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5 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset for Self Improvement

5 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset for Self Improvement

Think about a self-improvement goal you have, like becoming a better public speaker, earning a promotion at work, or losing weight. Be honest: What’s been stopping you from achieving, or even making progress, toward your goal?

Do excuses like these sound familiar? I’m a naturally shy person — speaking in front of people makes me nervous. I’m not a good writer, so I’ll never get promoted. I have a slow metabolism, and I’m not an athletic person — losing weight is impossible! If so, then what may be holding you back is a “fixed mindset”.

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You’ve probably heard this term, coined by Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck. Essentially, it’s the (erroneous) belief that your abilities are more or less finite and what happens to you, good and bad, is largely due to forces beyond your control, such as natural born talent and luck. For example: The only reason my presentation went well was that Sally was feeling sick, so this time she didn’t outshine me. Or: I can’t do yoga; I have always been really inflexible.

As Dweck argues, a fixed mindset is what stops many of us from trying to improve in certain areas where we think we’ve hit our ceiling. In truth, of course, we’re all capable of reaching new heights. It’s just a matter of shifting from a fixed mindset to what Dweck calls a “growth mindset,” a belief that we actually are in control of what we achieve. Yes, we all have inherent limitations; no matter how hard you try, you may never play tennis like Serena Williams. But, there’s a giant territory between being better than you are now and being the best in the world.

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If you have a growth mindset, you think: If I stretch 10 minutes every day, I will become more flexible or If I take a class and practice every day, I will become a better writer. You’ll take on self-improvement projects and you’ll persevere through challenges because, deep down, you know you can succeed. If you think you’ve been holding yourself back with a fixed mindset, how do you go about shifting to a growth mindset? Here are 5 ways.

1. Get expert help.

Can’t even run around the block? Find a running coach experienced with beginners and have her create a training plan for you that includes running with other novices. You’ll be amazed at how far you’re running in just a couple weeks. Hopeless in the kitchen? Take a cooking class, and learn to make two new dishes. With expert guidance, accountability, and social support, you’ll soon have the confidence to step out of your comfort zone. Once you get a taste of accomplishment, you’ll be ready for the next challenge.

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2. Look around you.

If you’re not able to recognize your own ability to improve, look to family members or friends for evidence that effort and perseverance pays off. Maybe a friend set out to learn Spanish and became fluent. If you instinctively think, “She’s obviously good with languages,” reframe your thinking. Are you really going to take that accomplishment away from your friend? More likely, she studied hard and practiced often.

3. Praise for effort, not skill.

When you get in the habit of recognizing effort in others, you’ll start to change the way you think about your own abilities. Instead of telling a friend, “You’re such a good cook!” say, “I love how you’re always collecting recipes and trying such interesting dishes.” Rather than telling your child, “You’re so smart” when they ace a math test, say “You studied hard for that and deserved a good grade.” Acknowledging effort over talent is a subtle but important change to make when working to adopt a growth mindset.

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4. Compete with yourself.

Yes, caring how we rank is human nature, but caring too much is counterproductive and fuels a fixed mindset. We all have our strengths. What’s important is not how you compare to others but how you compare to where you were yesterday, last week, or last year. Are you moving forward and making progress in the areas that you care about? If so, that’s all that matters.

5. Learn from failure.

When you have a fixed mindset, the voice in your head says, I didn’t make the sale because I’m terrible at closing. Challenge this mindset. Could it be that you didn’t prepare enough to answer all the clients’ questions? What could you have done differently to change the outcome? If you think about it hard enough, you’ll probably come up with lessons to apply to your next sales opportunity.

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    Sharen Ross

    Marketing Strategy Consultant

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2019

    7 Steps For Making a New Year’s Resolution and Keeping It

    7 Steps For Making a New Year’s Resolution and Keeping It

    Are you keen to reinvent yourself this year? Or at least use the new year as a long overdue excuse to get rid of bad habits or pick up new ones?

    Yes, it’s that time of year again. The time of year when we feel as if we have to turn over a new leaf. The time when we misguidedly imagine that the arrival of a new year will magically provide the catalyst, motivation and persistence we need to reinvent ourselves.

