Posted in D.I.Y's and Advice, mental health

Growth Mindset

A step-by-step guide for the novice

Hi again everyone!

It’s been about a week since I was last able to post. It’s the middle of the summer, and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the changes that I’ve made and growing I’ve done up till my halfway point in college. Overall, I can honestly say I’ve become a much healthier and happier person.  I realized I wouldn’t have been able to do this if I hadn’t adopted Growth Mindset. It truly changed my life for the better. I thought I might write this step-by-step guide for anyone who hasn’t heard about it before.

There has always been a debate about whether or not people can change. I’ve always believed that while people cannot fundamentally change, everyone changes through maturity. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that if change is inevitable, you should be able to control how you change- you should use the change you know is coming in order to grow. In order to grow and become a better person, you need to know that it is possible for you to become better: to become good at the things you might have once been bad at, and to improve on the things you are already good at.

In order to show you the psychological benefits of adopting growth mindset, I’m going to take you on a journey. The first step of your journey is going to be setting a goal- a metaphorical “destination”, if you will.  This destination is going to be an activity which you consider yourself to be unskilled at. It can be absolutely anything! Maybe it’s writing papers for class, or maybe its organizing your stuff. Maybe its playing softball (that would definitely be mine!), or maybe its getting yourself to open up to people. Whatever it is, I’m going to help you get there.

Write down this place you want to get to and save it for later. Now, it’s time to take your second step

2. Conquering fear

 

The second step to adopting a growth mindset is getting rid of fear. One of the biggest reasons why people shy away from keeping on the things they might not be skilled at is the fear of making mistakes or of embarrassing themselves. I’ll be the first to admit that making mistakes is definitely embarrassing, as is being wrong. It causes you stressed, maybe an occasional episode of sadness, but think about it: is 30-seconds of embarrassment going to hurt you in the long-run? And who else besides you is going to remember your mistakes? As one of the clumsiest people in the world, I know what it’s like to make mistakes all the time. Though it took me a while, I realized that no matter how good I get at something or how smart I become, I’m bound to have my fair share of stupid moments. And that’s okay, because every time I make a mistake, I know I have an opportunity to learn how not to make that mistake again.

Here is how you are going to get rid of your fear: take 30 seconds, and write down all the things you are afraid of doing while improving on this skill. Are you afraid of getting hurt, physically or emotionally? Are you afraid of getting stressed out or getting more upset about this than you already are?

Once you are done writing, take a 30-second breathing break, and then look at your paper again. These things that you have written down are what is holding you back. But if you take a closer look: all of these things are consequences you can conquer- mountains you can climb! You can avoid getting hurt if you find ways to protect yourself, and you can avoid getting stressed out if you choose to take small steps towards your goal instead of large and drastic changes. All of your obstacles are things that you can find ways to work with.

 

3. Talk about it

Talking about your struggles doesn’t necessarily mean finding a support group- although if this is something you think you need, you should go for it! But something I’ve found to be true for myself is that talking about your struggles helps you find ways to get better at them. If you are bad at the certain subject, get someone who might be more skilled at it, and tell them what you understand. Teach them what you know, and then let them teach you. If you don’t get it, argue about it. Keep yourself talking! There will be times when you might feel dumb, but remember, the only way to get to a destination you don’t have a pre-determined path for is by stumbling across a path you design for yourself. That’s exactly what you do when you let yourself make errors, and you let other people convince you how and why to fix them.

I’ll give you a personal example of how I know this works: I’ve always known myself as someone who struggles to speak out, even when she really really wants to, and even when she knows that it’s the right thing to do. Due to my family’s Indian culture, I learned that sometimes it’s better to stay reserved than to speak out, especially when speaking to elders. It can be perceived as disrespectful to disagree and argue, even if you firmly believe that what the elder is saying is wrong. In Indian culture, an elder has earned the right to speak what he or she believes due to his or her age, but kids and young adults have yet to get there. For a long time, I believed in this custom, and even when I had an opinion that I really wanted to say, or I might have been offended by what someone said to me, I stayed quiet because I believed I had not earned the right to speak my mind like my elders. But when I entered college, things changed drastically; I realized that it was only by talking and arguing and, most importantly, by admitting the mistakes in my thinking and argument, that I actually got to learn.

4. Make Room for a Change of Plans

This is one of the most difficult things to do, but it is a necessity if you are determined to get better at something.  One of the most frustrating things about life is that plans almost never go exactly how you want them to. Something will go wrong, and instead of getting discouraged or stressed, realize that this will happen, and plan an alternative.

When I was applying to colleges, I had one in particular I really wanted to go to. I fought with my parents until the very end, until they finally managed to convince me that going to a local school was a better option for me. At my dream school, I had my path all planned out, and I was convinced that I wouldn’t change it. But because I wasn’t able to follow this plan, I had to find alternatives so that I could study the things I was interested in through different programs at the college I ended up going to. Looking back on my dreams and goals then and my dreams and goals now, I can tell you that a lot has changed, and so from first-hand experience, I can tell you that going off-course can end up being a good thing. 

5. Last Step! Treat Yourself with Kindness and Understanding

You might be thinking of course  you can treat yourself with understanding who understands you better than yourself, right? One thing that I’ve definitely come to realize is that each person is their own worst critic, and because of that, sometimes the hardest person to understand and empathize with can be you yourself, because you expect yourself to do better. A key aspect of adopting growth mindset is knowing that you might not always meet your own expectations, and when you don’t, instead of blaming yourself, you need to take a step back and look at why you didn’t meet your own expectations. Then, set small goals so that you can correct your steps, and so that you can be better prepared for the next task at hand. Remember that you can only be as strong as you allow yourself to be- how can you be the best version of yourself if you beat yourself down for your mistakes?

Takeaway

The key to conquering the world isn’t taking big steps, but taking smaller, more carefully planned steps. Be sure of yourself, and be sure of your ability to grow. If you set your mind to being the best version of yourself, don’t get in your own way of doing so. 

 

Author:

I am an undergraduate student, I am an aspiring psychology and global health research professional, and I'm devoted to spreading the message that Mindset Matters.

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