December 4, 2020
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The wonders of a growth mindset

By: Steven Campbell
February 14, 2020

We have already passed January 10th, the second Friday of the month.

The second Friday of January is the day (aptly called “Quitter’s Day) when many people lose their enthusiasm for the resolutions they have set for the New Year.

This is according to Strava, a top social networking app for runners and cyclists. It has designed an algorithm that identifies the date most athletes’ activity drops well below regular levels; the second Friday in January. 

Source: Tirachard Kumtanom/Pexels

About half of Americans set New Year’s Resolutions, and my dear reader, the interest in setting a goal is never enough to meet it! 

It is all in your mindset!

Carol Dweck is a psychologist at Stanford University who studies motivation and achievement. 

She has found that the mindset we adopt largely determines who will succeed and who will not. 

And it is fixed mindset can set us back. 

A fixed mindset believes that personal characteristics are unchangeable

A fixed mindset believes that people are born with a set amount of ability or capacity. 

A fixed mindset believes that winning is the goal, but failure defines who they are overall. 

The growth mindset, on the other hand, according to Dweck, people who hold a growth mindset are better off. 

A growth mindset considers new experiences and challenges as opportunities to improve and learn. 

A growth mindset focuses on the process instead of the outcome. 

A growth mindset believes that valuable skills can be learned through effort and investment. 

A large-scale study of all 10th-grade public school students in Chile (n > 160,000) conducted by lead researcher Susana Claro found that adolescents who believed that intelligence can be developed performed at higher levels on standardized tests of language and math abilities. 

A growth mindset can also improve our future!

In one such study, researchers trained an NCAA Division I athletes to adopt a growth mindset. Compared to a control group, these athletes were, on average:

Less stressed

Handled their own feelings of disappointment better

Had more energy to throw into the game. 

Of course, growth mindset interventions are not equally effective among all people. 

Indeed, they tend to be more effective among those who likely face more obstacles. For example, in a highly powered (n = 6,320), pre-registered study led by David Yeager, lower-achieving adolescents benefited more from a growth mindset intervention when they attended schools that had minimal compared to ample resources to prevent academic failure. 

A growth mindset is more than just a way to shave off a few seconds from the timer or nail another three-pointer. 

Bethany Hamilton demonstrates this. When she was13, a 14-foot shark swam up and bit her on the surfboard. They rushed to the hospital and discovered that Bethany lost 60 percent of the blood in her body, and most of her left arm was gone. But four weeks after the attack, Bethany was back on her board surfing again. Within the year, Bethany won first place in the Australian National Scholastic Surfing Association Competition.

To most people, this would have been a career-ender, and it could have ended Bethany’s career shortly after it began. But that didn’t happen—in part because Bethany holds a growth mindset. As said by Bethany herself, “whatever your situation might be, set your mind to whatever you want to do and put a good attitude in it, and I believe you can succeed.” 

How to adopt a growth mindset.

So how do we adopt a growth mindset? 

Dweck advises against fixating on perfection but instead coaches people to adopt the mantra, “becoming is better than being.” 

What does this mean? Don’t hold Olympic-level expectations of ourselves if we’re just starting out. 

Instead, track improvement over time. If your goal is to meditate daily, start off trying for once a weekend and once during the week. Hold focus for as long as it is comfortable and scale up to longer bouts with each passing week. Acknowledge effort. Celebrate when, for a few weeks consecutively, enlightenment came every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Over time the stamina and strength will come. 

If a month or two has passed since the turn of a new year or reckoning day has arrived in some other way and it feels like progress has come to a halt, remember that it is never too late to start working toward those goals once again. The journey toward a happier and healthier self is one that takes patience and persistence.