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Growth mindset

April 16th

When faced with a setback, failure or misstep, what does your inner dialogue say to you?

"I'm a failure, I suck, I have no talent… "


"What can I do to improve? Almost there, that's going to need extra attention next time…"

These appear to be simple reactions to adversity and how someone might treat an unfavourable situation. In reality, however, what your inner voice says to you can reveal your mindset type and your propensity for long-term success and happiness.

You're either good at something or your not. Some people get it, others don't. You can't do anything about it. Naturally gifted, born with talent, lucky. This is the call cry of the fixed mindset. The idea that you are born with specific talents or a predisposition to excel in a particular field is how someone with a fixed mindset views the world.

Do you believe you can get smarter and go faster?

The opposite of a fixed mindset says that if you're unskilled in an area, you can gain new skills. If you don't get it, you can learn it. When you don't understand something or you aren't fast enough, you can get faster and improve your knowledge. It's the "I can improve mindset", the "I can get it done mindset", the "say goodbye to failure mindset".

More commonly known as the growth mindset.

What mindset are you?

You can have a fixed or growth mindset. You're probably somewhere in between.

Fixed mindset


A person with a fixed mindset believes they have fixed traits and talents. Instead of learning or developing new skills they build evidence in support of their natural gifts. They think that talent creates success while effort is something used by people who lack ability. They believe that you are who you are and you can't make positive improvements in your ability or intelligence.

Looks like

Gonzo is a little learner who has a fixed mindset. When he is challenged he gets frustrated and gives up. He sees failure to be the extent of his abilities. When Enzo is given feedback he gets defensive and sees it as an assault on his character, which is fixed and unchangeable. Enzo avoids challenges because he is afraid to fail and doesn't want his lack of skill to be revealed to the world. Enzo rarely makes an effort in activities that he hasn't already proved himself in and he feels threatened by others success.

Results in

Enzo and people like Enzo tend to grow up and attend not such great universities and take not such great jobs. If they do reach the top, they don't stay there as they're more focussed on gathering evidence to support their talents than improving.

Growth mindset

Do you believe you can better, smarter and faster? Could be a growth mindset.


A person with a growth mindset believes traits and talents can improve and respond well to dedicated practice and perseverance. A growth mindset is curious by nature and explores the world by learning and developing new skills as required by their life. People with a growth mindset see criticism as constructive and actively seek feedback so they can continually improve. They pursue excellence over perfection.

Looks like

Ariel has a growth mindset. Upon facing challenges, she tries harder and is inspired by others success. Ariel sees failure and setbacks as an opportunity to grow and focusses on improving in areas where she is weak. Ariel seeks out challenging ideas, concepts and skills and exhibits a love for learning and the process of learning. She knows that talent is only a small part of the equation and that her role models have put in tremendous effort to become the leaders in their field.

Results in

People with a growth mindset enjoy higher self-esteem and find more enjoyment in life. They are less depressed and are more confident. Because they see setbacks as the path to success, they are more likely to be resilient and achieve their goals. They see the obstacle as the way and improve mentally, physically and academically in their pursuit of excellence. People with a growth mindset become better friends, parents, coaches and CEOs. As a group, they are more productive and successful.

How to grow your growth mindset

1. Ignore the voice

You hear it all the time, "you can't do this",  "you're failing", "you just don't have what it takes". It's terrible that the voice comes from inside, it's not a heckler on the sideline, it's you. Take notice of this voice and dispel its negativity. Counter this voice by telling yourself "I can do it", "I am almost there" and "I like myself".

2. Value the journey over the destination

The journey is the process of learning you undergo when achieving a task or developing a new skill. When you value the destination, you will get there and stop. When you value the journey, you get to the destination and get right back to the journey. The destination becomes a milestone in your life long learning.

3. Yet

Replace "I can't" with "I can't yet". For example, replace "I can't do long division" with "I can't do long division yet". You can make this change in everything you ever do. "I don't know how to write an essay", replace with "I don't know how to write an essay, yet". As soon as you add "yet" your brain will start to think of what it needs to do to accomplish the task at hand.

4. Always set new goals

Building upon valuing the journey over the destination is setting new goals whenever you achieve one. Say you set a goal of running 5kms. As soon as you reach your goal, set a new goal that pushes you. Run 6kms or run 5kms in 20 minutes. Soon the 5km run will become a milestone on your journey towards improvement

5. Take risks

It's safe and comfortable to only participate in activities where you know you will succeed. When you step outside your comfort zone, you improve. You need to push yourself and not be afraid of failing or looking silly. Dance like nobody's watching and sing like nobody's listening. You don't have to be a master on your first try. Give new situations your best shot and embrace failure as part of the process.

How to teach growth mindset

1. Praise effort over ability, every time


When you praise a student on their ability, they become fixated on performance and are unwilling to take risks for fear of failure. Hence you reinforce a fixed mindset. When you praise effort, learners are more likely to take on challenges, and hence become better problem solvers. Don't just praise effort for the sake of it, give detailed feedback.

2. Provide detailed feedback


When you praise a student for their effort, don't just say "good effort" say "good effort + why..". As soon as you add the why, the praise evolves to feedback. Constructive, positive feedback is essential for growth. For example, a student has tried a difficult problem and has given their best. Saying "Great effort" is an OK start, when you say "Great effort, I like how you approached that problem, next time you could look at…." the student has a clear direction for improvement.

3. Set clear (micro) goals


Goal setting for success is the central theme in all self-help books. "Set goals, remind yourself of them every day and always work towards them", sound familiar? When you set big goals for your learners in all areas; behaviour, understanding and skill building, they may become lost on their journey. When you give them micro goals in the learning journey, they take on board the little wins and are inspired to push forward.

4. Teamwork


Competition breeds contempt, collaboration breeds creativity. Set primary tasks as group or team work. learners who work in diverse teams can build upon each other's strengths and weaknesses to achieve at a higher level. Teamwork also helps the learners to be inspired by other's successes not demoralised. A key factor in promoting a growth mindset.

5. Celebrate mistakes

Imagine trying to learn a foreign language and being fearful of mistakes. The worry of being judged is so silly. Have you ever ridiculed someone who made a mistake when trying to converse in your mother tongue? Of course you haven't. At worst, it creates a hilarious common ground - a cause for celebration! When you celebrate mistakes with comments like "So close, we come to school to push ourselves to the limit, next time, with a little extra effort, you are sure to succeed" your learners will become comfortable with seeing mistakes as part of the journey.

If you want to get fitter, stronger and faster, you challenge yourself by going to the gym, eating nutritious food and sweating it out. When it comes to our physical well-being, we all know what needs to be done. It's hard to get up every morning and hit the gym, push yourself and eat healthily. The thing is, you know you can improve your physical well-being. Why not think about your intelligence and skills the same. If you want to get smarter, faster and more skilled, you have to challenge your brain, give it nutritious problems to feast on and make a conscious effort to achieve.

That is the growth mindset. Believe you can get better, pursue excellence over perfection, see obstacles as the way and try your very best. Your brain is a muscle, it will grow under the right conditions.

Learners who fill their mind with a growth mindset get better grades, stay in school longer and attend prestigious universities.

A growth mindset is an essential 21st-century character quality that helps learners achieve their potential. Learners with a growth mindset are happier, get better scores on standardised tests and are more likely to attend prestigious universities. We have designed a platform that helps educators teach character qualities such as growth mindset that promote well-being and engagement in the classroom.

We'd love to show you around, click below to schedule a demo.