Written by Sarah Loddick, Shifties Contributor
Imagine if you had support and encouragement from your very own personal cheerleader and coach every single day. Wouldn’t that be great? But impossible, right? You can’t have that every single day – can you?
What about when something goes really badly wrong, you don’t expect to feel that support then do you? Well maybe you can, if you stop looking outside for this support and instead learn to find it internally. This is what the growth mindset can feel like, and yes, YOU can have a growth mindset too. Even if you’ve tried it before and couldn’t get it to work, you CAN get there.
I know you haven’t given up on your mindset because you’re reading this. But maybe you’re frustrated and finding it hard to keep the growth mindset you want.
You might even be looking at those around you who seem to have it all together and be feeling like a bit of a failure.
That’s OK, I‘m going to give you some hope; some knowledge about your brain so you can BELIEVE the change is possible for you, and some tips to get you started on creating, growing and caring for the mindset you want, so you too can have your own personal cheer leader.
I remember when I first started studying mindset I got so frustrated at myself for constantly slipping into bad thoughts and negative thinking. Now I know the secret is to accept that your mind is incredibly complex and that life is also complex and often difficult, so the important thing is to keep trying. Notice when you slip, but don’t beat yourself up – just keep trying, because practice pays off.
Tip 1 keep returning
Remember, this is simple but not easy. No one keeps a growth mindset all the time in every situation. Just keep coming back to it – it gets easier.
I’m assuming you know a bit about mindset already. There is so much information freely available online. Dr Carol Dweck was the first to talk about growth mindset and I love her book ‘Mindset’ because it’s full of examples that help you see the powerful benefit of a growth mindset. I’ve read her entire book at least three times and continue to dip in occasionally because it’s important to keep feeding your brain with the positive benefits of a growth mindset.
Tip 2 learn and grow
Fill your brain with the information it needs to believe in the growth mindset and know what it looks and feels like for you. Find a book, an article, a podcast or a TEDx that works for you. Feed your brain regularly, even if it’s with the same information.
The most basic principle of the growth mindset is that ability is not fixed or merely inherited, rather it can be developed with hard work and effort. It doesn’t mean that nothing is inherited, or that everyone can become a world champion sprinter if they just tried harder. This is an important point because it sometimes stops people from believing in the principle. The principle is that ability can be developed, and so can your mindset. Growth mindset is also about the fact that we have to try new things if we want to learn, and that we have to expect and accept that we will make mistakes so we can learn from them.
Tip 3 repeat – and repeat again
Accept that making mistakes is part of a growth mindset, that maybe they aren’t the disaster we think they are. They are a learning opportunity.
The human brain is truly remarkable. We still don’t understand everything about how it works, but let’s concentrate on what we do know. Your brain is constantly changing. If you were able to look at the surface you wouldn’t see change, but the cells inside the brain are constantly communicating with each other, and they do this by creating lots and lots of pathways. Take a memory as an example. When we have an experience, a special pathway is created in the brain, so when we recall that memory, the pathway reactivates and we remember the event. So literally, every time you experience something, a new pathway is created – mind-boggling isn’t it?!
When you’re struggling to stay in a growth mindset it’s often because you haven’t used it enough for a while. But you can always clear it and start using it again, or make a new path – it’s never too late.
Now think about a time you tried to memorise something, or a
favourite children’s story you read so many times that you knew it off by heart. The common feature is repetition. If we repeat something over and over again eventually the memory becomes really solid and in some cases permanent. This happens because every time we use the special pathway in our brain it becomes stronger and clearer.
Imagine a path through a field. The path stays clear if enough people use it regularly, or if someone takes care of it and clears away the weeds. If the path isn’t used or cared for it becomes overgrown, and may over time become unusable and invisible. Your brain is exactly like this. Think of your thoughts as paths. The more you use a particular path the easier it is to use it, the stronger and clearer it becomes. If you don’t use it, it may
become invisible and unusable.
Tip 4 practice gratitude daily
Having a growth mindset requires a series of positive thoughts. Think of your positive thoughts as pathways. Use them regularly to keep them clear and easy to find. By thinking of three things you are grateful for every single day for a few weeks, those grateful positive thoughts become well worked and start to happen naturally without you even trying! Start or re-start now!
Finally, lets consider the biggest enemy to your growth mindset. It isn’t what is going on in your life, it is what’s going on in your mind. It’s called the ‘monkey mind’ or the ‘chimp mind’. There’s a great book on this topic, ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Professor Steve Peters. Peters explains that your chimp is fast and powerful and seeks basic pleasures. It doesn’t like hard work and gets bored easily; it doesn’t like to be ignored. So if you try and fight your chimp, you will lose and it will create a lot of noise and chaos. But, if you can learn to recognise it, understand what upsets it and how to calm it down, your chimp can become a powerful ally.
So what is your chimp mind? It’s the negative voices or thoughts in your head. It can manifest in different ways. When you want to get up early to go for a walk it might tell you that you’re tired, its cold outside and you need more sleep.
If you do stay in bed it might tell you that you’re lazy and a complete failure, it might even remind you that you’re constantly failing at getting up early so you might as well stop trying!
It’s your chimp that tells you that mistake you made was a disaster so you should never try it again!
We all have a chimp mind, its totally normal. You may not be aware of it, but it’s there influencing how you think and feel and therefore what you do. Remember you can’t fight it, so ‘telling’ it to shut up simply won’t work. You also can’t ignore it, it wants attention.
Tip 5 learn to tame your chimp
Don’t try and ignore the chimp’s negative thoughts. It isn’t trying to harm you but it doesn’t share your goals and ambitions. If it tells you not to get up for a walk because you’re tired, then remind it that you almost always feel tired in the morning, but the walk will make you feel better and ultimately give you more energy. If it tells you you’re a failure for not getting up early, remind it that there’s always tomorrow and sometimes taking a rest is what is required.
I know this might feel strange at first, and it might be hard. But remember your brain and the pathways it creates? If this is the first time you’re trying this it will feel hard, but it becomes easier and a stronger pathway the more you do it.
Hopefully you’re feeling optimistic and ready to create and grow your mindset! Read through the tips again and get started by either filling your brain with more information (remember this article is one so you’ve technically started already) or think of three things you can be grateful for. You can start very small by looking to nature.
Good luck! And please let me know how you get on and if you have any questions or thoughts to share.