Developing A Growth Mindset

Do you ever think about your thinking? Have you considered how your ‘self-talk’ impacts your attitude, actions and your team? 

I remember telling myself chemistry was hard because my sister always said it was hard and I decided the teacher was ‘no good’. I went on to hate chemistry and failed, yet managed to do physics and maths fine. All those subjects required plenty of work and study but my enjoyment levels (and results!) in those classes were very different. 

Psychologist Carol Dweck, Stanford University professor, is known for her work on developing a growth mindset. She says, 

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.” 

“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.” 

I wonder if my chemistry results would have been different if I’d decided that chemistry might be hard and was going to require a big effort and lots of practice on my part but with some help, I could take on the challenge, just as I was doing in physics and maths. 

Through conversation and role modeling, a leader can assist in developing this attitude of a growth mindset in their team – thereby building resilience; increasing engagement, purpose and effectiveness; and promoting appropriate risk taking in learning. 

Our words become our self-talk 

Our words, both spoken and thought, impact our mindset and can help us go forward rather than stay stuck. Changing our words can change our mindset. 

Rather than, “This is too hard” we can say, “This is hard but with practice I can improve.” 

“I’m always shy” can change to, “I’m shy but I can manage to contribute one idea in this meeting.” 

“I can’t do this” could become “I can get help to have a go at this.” 

Watch this clip to better understand the concept. 

Fixed mindset or growth mindset? 

Where might you have a fixed or a growth mindset? It might be fixed about chemistry (I can relate to that!) and at the same time you might have a growth mindset about another area in your life (for example, improving fitness). 

Our mindset impacts all areas of life, including our spiritual beliefs and understanding. Where do you think you may be limiting your relationship with God by having a fixed mindset about Him? Think about some Bible characters where God has shown He is at work in people’s lives, moving them from a limited to a more open mindset about Him. 

Team Exercise 

As a team, you might like to consider some growth-mindset statements, sharing examples of each statement in an area of your life, be that personal, family, work or faith. 

“I am NOT AFRAID of a CHALLENGE!” What challenge am I currently facing? How is it making me feel?  

“I can TRAIN my BRAIN to do it!” What new thing am I learning? What do I need to do and how often do I practice to improve?  

“I can’t do it YET… with EFFORT I can!” What is a goal I am trying hard to achieve? What other resources would help me get there?   

“My MISTAKES help me GROW!” What mistake did I make this week? What did I learn from it?  

Remember, just as an athlete doesn’t turn up at the Olympics and win a gold medal overnight, so it is with us. As we take on a challenge, it takes time, training, effort and learning from our mistakes to make progress. As a leader you will have noted from the above exercise what your team members are facing and where you can encourage, resource, celebrate and pray with that person.  

Attitude has impact. Have fun as you become more aware of yours and your team members mindset and find ways to grow! 

Colleen Houghton 
Kids COACH coordinator, Community Mentoring, Crossway Lifecare