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January 17, 2024

How to Develop a Growth Mindset

Post By:
Maria Maldonado Smith
In-House Contributor
Chief Empowerment Officer
MMS Consulting Firm
Guest Contributor:

“What is one new thing you learned today?” This was the question I was asked on an almost daily basis growing up and going to my mom’s office after school. 

Her coworker would greet me with this question. Some days I enjoyed our routine and others, I struggled to come up with a response. The idea he was purporting- I found out when I asked him out of annoyance and frustration on one of the days when I was struggling to respond to his question- was simple, "if you aren’t learning, then you’re not growing.”  At 8 years of age, he was challenging me to live in a growth mindset. His advice stuck with me and 35 years later, I still think back on those moments and how it completely changed my perspective. I still hold myself accountable to being able to provide an answer to his daily question. The irony was that he had less than a high school education, yet he knew that if you want to grow and improve yourself, you must never stop learning. 

Cultivating a growth mindset is something that can benefit us all greatly in the way we live our lives. While there are people who can more easily adapt, change their attitude and perspective to life without many obstacles, a growth mindset can be challenging for some, because it involves adopting an approach that embraces challenges, values effort, seeks to learn and understand, and sees failures as opportunities for learning and improvement. 

Here are five ways in which you can begin to establish or cultivate a growth mindset, and some tips to embracing this mindset on a daily basis.

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1. Embrace Challenges

View challenges as your opportunity to learn and grow, to build skills that will enhance and elevate your way of thinking, and to provide you with additional experiences that create a dynamic life.

Growth Tip: Step out of your comfort zone on a more consistent basis. Author Dia Bondi discusses her approach to embracing challenges or difficulties in her new book, Ask Like An Auctioneer, where she coined the phrase “stepping into your ZOFO: Zone of Freaking Out” when you’re faced with challenges, a need for something in your life or business, or just because it pushes us to better understand who we are and what we’re all about. When we can ask for what we want even if it scares us, we are proving we have what it takes to challenge ourselves and cultivate a growth mindset.

Journal Prompt: Write about a time when you stepped out of your comfort zone and decided you would challenge yourself, your fears, and your natural inclinations. How did it make you feel? What were the aspects of breaking out of your comfort zone that helped you learn more about yourself? What would you do differently, if anything, next time?

2. Reframe Feedback in a Positive Way:

No one likes to be told they’re doing something incorrectly or the wrong way. However, when viewed as constructive as opposed to critical, feedback can provide helpful insights that we can use as tools in our arsenal for success. It has the power to transform our mindset around development in both the personal and professional aspects of our lives.

Growth Tip: Ask for feedback and actively seek it from others whether that is a co-worker, leader, spouse, partner, or friend. Doing so can identify or highlight areas for opportunity or improvement in the workplace or in your personal relationships. If you’re able to ask for feedback, it demonstrates that you have the capacity to learn and grow. Organizational psychologist, Adam Grant, discusses this in his book, Give and Take.

Journal Prompt: Reflect on a time when you asked for feedback, received it, and it helped propel you forward to greater success. If you haven’t asked for feedback yet, then write from the perspective of wanting to do so, addressing all of your fears, thoughts, feelings, the actions you would take and the results you want to see as an outcome for the feedback you receive.

3. Shift Value towards Effort and Persistence:

Celebrate your small wins along the way - not just the results you achieve when hitting or reaching the goal. By focusing on the process, consistency, and effort you put into a task rather than solely on the outcome, it becomes easier for you to recognize and celebrate your hard work.

Growth Tip: Push through even in times of difficulty, setbacks, rejection and even failure because each of these teaches us something that we can learn from. Spend time understanding how you can learn from these moments so that you can bounce back and refine your approach. One of the best resources on this topic is, Relentless: From Good to Great, to Unstoppable by Tim Grover.

Journal Prompt: Describe a time when you persevered through setbacks and overcame struggles and obstacles along the way to achieving something you had been working towards.

4. Cultivate Curiosity:

Just like my Mom’s coworker did for me - we all must develop a love for learning if we’re going to grow. Be curious. Cultivating a genuine interest in expanding your knowledge and skills increases your capability of being able to redirect, pivot, and adapt when needed. These are huge benefits of a growth mindset.

Growth Tip: Ask questions and seek to understand different perspectives and approaches to living, day-to-day tasks and functions, as well as other people’s opinions and ideas. Doing this can foster a deeper understanding for and enjoyment of learning, which in turn, aids us in becoming more well rounded individuals. A fun read and solid resource on this growth tip is further explored and addressed in The Power of Why, by Amanda Lang.

Journal Prompt: Write 3 questions down that you’ve always wanted to know the answers to - and go out and seek them from the conversations you have, not from an online search. (this helps cultivate our communication skills, our interpersonal relationship skills, and it creates a lasting memory for us of that conversation as opposed to simply looking it up.)

5. Practice Positive Self-Talk:

We all have moments when our negative self-talk creates such loud noise in our head and takes up unwanted space. We must stay aware and vigilant at combating this whenever it begins to happen. When you catch yourself thinking in terms of limitations, imposter syndrome, or confidence degradation, challenge those thoughts and reframe them in a growth-oriented way by reminding yourself of everything you’ve done to get where you are currently.

Grow Tip: Use affirmations. Write down the positive affirmations you want to be present in your life on a daily basis, on a post-it note and put it on your mirror. Read them daily. In ‘Get Out of Your Own Head’ by Jennie Allen, she addresses the toxicity that can wreak havoc on our lives when we placate to negative thoughts.

Journal Prompt: Take stock of all of your accomplishments. Write about the courage, moxie, and mindset you’ve already had to have in order to be where you are today. Acknowledging how far we’ve come is a great way to combat negative self-talk when it starts to creep in. Cultivating a growth mindset is an ongoing process that involves conscious effort and self-reflection. It is a learned behavior and daily practice. But by incorporating these five strategies daily, you can begin or continue building a growth mindset foundation for your life. You can foster an approach to living that thrives on challenges and sees continuous improvement as a lifelong journey of evolution.