The Growth Mindset 101



Do you ever approach new territory with fear of not getting things right and stop yourself before you even start?

Or do you approach the unknown excited to roll up your sleeves, knowing full well you will fall on your face, get back up, keep trying and asking questions to at some point, “get it right”?

Roll Up Your Sleeves

Professor of Psychology at Stanford University ,Carol Dweck, coined the terms growth mindset and fixed mindset in her 2006 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. These terms are revolutionizing the way people approach their ability to change for the better, particularly students according to Dr Jo Boaler, a Professor of Mathematics Education at Stanford University and founder of Youcubed, a non-profit organization that provides mathematics education resources to parent and educators of K–12 students.


The Mexicanized Version

My parents don’t know who Carol or Jo are, they havent read their research, they have never heard the term growth mindset but if you asked them, they would probably tell you that growth mindset is a fancy word for “echandole ganas” loosely translated as putting in the effort to move forward. Looking back I see how lucky I was that I grew up in a house that valued this approach. They didnt know it.

In their eyes they just put themselves in water and had to learn to swim. This is the life story of every person coming to this country for the first time with hopes for a better life and no plans to turn back.


My parents constantly proselytized “No epseres que te digan hija” which loosely translated means “Dont wait for someone to tell you, if you see something needs to get done, do it”. This was my parents motto for life and still is. They would explain that when you go into a new environment you should first scan for what is needed and do your best to fill that need. Then wherever you go, they promised me, the doors will always be open to you. That really is all they had coming to this country, a whole bunch of ambition, faith and this roll up your sleeves approach to life.

They taught me to never compare myself to others, but instead compare myself to my past. How was life yesterday? How do I improve it today? Those were and are still for them the only questions that really matter.


Live Better or Bust!

My parents came to the U.S. in their early teens with a hunger for a better life having been fueled by the poverty they experienced. They bought an apartment building in their twenties in an up and coming neighborhood from their various factory job savings. My dad taught himself plumbing, electrical wiring, carpentry and along the way diamond cutting. My mother drived busses, made cassette tapes and cleaned homes. They became citizens before I graduated highschool and soon after paid off that apartment building including a second one not to far away.


Into Their Very Bones

They may not be able to have a conversation with you about the conceptualization of the growth mindset and how the traditional education system inherently builds obstacles to students adopting this cognitive enhancing paradigm (because studies show it does improve your cognitive ability to learn). They do however, after having practiced this approach all their lives,  have it ingrained into their very bones.


The growth mindset is a way of approaching life as an experiment. It has curiosity as its main driver and trust as it’s fuel that the answers will  be revealed. In approaching life this way challenges are simply feedback from our environment about changes that need to be made in order to get where we want to go.


The Die Slowly Mindset

The opposite of this is the fixed mindset. This mindset says you are good or bad at something depending on your inherent characteristics. This mindset says your either able to do something or not. It says that people’s ability to do, be or have is already predetermined in their genetic makeup. In trying something new with this approach  there is a pressure to meet some ephemeral standard of perfection  and if that standard is not met  the FIRST time you try, you should just stop while your ahead and put your efforts elsewhere.

In this approach challenges are not information on what you need to change, but instead visible proof of ones inherent and permanent incompetence in that area. In wanting to start a new venture one can easily cave under such harsh judgment and rigid thinking  before our foot has ever taken the first step. The world for people living with this approach can be very narrow and small indeed.


Nature Speaks Only Truth

As I write this I realize that the growth mindset is a term that bundles up neatly the process of all of life’s existence up to now and that the fixed mindset is very unnatural in  this regard.

Nature demonstrates “echandole ganas” in so many ways. Over millennia creatures that have survived till today have done so because they have successfully acclimated to their changing environment. Through all the generations of their species they figured out the best ways to get food, shelter and safety through countless trial and error.


Get in There!

Lion cubs are not expected to one day just get out and slay a gazelle. They under the safe confounds of the mothers gaze, practice with smaller animals repeatedly. When they’re big enough to attempt a gazelle they have already had so many hundreds of hours of practice and have their skills well honed. Even then older seasoned lions are not guaranteed a meal every time they go for a hunt. Even when tired and hungry lions return from a failed hunt don’t just say “oh well, I guess I’m no good at this, I might as well just go find a cave and die”.


My journey with changing my own self sabotaging habits has been full of peaks and valleys. When approaching life with this growth mindset the natural characteristic born from that is grit. I thank my parents grit factor for helping me stay the course.


Change is uncomfortable period.


Grit is a necessary muscle in making any kind of changes or when life is in the process of changing us.
What place does the growth factor have for you? Do you have that approach in some areas of your life but not others?

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