Growth Mindset

Do You Have a Growth Mindset?

I speak with many students each day here at Excelsior College. One thing I often hear over and over goes something like this:

“I’ve always been bad at math! I’m just no good at it, and so my next course will most likely be a struggle for me.”

I think we’ve all experienced this type of thinking from time to time regarding something in our lives. Due to past experiences or beliefs, we draw conclusions that our abilities are somehow less than, and we are powerless to change an innate trait. Unfortunately, there is no room for growth in this type of thinking, and if/when we are presented with these challenges again, our mindset is now fixed.

What Experiences Are Holding You Back?

So when encountering such a statement from a student, my first question is always this:

“Why do you feel you are bad at math?”

My goal with this question is to dig deeper, and expose those past experiences and beliefs which led to that conclusion. What I often find is that there was a cause for why the student feels this way. For example, a student might tell me “In high school, I slacked off, and didn’t put much effort in, and therefore did very poorly” or “My parents often reinforced that I wasn’t smart enough to get good grades in math,” or perhaps “When I received poor grades, I stopped trying as I didn’t believe I could do any better.”

Exposing Your Growth Mindset

When breaking down why a student feels a certain way about their abilities, it almost always comes down to the student admitting they could have put more effort in, and/or that outside circumstances played a role. My aim is to expose this fact to the student.

So what is the significance in this? Well, we often have the mistaken belief that successful people were born with natural talent, that they are naturally smarter, faster, stronger. However, the greatest common denominator among those who experience success is that they exhibit a growth mindset.

A person with a true growth mindset accepts failure as part of the learning process, believes in their own ability to persevere, and that the biggest thing holding them back is themselves. Overall, they see ability as something that can be developed, instead of a fixed trait. They believe that through sheer determination, will, effort and practice, that they, too, can achieve!

I challenge anyone reading this struggling to overcome a particular obstacle, goal or challenge to take a moment to reflect. Do you experience a fixed mindset in regard to any of your abilities? If so, why do you think you feel this way? Is it really lack of ability, or maybe a fixed mindset?

Author: Chris Faulkner
Student Success Coach
Student Success Center

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