    Traditionally, New Year’s Day is styled as the ideal time to kick start a new phase in your life and the time when you must make your all important new year’s resolution. Unfortunately, the beginning of the year is also one of the worst times to make a major change in your habits because it’s often a relatively stressful time, right in the middle of the party and vacation season.

    Don’t set yourself up for failure this year by vowing to make huge changes that will be hard to keep. Instead follow these seven steps for successfully making a new year’s resolution you can stick to for good.

    1. Just pick one thing

    If you want to change your life or your lifestyle don’t try to change the whole thing at once. It won’t work. Instead pick one area of your life to change to begin with.

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    Make it something concrete so you know exactly what change you’re planning to make. If you’re successful with the first change you can go ahead and make another change after a month or so. By making small changes one after the other, you still have the chance to be a whole new you at the end of the year and it’s a much more realistic way of doing it.

    Don’t pick a New Year’s resolution that’s bound to fail either, like running a marathon if you’re 40lbs overweight and get out of breath walking upstairs. If that’s the case resolve to walk every day. When you’ve got that habit down pat you can graduate to running in short bursts, constant running by March or April and a marathon at the end of the year. What’s the one habit you most want to change?

    2. Plan ahead

    To ensure success you need to research the change you’re making and plan ahead so you have the resources available when you need them. Here are a few things you should do to prepare and get all the systems in place ready to make your change.

    Read up on it – Go to the library and get books on the subject. Whether it’s quitting smoking, taking up running or yoga or becoming vegan there are books to help you prepare for it. Or use the Internet. If you do enough research you should even be looking forward to making the change.

    Plan for success – Get everything ready so things will run smoothly. If you’re taking up running make sure you have the trainers, clothes, hat, glasses, ipod loaded with energetic sounds at the ready. Then there can be no excuses.

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    3. Anticipate problems

    There will be problems so make a list of what they’ll be. If you think about it, you’ll be able to anticipate problems at certain times of the day, with specific people or in special situations. Once you’ve identified the times that will probably be hard work out ways to cope with them when they inevitably crop up.

    4. Pick a start date

    You don’t have to make these changes on New Year’s Day. That’s the conventional wisdom, but if you truly want to make changes then pick a day when you know you’ll be well-rested, enthusiastic and surrounded by positive people. I’ll be waiting until my kids go back to school in February.

    Sometimes picking a date doesn’t work. It’s better to wait until your whole mind and body are fully ready to take on the challenge. You’ll know when it is when the time comes.

    5. Go for it

    On the big day go for it 100%. Make a commitment and write it down on a card. You just need one short phrase you can carry in your wallet. Or keep it in your car, by your bed and on your bathroom mirror too for an extra dose of positive reinforcement.

    Your commitment card will say something like:

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    • I enjoy a clean, smoke-free life.
    • I stay calm and in control even under times of stress.
    • I’m committed to learning how to run my own business.
    • I meditate daily.

    6. Accept failure

    If you do fail and sneak a cigarette, miss a walk or shout at the kids one morning don’t hate yourself for it. Make a note of the triggers that caused this set back and vow to learn a lesson from them.

    If you know that alcohol makes you crave cigarettes and oversleep the next day cut back on it. If you know the morning rush before school makes you shout then get up earlier or prepare things the night before to make it easier on you.

    Perseverance is the key to success. Try again, keep trying and you will succeed.

    7. Plan rewards

    Small rewards are great encouragement to keep you going during the hardest first days. After that you can probably reward yourself once a week with a magazine, a long-distance call to a supportive friend, a siesta, a trip to the movies or whatever makes you tick.

    Later you can change the rewards to monthly and then at the end of the year you can pick an anniversary reward. Something that you’ll look forward to. You deserve it and you’ll have earned it.

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    Whatever your plans and goals are for this year, I’d do wish you luck with them but remember, it’s your life and you make your own luck.

    Decide what you want to do this year, plan how to get it and go for it. I’ll definitely be cheering you on.

    Are you planning to make a New Year’s resolution? What is it and is it something you’ve tried to do before or something new?

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