One of the things we look at in the first term of our school projects is the Growth Mindset. This is a really important tool that develops resilience, and we want all of our young people and volunteers to know about it. We’ve loved talking about it, and wanted to share it with you too…
Carol Dweck, a Psychologist and researcher, found that if you believe that you can always grow your brain, character and abilities, you are more likely to succeed in life. Even more likely than if you score high on intelligence tests!
Having this belief, that you can always grow, is called having a growth mindset.
If you have a growth mindset, you know that you need to practice to become good at something. If you get negative feedback, you know that you can use that feedback to grow, and that feedback doesn’t say something about you that you can’t change. With a growth mindset when you make a mistake, you can understand that mistakes can actually help you grow.
Having the opposite belief, that we all have a ‘fixed amount’ of ability and there’s little we can do to change, is called having a fixed mindset.
If you have a fixed mindset that you are not smart, then you may not try as hard. However, if you have a fixed mindset that you are smart, then you will do well… until you come across a challenge that you can’t initially do, then you may start to think that you are not smart enough.
Having a growth mindset means that you are more likely to adapt and try hard to keep growing and learning. Interestingly, researchers have also found that this growth mindset itself can be developed (“have a growth mindset about the growth mindset!”)
In our projects, we have been talking about neuroscience and how neural connections are formed. We visualized our synapses (connections between neurons) being created while we learn completely new tasks, or while we do Maths exercises. We also talked about the power of the word ‘yet’: I can’t do something right now, but that just means I can’t do it yet!
We learned that our brain is like a muscle. It grows stronger with exercise, and lazier without it. Nobody expects anyone to be able to run a marathon or lift a heavy weight without practicing, but just like you can grow those muscles, you can also grow your brain. This can help young people achieve better results in school, but also to make meaningful relationships, pursue their goals and dream big dreams for their lives.
The young people and the mentors in our projects all thought of ways they can grow in the growth mindset, for example by making reminders for themselves to ask their teachers and friends for help when they struggle with English. They learned not to say that they aren’t good at English, but to be encouraged that asking for help will make them learn more.
What does this mean for you? Will you believe the neuroscientists who have found that you actually can improve in what you always say you aren’t good at? Maybe it’s time you learned that thing you’ve always wanted to learn but haven’t…yet?
For more information on the growth mindset and how it can be developed, you can read this study from 2012 by David Yeager and Carol Dweck