Over the past decade of working with kids, one of many lessons that I’ve had to learn is that they are often hyper-aware of their own abilities and inabilities, particularly what they seemingly cannot accomplish. Whether it be through not wanting to try something new because they think they won’t like it, being afraid of new challenges out of fear or anxiety of it not going well, or even criticizing themselves for their perceived lack of skill, kids often underestimate how much they can grow with a little bit of time and effort. But what I’ve also noticed over the past decade, is that kids are not alone in this. This is a massive mindset problem for adults too, in fact – people of all ages. We often view the world with a fixed mindset.
I, for example, know that I’m terrible at art. So in the movie of my life, I always portray myself as some hopeless art loser the moment I thrust myself into an art project. The reality of the situation is that I’m actually totally fine at drawing, painting…even dare I say…colouring…especially when given the right tools or the right level of instruction. In fact, if I had ever stepped out of my hopeless art loser shell and took say…a painting class, I likely would have developed useful knowledge, skills and maybe even new attitudes, that could have transformed my entire art mindset for life. Our abilities are not fixed in time, and can change with practice and help. So it’s important to approach any challenges or perceived inabilities with a growth mindset, and positive self-talk. That’s why in this article I’m going to be giving you tips and tricks to establishing a growth mindset. And cut the scene.
As the critical beings that we tend to be, we’re often hyper-aware of our imperfections and faults, to a fault. It’s all well and good to acknowledge all that needs to improve, but problems arise when we embrace our faults as part of our identity, without making any active strides to change. Instead of just accepting that we’re good at some things and bad at other things, we need to be willing to challenge our imperfections and work to improve all areas of our lives. We need to learn how to ask knowledgeable others for help when necessary, or even take the risk in attempting a difficult task all on our own. And if we receive feedback or even criticism, we need to challenge that feedback head-on, and use it as an opportunity to improve. No matter how hard, there is always a greater purpose in trying to accomplish something difficult, even if you fail. Think of how much better it will feel when you actually accomplish that thing, rather than your art loser life of not even bothering to try. Challenging our imperfections is the first step to winning the battle, before it even begins.
Besides, your inability to perform a task is far more mental than reality. If you focus on developing a positive attitude and mindset toward any task you strive to accomplish, you will likely perform far better. Instead of for example saying “I’m an awful swimmer”, challenge yourself and boisterously proclaim “I haven’t learned how to swim well, yet. But I want to learn.” Now that’s a growth mindset.
WORK TO IMPROVE
One of the best ways to actually inspire growth in your life is to actively work on the areas in which you need improvement. This is obvious to say, and chances are, you probably already do this with many areas of your life. But, let’s face it, you’ve likely written yourself off in so many other areas of your life, by telling yourself you can’t…or even worse…that you suck. How dare you. For instance, take my art example. I’ve always told myself that I’m bad at art. But have I made strides to improve? No. Instead, with every picture I’ve drawn over the past twenty-four years, I’ve told myself that I suck at art, as I’m drawing. What a healthy mindset.
So with my sarcasm in mind, part of “growing” is about actually “doing”. If you want to improve at something, like for example, all areas of your life, it’s not enough to read my articles or the work of self-help extraordinaries. You need to get out there and practice what that looks like.
That mean seem daunting to you. But you need to stop caring about what other people think of you. If anyone wants to judge you, they’ve instantly made themselves a worse person in that moment. And that’s their loss. Not yours. So believe in your abilities, and take the risk of accepting a challenge head-on, even when you know that you have no faith in your ability to accomplish a task. For years, I had this awful running joke where I would tell people that I’m “bad with hand stuff”, which is super true…to an extent. But I always give those type of handyman activities a go, even if the outcome ends up being embarrassing. Why? Because I don’t need the approval of others to make me feel good. If I do a good job on the task, I can be proud of my efforts. If I do a bad job on the task, it’s a valuable learning opportunity for next time. Having a growth mindset is all about getting to a place where you are completely okay with failure. It’s about getting to a place where you don’t see negative outcomes as embarrassing, but worthwhile experiences.
I may take hours more to set up a barbecue than the average guy. I may even break a few glow sticks along the way (don’t ask)…but chances are from doing those simple activities, I’ll have learned valuable skills, gained knowledge on barbecues and glow sticks, and be able to perform those tasks to a greater ability next time. People may laugh and ridicule me for how many glow-sticks I break (I swear it was only a third), but I don’t care, because I now know how to only break a sixth of them next time. That’s a growth mindset.
In helping you put this into action, consider setting yourself some goals. One thing that I like to do is to set myself a task to accomplish over the course of each week, centered around anything I know that I’m desperately terrible at….or that I haven’t learned how to do better yet ;). This keeps me accountable toward actual improvement. If I fail at my task, I don’t allow myself to move to a different goal until it’s been completed. This may be small like flossing every day of the week, or bigger, like going an entire week without spending a dime. One week I made an active effort to remember to say “how about you?” whenever I was asked a personal question. Another week I told myself I had to tell the truth one hundred percent of the time, focusing on complete transparency and honesty in all aspects of my life, including with myself. Regardless of what you improve, it’s important to remember it as something that can be improved with effort and time. Stop telling yourself “I’m terrible at __.”, and start telling yourself “I haven’t made an active effort to improve at __, and this week I’m going to prioritize my improvement.” Then set yourself a goal related to that quest, and get it done.
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