I don’t know about you, but I get pretty restless this time of year. We’re about halfway through winter and I am ready for it to be over. Like all the plants buried under snow and ice outside, I feel like my creative energy is finally ready to move out of its dormant phase and bust into the sunshine with new projects and plans. But I’ve learned there’s some important prep work to be done before all that bustin’ out happens. It all comes down to cultivating a growth mindset to see those new ideas to fulfillment. Why? Because having the right mindset can be the deciding factor that lets you overcome obstacles and achieve success.
Please note: Since I originally wrote this post in January 2023, it has been updated to include some contributed content. View full disclosure policy.
What is a growth mindset?
Having a growth mindset means recognizing opportunities to develop your knowledge, skills, or abilities when you come up against obstacles. You don’t let failure define you. Instead, you believe you can become better with time and effort.
Think about the last time you wanted to try something. Did you actually try it? Or did you let limiting thoughts hold you back? If you catch yourself thinking things like “Why should I bother trying when others are so much better?” or “If I mess this up, everyone will think I’m stupid,” those are lies told by a fixed mindset. The first step to changing that internal dialogue is to recognize it for what it is.
When you catch those thoughts trying to hold you back, take a moment to rewrite them from a growth mindset point of view. The more you practice this, the more you train your brain to think this way automatically.
7 Steps to Strengthen Your Growth Mindset
1. Ground yourself with confidence.
You want to have a success mindset? Blast through challenge after challenge because your awesomeness will not be stopped? First, you have to believe that is an undisputed fact of life. It would be so great if someone would automatically come by to psych us up whenever we need it. Unfortunately, we’re often going to find ourselves in a position where we need to be our own biggest fans. If you have fans, friends, or family in your support network who can help with that, awesome! But don’t confuse seeking support with seeking validation. Success and victory should be defined on your terms, not someone else’s.
2. Maintain high energy levels.
Your energy is a precious commodity. It’s not limitless. The first half of maintaining your energy levels is to take care of your body. Get a good night’s sleep, stay hydrated, and eat good foods. The other half is actually protecting your energy from the people and situations that leave you feeling drained. Practice setting healthy boundaries so they don’t steal the energy you need to face challenges.
3. Practice self-compassion.
This is the hardest but most important step. It’s not enough to change how you prepare for challenges. You have to treat yourself with kindness and compassion when those setbacks hit. Take a beat to acknowledge the effort you put in. Watch for those unhelpful criticizing thoughts and drown them out with excitement for the learning opportunity that just landed in front of you.
You can’t look for opportunities to grow if you’re too busy beating yourself up for not being perfect on the first try.Tweet
For a lot of people, this can be difficult to practice on your own. If you’d like to work with a professional, look at a variety of approaches to find the form of support that benefits you the most. Some people have better results working one-on-one with a coach or therapist. Others might prefer outdoor therapy programs. For those interested in exploring that type of program, like what’s offered by Second Nature Utah, reviews can help you gain clarity on whether it’s a good fit for you.
4. Learn the difference between action and reaction.
When an obstacle presents itself, who has power over the outcome? The answer depends on whether you are reacting or taking action. You can get mad, complain it’s not fair, and break out the corkboard and red string to track the Universe’s conspiracy against your success and happiness. And where does that leave you? Still blocked by your obstacle, because you’re just reacting. When you take action, you hold the power. You decide you’re going to learn from this experience and create a positive outcome.
5. Identify your learning needs.
Okay, you’ve recognized an opportunity to grow! Now what? It’s time to decide exactly what that growth looks like. Depending on the challenge you face, you might decide you need to do one or more of the following:
- Gather more information about the situation
- Learn a new skill you don’t currently have
- Develop a skill that isn’t yet strong enough to deal with the problem
- Exercise more patience, understanding, compassion, etc. toward others or yourself
- Find a different approach
6. Set clear goals.
While you’re figuring out what you need in order to move forward, it’s a great time to figure out what moving forward would actually look like. Are you focused on just the problem right in front of you? Or do you want to develop the knowledge and skills you need into expertise? There’s no right or wrong answer. Setting clear goals for how much you want to grow allows you to track your progress.
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7. Practice imagining an obstacle and overcoming it.
This is not a passive visualize-and-manifest exercise that will just waste your time and energy. This circles back to step one by re-grounding yourself in confidence. Those same lying voices from before can come back again at this point to sabotage your growth. They might say something like “That’s a lot of work and you don’t even know if it will work this time. Better just quit while you’re ahead.”
When you come up with your plan, I strongly encourage you to take a few minutes to close your eyes and visualize it in action. See the challenge, see the steps you take to overcome it and see your satisfaction and joy when you succeed. Have confidence in your ability to grow and improve.
Don’t do all this mental work only to give up when it’s time to take action.
Final Thoughts on Growth Mindset
Practicing the right mindset will help you be more emotionally resilient in both professional and personal situations. It won’t stop you from feeling disappointed or frustrated when things don’t work out the way you hoped. However, it will help you find a way to use your setbacks to fuel your success.
Sometimes, strengthening your growth mindset is difficult to do by yourself, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways you can get help. More than a few people specialize in this, with a mindset coach being a great place to start.