Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on February 11, 2020

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”.

You’ve probably heard this term, coined by Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck. She outlines the idea of growth mindset and fixed mindset in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

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.

Advertising

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.

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. 

Advertising

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:

Mazlo_GrowthMindset-871x1024

    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.

    Advertising

    Once you get a taste of accomplishment, you’ll be ready for the next challenge.

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    More Tips about Changing Your Mindset

    Featured photo credit: Natasha Brazil via unsplash.com

    More by this author

    Sharen Ross

    Marketing Strategy Consultant

    5 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset for Self Improvement 36 Pictures To See Which Muscle You’re Stretching 8 Ways to Overcome Impulsive Spending Tracking your spending can improve your life in dramatic ways. 5 Surprising Benefits of Tracking Your Spending How To Master The Multigenerational Workforce

    Trending in Brain

    1 Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts 2 What Is Unconscious Bias (And How to Reduce It for Good) 3 What is Cognitive Dissonance (And How to Dodge it) 4 How Do Memory Vitamins Work? (And the Best Brain Supplements) 5 How Not to Let Cognitive Bias Control Us When Dealing with COVID-19

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Published on July 7, 2020

    Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

    Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

    Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

    Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

    The Skinny on Mental Workouts

    Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

    Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

    1. Improved Memory

    After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

    2. Reduced Stress Levels

    Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

    3. Improved Work Performance

    Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

    4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

    As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

    Advertising

    Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

    Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

    The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

    1. Brainstorming

    One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

    If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

    2. Dancing

    Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

    Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

    3. Learning a New Language

    Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

    With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

    Advertising

    4. Developing a Hobby

    Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

    If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

    For example:

    • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
    • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
    • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
    • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

    Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

    5. Board Games

    Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

    Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

    6. Card Games

    Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

    A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

    Advertising

    7. Puzzles

    Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

    Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

    8. Playing Music

    Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

    Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

    What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

    9. Meditating

    Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

    Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

    • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
    • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
    • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
    • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
    • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
    • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

    10. Deep Conversation

    There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

    Advertising

    Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

    11. Cooking

    When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

    If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

    12. Mentorship

    Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

    Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

    Final Thoughts

    Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

    To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

    More Tips for Training Your Brain

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next