I want to talk today about the idea of expanding your growth mindset. It is such an exciting time when it comes to neuroscience. There is much research going into how our brains work. One of the most interesting discoveries made recently is the idea of neuroplasticity.
Our brain is capable of shifting and changing, not just the way we think about things, but completely changing the structures in our brain and rewiring how our minds work. This is one of the possibilities that opens up when we consciously decide to do something different than we have been. And, neuroplasticity is the passage through which we can open ourselves up to a growth mindset.
Think of everything you think, feel, believe, and have learned. All of this impacts the way your brain has developed. By noticing what it is you focus your attention on, you can begin to expand how your brain functions and the mindset that governs that functioning. This requires some conscious attention.
I cover this idea in chapter five of my book, and there is also important work by scientists who have researched this phenomenon of changing our minds. This brings us to mindset. I believe that this neuroplasticity is the doorway to changing our mindset. StoryJacking, Chapter 5 – The Magic of Your Mind.
In her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck discusses the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. For example, I had a bit of a fixed mindset around the IQ test. I thought that the number given to you after you do the test is just who you are as far as intelligence goes. In the book, Dweck describes how the first modern IQ test was developed around 1900 by Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon. The purpose of the test was to look at how children learn. A child could take this test, and it would determine the child’s learning style. The hope was that children could be taught according to their unique learning styles.
A distinction that Binet made is that if two children had grown up differently this would impact their scores. For example, a child who has grown up in an environment lacking in experiences will have a radically different score than a child who has been very mentally stimulated and had many experiences. Fundamentally, many different factors are going into how “smart” we are. Reading this changed my own mindset on the idea that intelligence might be fixed.
There are areas where I’m incredibly bright, and areas where I’m not. I’m very good at tasks like figuring out puzzles, building things, and creative pursuits. On the other hand, I find myself struggling at other things, for instance, anything that involves long strings of numbers.
An IQ number isn’t an across the board number either. It’s just one of many indicators of how we learn and what our skill set might be. It can help us learn where we may need to develop a bit more. I shifted my mindset from believing the IQ number was a fixed level of intelligence, to seeing IQ as only one indicator of growth opportunities. Mind blown.
What is different for people who have a growth mindset? You may have people around you who see a problem, and instead of thinking of it as a problem, they see it as an opportunity. They see the fun in obstacles, instead of thinking the task isn’t possible to accomplish. They see each failure as an opportunity to learn.
I experience this with cooking. Sometimes a recipe isn’t quite what I want, so I tweak it and add a little something or take something out. Sometimes the result is regrettable, but I make different changes next time that turn out much better because I learned from the first time. Eventually, the dish turns out completely perfect. It’s really an idea that there isn’t a WRONG way to do things. Failure is not really a failure, it’s a stepping stone to something learned.
5 Key Elements to Expand Your Growth Mindset
- Begin looking at problems as opportunities.
- Be open to the idea that there may be more than one perspective and be curious.
- Stay radically curious and reflect upon yourself.
- Develop grit, stick-to-it-ness, and the ability to delay gratification.
- Take ownership of your attitude.
Our mindset impacts our experience of the world. It impacts our relationship to the situations we find ourselves in. While there are many things in the world beyond our control, we can change our minds and think about them differently. We can, not only, change our minds but the very structure of our brain. Shifting from absolutism to openness to possibilities.
I would LOVE to hear from YOU!
- What is something you are ready to expand your thinking about?
- How might opening your mind and seeing other possibilities improve your life?
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article originally posted on Dec 2, 2019. Updated April 23, 2023.