10. Why is the growth mindset so important?

Having a growth mindset leads individuals to feel successful. Success is a continuous journey full of ideas, which are improved through the journey, persistence, passion, hard work, focus, and pushing myself out of my comfort zone (St. John, 2009). I relate having a growth mindset with success because if I accept a challenge it is because I believe I can and will get better at something. When an individual feels they are competing with others because they need to prove themselves they are better than others, they have a fixed mindset. On the contrary, when individuals believe that they are only successful when they have learned something new, they have a growth mindset. Throughout my teaching experience, which has not been long, I realized that I learn something new everyday. But this is a consequence of failing at something everyday. Failure became a constant in my career and personal life. When thinking of failure, most individuals place a negative connotation on it. However, failure leads individuals to find creative paths for them to reach success and reassuring having a growth mindset. In order to achieve this, individuals need to feel they are in a safe environment in which healthy relationships have become so important to well-being and safety that the brain creates a social engagement system to ensure the individual stays connected in good standing with others (Hammond, Z. 2015, p.73). Relationships with others are important because they build trust with one another. 

Richard St. John – Success – TED Talk

Most individuals think they have a growth mindset. However, I believe not everyone has a growth mindset in all areas of their lives. Although I enjoy learning new things and am now more open to failure, I also struggle with critical criticism. When someone is providing feedback all I hear is: “You are doing everything wrong”; “You are incapable of performing the job.”; “You wasted your time.” Such a fixed mindset, which is so focused on my perception of being judged when someone is providing feedback needs to change. The question is then, how can I improve such a fixed mindset? I truly believe that building trust and rapport, identifying fixed mindsets, setting goals, receiving feedback with a growth mindset. 

So, what is the plan to change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?

Designed by Luis Herrera

When humans are faced with an enormous challenge that we do not feel we have any agency over, our mind can do a little trick to protect us. Such protection is shown as a fixed mindset by thinking “Maybe it is not that important. There is nothing I can do about it, so why am I trying to do something.” Change is not easy for human beings. But change is always happening and we need to accept it. The consequences of Covid-19 impacted the economy, education, businesses, amongst others. In the educational field, my teaching was impacted by having to find new ways in which I could engage students. I developed an innovation plan in which a blending learning approach could lead students to have more control and agency over their own learning (see Innovation Plan). The plan requires all stakeholders (students, teachers, administration, parents) to change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. I have identified 4 steps that I will use to accomplish this task. The steps can be applied to any other situation.

The first step is to build trust and rapport in the environment. Trust-building cannot be sped up. The process requires interactions amongst the different stakeholders on a daily basis. By being persistent with this first step, stakeholders will start feeling cared for (Hammond, 2015, p. 77). When I listen to others, it gives them the sense of respect for what they are saying and shows I am interested in what they think and have to say. I might not agree with everything the other person says, but I can seek to understand so that I can analyze the situation from their perspective. Applying this to my innovation plan, I think that teachers tend to trust others who demonstrate they have the skill and knowledge to support them (Hammond, 2015, p. 79). The stakeholders will trust me when I demonstrate the ability to show them how to integrate the blended learning approach effectively in their classes. My competence as a teacher will allow them to feel supported and cared for in the process. I can build trust by being authentic, vulnerable and sync with all stakeholders. Building trusting relationships will allow individuals to change from a fixed to a growth mindset by providing support along the process.

A second step is identifying your fixed mindsets. Carol Dweck (2006) states that a fixed mindset orientation is relatively inflexible, and it can restrict people to certain limits. People with a fixed mindset are eager to receive feedback that relates to their ability but when it is constructive they get their shield out and become reluctant to know their gaps. However, the main purpose of having a growth mindset is stretching their minds and receiving feedback that will build on their skills to become better at something (Dweck, 2006, p. 18). For me, my goal is to identify my fixed mindset, reflect upon it and change how I express myself with thoughts that are focused on growing and learning. For example, when designing my innovation plan, I felt frustrated when students were not actively participating in my lessons. I thought they were lazy and disrespectful. However, I did not stop and reflect upon my own teaching to identify what I was doing wrong. Their response to the instructional activities was “constructive feedback” that was hard to process and accept. When this happens now, I know that there is something going on and I need to consider their perspective. Identifying the fixed mindset might be challenging as it is not easy to accept the reality. But, my passion and commitment to become a better educator allows me to stop, reflect, and change my own practices.

Grit: The power of passion and perseverance – Step 3

Changing my fixed mindset is not an easy process but it is one of the most powerful things I can do to feel successful in life. Having a growth mindset assumes that challenge and failure are springboards for stretching my abilities. In order to accomplish this, a person needs to identify and set goals that they want to accomplish. Such a process helps them feel successful. But what happens if the individual does not meet the goal? People with a growth mindset will see failure as an opportunity to learn and try again. This is where the word “Yet” is important. As a teacher, I focus on the process or journey rather than the outcome. It is satisfying to know how much you learn after working on a project or task. For example, in my innovation plan, I felt frustrated several times at thinking that the steps I wanted to take were not going to be approved by my principal. I wanted praise and what I got was constructive feedback that helped me grow and become a better educator. Setting goals help me be more persistent with what I want to achieve. Although not everything was approved when I showed my principal the innovation plan, the process empowered me to be more persistent and passionate about what I was doing. Grit comes down to my habits and how consistent, and dedicated I am with my daily practice (Duckworth-Lee, 2009). The result of grit is the stamina needed to continue working hard and achieving your goals at a long term.

The last step in the changing mindset process is receiving feedback with a growth mindset. Feedback is a major area where a growth mindset proves worthwhile. The issue most individuals have with feedback is the sense of personal attack felt when it is provided. Such a fixed-mindset block individuals from building a growth mindset. It is not easy to hear where my work falls short, but I understand that the feedback is not attacking my identity but is helping me become a better professional. The more I am exposed to receiving feedback, the more receptive I will be and the fixed-mindset thinking of shutting down because I am reluctant to hear bad news will lessen.

Changing a fixed mindset to a growth mindset takes time and lots of effort from each individual. Building trusting relationships with the stakeholders in your community, identifying fixed-mindset attitudes, setting goals and receiving feedback with a growth mindset will empower individuals to successfully change from a fixed to a growth mindset.

References

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

Duckworth-Lee, Angela (2009). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance  [Video]. TED Conferences https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance/transcript?referrer=playlist-what_is_success#t-178457

Hammond, Z. (2015). Culturally responsive teaching and the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin  

St. John, R. (2009, June). Success is a continuous journey [Video]. TED conferences. https://www.ted.com/talks/richard_st_john_8_secrets_of_success?referrer=playlist-what_is_success

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