“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”
– Chinese Proverb
What if you could think your way to a better life? Well, experts and emerging theories say you absolutely can. Consider this scenario, for example. Your child is learning to ride their bike, but they keep falling over and scraping themselves up. Finally, they tell you: “I’ll never be able to do this!” To which you reply: “Yes, you will, just not yet – you need some more practice.” In this instance, the child is exhibiting a fixed mindset, that they’ll NEVER be able to ride the bike, while you are demonstrating and teaching them to have a growth mindset, that they just need to have more patience and practice to become proficient. Although a simple example, it demonstrates why shifting from a fixed to a growth mindset is so important. If you had told them, “You’re right, you’ll never do it,” not only is that hurtful to the child’s development, but it’s also not acknowledging the fact that as humans, we all have the capacity to grow and change. Therefore, an important starting point is understanding the difference between a fixed and growth mindset so that you can begin to view challenges as opportunities, remember it’s about the journey, not the destination, learn from others’ mistakes, and ultimately take ownership over your new mindset. So, today, let’s dive into 5 ways to adjust from a fixed to a growth mindset so that you can fire your old self to make way for your new, best self and live your best life.
1. Understand the Difference
We often hear that growth is a mindset, but what does that really mean? Understanding the difference between a fixed and growth mindset is an important place to start. Having a fixed mindset means that you believe basic qualities, such as intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. These types of people spend their time documenting their qualities rather than developing them, and it also leads to a belief that talent alone creates success – with no effort needed. On the other hand, people with a growth mindset believe they can develop these basic qualities through dedication and hard work – and that brains and talent are just the jumping-off points. Right off the bat, you can see how a growth mindset would contribute to a person’s success, whereas a fixed mindset can hold them back. Harboring a fixed mindset keeps you stuck in the viewpoint that you can’t better yourself and that your abilities can’t or aren’t worth developing over time. Whereas those who shift to a growth mindset are the type of people who read the word ‘impossible’ but see ‘I’m possible’ instead. In other words, with a growth mindset, the sky is the limit to what you can achieve through skill development, believing in yourself, and, most importantly, executing your plans. Understanding the difference between a fixed and growth mindset is the first step in cultivating your own growth mindset and beginning to mold yourself into the best version of yourself and loving the life you live.
2. View Challenges as Opportunities
One thing that sets apart people with a fixed mindset and people with a growth mindset is how they view challenges. Although it can be difficult, learning to view challenges as opportunities is one of the most integral parts of shifting from a fixed to a growth mindset. Remember, the opportunity wouldn’t present itself to you if you weren’t ready for it, and oftentimes opportunities are disguised as challenges to push you out of your comfort zone and where you need to be. As Ginni Rometty, former CEO of IBM, stated, “Growth and comfort do not co-exist.” In other words, growth only occurs when you learn to exist outside of your usual comfort zone, and there are a few ways to help yourself become more adaptable to change and discomfort. For example, when faced with a significant challenge that we can’t overcome right away, we can often feel like we are failing. However, those who successfully integrate a growth mindset change their thinking from ‘I’m failing’ to ‘I’m learning.’ Although this sounds like an extremely simple shift, it’s actually a game-changer. When you tell your brain you’re failing, it implies there is no room to succeed, and you’ve accepted that you can’t do it. Whereas telling yourself you’re still learning opens space for future success thanks to your abilities and hard work. Therefore, people who embrace lifelong learning have a completely different mindset and outlook on life (growth mindset) than those who are complacent and like to think ‘well, this is it’ (fixed mindset). Beginning to view challenges as opportunities is one way to start adjusting from a fixed to a growth mindset and ultimately work towards firing your old self to create your new, best self.
3. Remember it’s About the Journey, Not the Destination
Often if people can’t see tangible change or results right away, they get frustrated and slip back into their old ways. However, we need to remember it’s about the journey, not the destination. Just like Winnie the Pooh said, “Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved.” Although inevitably you will have problems to solve throughout your days, it becomes so much easier to approach the things life throws at you with a growth mindset. So, remember to emphasize growth over speed; it’s not important how fast you got there but rather the journey you took to arrive where you currently are. Another way to really focus on the journey rather than the destination is to integrate the word ‘yet’ into your everyday vocabulary. For example, let’s go back to the bike example where your child is learning to ride and tells you they’ll NEVER be able to ride properly. This is the perfect instance to say to them they just haven’t learned to ride properly YET. Using ‘never’ implies exactly that, that it won’t ever happen, while using ‘yet’ implies that it will inevitably happen, but it’s through learning and practice that it can be achieved. And, honestly, if they mastered riding their bike right off the bat, there would be no triumph in eventually overcoming the obstacle and taking the training wheels completely off. Furthermore, with you demonstrating a growth mindset by using the word ‘yet’ it shows you have complete faith they will master the task, and this belief from you that they learn as well means they can try to enjoy the journey more as they look to overcome this obstacle or reach the destination. By using the word ‘yet’ and remembering the journey is more important than the destination, it becomes easier to start molding yourself into the best version of yourself so you may live your best life.
