mindset is open to receiving help and encouragement in all forms. You could check in with this person weekly to report any small victories, what you learned from setbacks, and what you felt most grateful for that week.
These small but intentional habits can help turn your fixed mindset into a growth mindset over time, and the shift will pay dividends in your life both inside and outside the classroom.