Change your mind to grow

These growth mindset tactics will help you recover faster from a setback and improve your ability to take criticism.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Can you change the way you think about yourself and your mindset? Or improve how you feel just by altering your thoughts?

Turns out... yes.

Your brain is malleable and constantly adjusting. This (thankfully) gives you the ability to learn and adapt throughout life. But, sometimes, your thought patterns get the better of you.

The fixed mindset

Throughout life, people have probably commented on your abilities — a parent saying you're smart, a teacher recognizing you were good at math, a boss calling you a hard worker.

Over time, these messages can "fix" how you see yourself. People call you smart, so you must be. Eventually, this view of yourself will slam into life's inevitable failures or criticisms. What happens then?

The fixed mind interprets common setbacks and mistakes as a personal shortcoming or lack of ability. This results in:

  • Negative emotions
  • Self-doubt
  • Blaming of others
  • Quickness to give up
  • Avoidance of challenges in the future

Fortunately, your mindset doesn't have to be fixed for life.

The growth mindset

Enter the growth mindset. Folks with this outlook understand that they can develop their abilities and adapt them to different situations.They know mistakes are inevitable, which helps them recover more quickly from setbacks.

The growth mindset values:

  • Effort to achieve goals
  • Opportunities to learn from mistakes
  • New challenges
  • Constructive feedback
  • Resilience in the face of setbacks

A growth mindset correlates with good physical and psychological health and is a strong predictor of achievement. Students with a growth mindset engage with school more fully and have better grades over time.

Cultivate a mindset for growth

Try applying any of these growth mindset tactics the next time you face a challenge.

  1. Understand that your brain is like a muscle — regular exercise makes it stronger. Give your brain new challenges. Feed it new knowledge and focus it for longer periods of time. These exercises create new and denser connections of neurons, which will make your brain more powerful. Also, ask yourself if you see challenges as an opportunity or a threat.
  2. Boost your confidence and recall times when you successfully learned something and increased your understanding. Was there a time when you didn't know how to do something, then practiced it and got better?
  3. Try a "Saying is believing" exercise. Identify a struggle — perhaps it's exercising, saving money or a project at work. Imagine writing a letter to someone struggling with the same issue. What advice would you give? Explaining how someone else can respond makes it easier to recall those thoughts and put them into action for yourself.
  4. Try evoking any of these thoughts to kick-start a growth mindset.
    • Think, "I am curious to learn what will happen if I try this challenge." This will keep you from focusing on a particular outcome or expectation.
    • If you aren't 100 percent successful at reaching a goal, try thinking: "I will try a different approach the next time I do this and apply what I learned the first go-round."
    • After achieving a goal or action, ask yourself what you did to make that happen. Note the process and mindset when entering into action.

Adjusting to a growth mindset will give you more resilience in the face of challenges and better outcomes throughout life. So accept some new opportunities in your life, and then learn and grow from them.

March 06, 2018 See more In-depth