You are learning to ride a bike and you fall off, so you get back on and keep going, only to fall again, you continue this pattern until you eventually succeed in learning how to ride a bike. When does this stop? When do you decide to not get up anymore? At what point in your life does your mind decide to stop trying? In some people, this shift may never occur, they may still try and try again even with the possibility of failure growing. So why is it that some people give up and others don’t, what determines it? It is all reliant on your mindset. Are you willing to grow and learn new things? To open yourself up to opportunity? Or are you scared of failure and will only try things you know you can succeed at? Do you have a growth or fixed mindset?
The terms “growth” and “fixed” mindset are used to describe how people regard personal learning and intelligence. Students who believe their intelligence is fixed are more likely to do the bare minimum of the work required in an academic setting and are unlikely to take steps that will expand their knowledge. While, students who believe they determine their own intelligence by their habits and behaviors are more likely to put additional time and effort into their goals which, in turn, leads to higher academic and social achievement. Researchers recently found that the brain is more pliable then we originally thought and, over time, the connectivity of neurons in the brain can change depending on what the person in question thinks and experiences. Meaning, even the brain of a person with a fixed mindset, developed over a series of years, is able to naturally shift to a growth mindset (through practicing good neural strategies, such as being well rested and consciously trying to develop a growth attitude). It has also been found that classrooms and houses (the environment a child grows in daily) plays a critical role in the way the child develops. For instance, praising a child on being “smart” and shining lights on their natural abilities can lead to fixed mindsets on mental capacity, so, when the child is later phased with a problem they cannot naturally overcome, they give up quickly. While praising a child for putting in time and hard work helps cultivate a growth mindset that will in turn help the child with their future problem solving abilities.
In an experiment conducted a few years ago, a group of students were taught of the positive effects of having a growth mindset and thinking of their intelligence as changeable. A few years later this same group was reporting better grades, a higher appreciation of the academic subjects they were taking and being more engaged with the material at hand. A group who received a lecture on the stages of memory (a fixed system of the brain) at the same time the initial group received the lecture on growth mindset, reported a plateau of grades and involvement in classes (Theories of Intelligence).
It is fully possible to change from a fixed to a growth mindset at any age , but it takes a considerable amount of time. Try acknowledging your fixed mentalities and actively change them into thoughts of growth. For example, instead of thinking “they are to blame” instead try “I need to take responsibility for my actions so I can fix them later on”. As you continue through your life trying to find these positive supplements for your negative thoughts, your brain with naturally begin to supply these types of responses when faced with challenges, without you even having to think about it.
Memory also plays a huge part in how your mindset naturally develops. Think about your childhood. Not a specific memory but just your childhood in general. Do you think of playing with friends and family vacations? Or the dread of the first day of school and the embarrassment you felt singing in a school assembly? Would you consider the majority of your memories to be happy and filled with positivity or relatively negative with your feelings dependent on those around you? Were you encouraged or shot down? If you are raised being constantly praised for your natural ability and told how wonderful you are, chances are you will develop more of a fixed mindset and be hesitant of trying new things for fear of being ridiculed if you fail. Alternatively, if you are raised being congratulated for your hard work and trying new things, you are more likely to be excited to try new things and not be afraid of failure or how people think of you. Regardless of childhood exposures and current mental states, it is always possible to grow your mind and open your mindset.