All Things are Possible: cultivating a growth mindset



Chances are, you’ve probably faced at least one pretty significant struggle in your life. 

Struggle is just a natural part of life, and if you have somehow arrived at this point in your life having never struggled—then consider yourself lucky (like….REALLY lucky). For some of us, those struggles come when we transition from one stage or phase of life to another (they don’t call it a midlife crisis for no reason). Sometimes we struggle because of our own choices (like ignoring ourselves or our own needs), and sometimes we struggle because of the choices of others. And the truth is, accepting that struggle is kind of inevitable will get you a really long way.

Everything can’t be perfect all the time.

And it is also true that for many of us, really difficult moments in life can just shut us down. We have tried so hard to change the situation, to make our marriage better, or lose that extra weight, or to get a better job or promotion, or stay on a routine so we feel grounded. But no matter what, nothing seems to stick and we accept it as impossible to change or just give up even trying. We become complacent, we settle.

And the cold hard truth is that giving up is the easiest path. It is so much easier to just accept that nothing can change and settle into what makes us unhappy.

But, is the easiest path, the right path for your life?

Probably not.

Have you ever met someone who just never seems to stop? No matter how difficult life gets, or how difficult the situation, they just accept the setbacks and keep moving forward and their resolve to never give up just persists?

We often hear about people doing extraordinary things that feel impossible, or at the very least so hard that they may seem impossible. If you’ve ever seen the film The Pursuit of Happyness, then you know exactly what we mean (if you haven’t then be sure to check it out!). People with so much resilience that they do seemingly impossible things like training for a marathon (and completing it) despite receiving a stage 4 cancer diagnosis, or losing over 200 pounds without surgery.

It may seem like some people were just born that way but the truth is resilience is a skill that anyone can develop. People who accomplish a goal despite seemingly endless obstacles have what is called a growth mindset, and it is something that we ALL can learn to develop.

What is a growth mindset?

The concept of a growth mindset is from research done by Carol Dweck. Dweck discovered that the ultimate key to one’s success (or inability to succeed) resulted first from mindset. She determined there are two types of mindset: growth and fixed. 

A growth mindset is, quite simply, a way of thinking that enables us to think or believe that anything is possible. People with a growth mindset tend to have a greater sense of free will, are more open to constructive criticism, and are more willing to acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses. 

As opposed to a fixed mindset, which is a way of thinking that limits us to have a more deterministic outlook on life. People with a fixed mindset tend to believe that things just are the way they are and that we need to just accept that and deal with it, they tend to make excuses for why they can’t do something or why something has failed, and they are more likely to cling onto their accomplishments to give them credibility (and demand respect for that from others).

Chances are, after reading those descriptions, you probably have a pretty good idea of where your mindset is (and maybe it’s a little of both, or dependent on the situation).

Dweck’s research has been so pivotal to understanding the human potential for success that it has been used to change school and college curricula all over the U.S.

If you already know that you have a growth mindset, that’s great! Keep cultivating that so you can continue to learn and grow.

If you suspect that you have a fixed mindset, and can recognize that you haven’t been living your life to your full potential, don’t feel guilty! Remember, a growth mindset is a skill that you can develop at any age, and we will help you get started!

So how can YOU develop a growth mindset?

Here are 4 steps you can take every day to cultivate (and maintain) a growth mindset. You can go from “I can’t do it” to “I will do everything I can to make it happen” with these 4 easy practices:

Step One: Listen to the mindset voice

Before we can change something, we have to know it exists. So next time you are dealing with a seemingly impossible situation, listen to what that internal voice is telling you. If you walk into your living room and notice that your kids have scattered their toys everywhere and left them for you to clean up (yet again), do you say to yourself things like “I wish I didn’t have to deal with this every day”? 

When you pull on those jeans and notice that you have to hold your breath to button them, or you avoid mirrors in your house because you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin do you tell yourself “Nothing works, so why even try”? If you skip the gym, or your morning walk consistently because you “just don’t have time”, that might be your mindset talking.

What mindset thoughts do you experience?

Step Two: Acknowledge those thoughts are a choice.

It may seem silly, but recognizing the thoughts and acknowledging them as a pattern of behavior is the key to changing your mindset. If you can acknowledge those thoughts, then you can also acknowledge that you can choose to think differently. And if that sounds ridiculously simple, it’s because it is. Simple, but not always easy. 

If you notice every time and you tell yourself that you can choose to think differently, you free yourself from the cycle and present yourself with a new path.

For example, some fixed mindset thoughts:

“Ugh, my new clothes are too tight now! I can’t do this anymore, nothing is working.”

“Ugh I hate my job, but I went to college for this and racked up all that student loan debt, so I am stuck in this job for life. There is nothing I can do.”

Ask yourself, is that thought true?

Is it true that nothing could ever work to address your recent weight gain? Have you truly tried every single thing there is to try on the planet to address it? Did you give it 100% no matter how difficult or how long the road was? Is it really true that you have to be locked into a job you hate just because you invested time and money in college?

Or are you choosing to keep telling yourself that story because it has become part of your narrative? Our thoughts are choices and we can choose to think differently, no matter how long we have been thinking this way, no matter how convinced we are that it is a fact

Step three: Flex your growth mindset voice

When you hear those fixed mindset thoughts, counter them. If you hear “Ugh my new clothes are too tight now! I can’t do this anymore, nothing is working”, respond with “I have been struggling with my weight for a long time, and that is okay. I’m going to keep trying because I deserve to look and feel good in my own skin.”.

When you start to think, “Ugh I hate my job, but I went to college for this and racked up all that student loan debt, so I am stuck in this job for life. There is nothing I can do,” respond with “it may be scary to think about switching jobs and having debt and a degree I am not using, but I want to be happy and I am willing to do whatever I can to make my life better,” or “I may not be in a position to switch jobs right now, but I don’t have to focus on that. What can I do in this job that can make me happier, daily?”

Step 4: Reflect and take action

How many times in your life have you been held back from reaching your highest potential because of a fixed mindset? Is there something you have wanted to change in your life but you haven’t because you just felt like there was nothing you could do about it? Make a plan to change your mindset around these beliefs so you can change your life. 

Not sure what those struggles might be? 

Here are the most common struggles we see from our insiders: 

  • I am tired of fighting about money all the time but I can’t do anything to change it. 
  • My house is a wreck and there is nothing I can do about it, I have tried everything.
  • I want to feel and look good in my own skin, but nothing I do ever works. 
  • I never have time for healthy meals, I am stuck with eating what is easiest and  fastest. 
  • I will never have time for myself and what I want because I am too busy with my family. I can’t fit it all in one day.

If you find yourself struggling in one of these areas, then revisit the issue again with attention to your mindset surrounding it. If you find that you have had a fixed mindset, then follow the steps to cultivate a growth mindset. Remember a growth mindset is all about the belief that a change can be made, regardless of the previous outcome.

A growth mindset gives us hope and allows us to have faith that we can reach our goals and we are capable of bettering ourselves and our lives. A growth mindset shows us that no matter what, no matter how long we have been in a situation, there is always an opportunity for change.

If you feel inspired to take steps toward creating the change you want to see for yourself and your life, you may find these resources helpful: