Growth Mindset

"Intelligence is a process, not a thing"

- David Shenk, “The Genius in Us All

Take a moment to think back to a new or challenging task you had to complete recently. Why sort of beliefs did you have about your ability to successfully finish the task? Did you think things like: “I’ll never get this done” and “I don’t even know where to start”, or did you think: “This may take some time, but with effort I can achieve it” and “I will reach out for help if I get stuck”? 

The first set of statements are examples of a fixed mindset, and the second are examples of a growth mindset. 

Fixed Mindset

“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.” (Dweck, 2015)

Growth Mindset

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” (Dweck, 2015)

Many of us probably operate with a mixed mindset: growth for some endeavors, fixed for others.

Neurobiological research shows that you can actually grow your brain—just like you can grow a muscle—with practice and effective learning strategies.

  • When you work hard and learn new things, your brain grows new connections and you get smarter.
  • The more you challenge yourself, the smarter you will become.
  • Smart people are the ones who have practiced and stretched themselves more—they have built up their brain's "muscles."       
  • Just "working hard" isn't enough; you also have to learn new strategies to grow the "know how" part of your brain. 

Mindset Matters

Instead of...

Try Thinking...

I'm not good at this.

What am I missing?

I give up.

I'll use a different strategy.

It's just good enough.

Is this my best work?

This is too hard.

This may take some time.

Who am I to be smart, talented ... ?

Who am I not to be?

My plan failed. It's over.

There's always a Plan B.

Why can't I do it like [someone you admire]?

What do they know that I don't know? I will learn from them.

Information in the Catalyze Your Success program has been adapted from learning strategies presented by the Louisiana State University Center for Academic Success and the book "Teach Students How to Learn" by Saundra Yancy McGuire, Stylus Publishing (2021).