4. Learn from Others’ Mistakes
I think one of the most underrated things when cultivating a growth mindset is learning from others’ mistakes. We often don’t do it because we can’t see the parallels in our own situation or think we won’t make the same mistakes. Well, news flash, we all make mistakes, and a lot of them would and could be avoided if we paid more attention to one another. It also doesn’t have to be a straight-up observation of someone else’s situation; sometimes, learning from others’ mistakes comes from asking for honest feedback, which is another thing many people struggle with. I think we just don’t want to have to face the things we know to be true, which is why as the brutally honest friend, I can sometimes run into trouble, especially if I give unwarranted, honest feedback (sorry, besties). I also believe that many of us are innately afraid of change, however, “Life is growth, and growth demands change” (Verusha Singh). Let’s pause over this for a second. This quote implies that no matter what happens, growth and change are inevitable. Therefore, this perspective ultimately challenges anyone with a fixed mindset and demands that we realize the only option is to evolve. Once again, it’s about comfort and complacency. Ever notice the ones with a fixed mindset that won’t do anything to change their situation are the ones who complain the loudest? Take whoever came to mind when you read that, and ask yourself: would you want to become like them? Sometimes learning from others’ mistakes is a lesson in what not to do so that you can work towards becoming the best version of yourself and loving the life you live.
5. Take Ownership of your New Attitude
Once you have learned to integrate some of these strategies and adjust your mindset from fixed to growth, it’s time to take ownership of your new attitude. At first, some people may not understand why you’re suddenly all about setting goals, crushing them, and working towards becoming a better you. Still, one thing to keep in mind is that you should surround yourself with people who will make your future self better – not the ones potentially holding you back. The ones who don’t serve you and the person you’re trying to become might be confused or uncomfortable with your transformation. In this case, remind them that “Whatever makes you uncomfortable is your biggest opportunity for growth” (Bryant McGill). Go one step further than taking ownership over your new mindset and take it upon yourself to spread this mindset to these friends. Join them in their journey from changing words like ‘never’ to ‘not yet’ and watch as they see everything shift from ‘impossible’ to ‘I’m possible.’ As you proudly wear your growth mindset like a set of armor, it will not only solidify your new attitude but potentially incite change in those around you. I don’t have kids, but something that would be important to me to pass along to my hypothetical children would be utilizing a growth mindset and working to detach them from a fixed mindset. My goal would be to teach through actions, and once they had begun mastering a growth mindset, I would take great pride in watching them instill the same gift in others. If we could all proudly take ownership over our growth mindsets, I wonder what the world would look like today? While that’s an impossible (or ‘I’m possible’?) question, what we can do is cultivate our own growth mindset and pass it along to those around us so that we may all begin to fire our old self to begin molding our new, best selves.
A final quote to leave you with by John Maxwell summarizes much of what we’ve discussed here: “If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” Thus, to create your ultimate life, you must be ready to undergo growth and change, usually stemming from challenges or obstacles placed in your way. When you are faced with these hurdles and have a fixed mindset, it can seem hopeless and like you will never be able to truly accomplish your goal or become who you want to be. However, once you begin to understand the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset, you can start to adjust your thinking, and it will become easier to see these challenges as opportunities rather than hardships. Furthermore, you must remember it’s about the journey, not the destination, and that learning to integrate ‘yet’ instead of words that implicate failure will take you far. On that note, being open to learning from the mistakes of others or listening to their honest feedback is challenging yet crucial in order to become your best self, and taking ownership over your new mindset can, in turn, help others cultivate their own growth mindset. Ultimately, integrating these 5 techniques to adjust from a fixed to a growth mindset is critical in order to fire your old self to make way for your new, best self while remembering Life’s Short, Love the Life You Live!