Using a growth mindset to achieve your goals

Changing the way you think about your abilities can help you reach your goals.

Using a growth mindset to achieve your goalsDo you have fixed ideas about who you are and what you’re good or not so good at doing? Many of us have fixed beliefs about ourselves we assume were something we were born with – whether that’s intelligence, musical or sporting talent, or even personality traits like patience or the ability to get on with other people and create positive relationships.

We often think our abilities and qualities are fixed – they are what they are and that’s just it. Well guess what – according to the book ‘Mindset’ by Stanford researcher and psychologist Carol Dweck, that’s simply not the case.

What is a fixed mindset?

A fixed mindset is identifying with labels we’ve either imposed on ourselves or have been given by other people. Things like: “I’m not that smart” or “I’m so unmusical that I’m not going to even try to play an instrument”, or “I’m just an angry person, there’s nothing I can do about it.” We assume we just weren’t genetically blessed with these talents or personality traits and therefore there’s nothing we can do about it.

What is a growth mindset?

A growth mindset takes the opposite point of view, abilities can grow and be improved – anything from intelligence to personality traits. A growth mindset means we feel we can grow and develop our skills. Basically, nothing is carved in stone and everyone has the potential to grow and change. Essentially it’s like recreating that feeling many of us had as children that the world was our oyster and anything is possible.

So how can we cultivate more of a growth mindset?

Now, before we start labelling ourselves as having a ‘fixed’ or ‘growth’ mindset, we need to mention that Dweck believes all of us are actually a mixture of growth and fixed mindsets. She thinks it’s not a bad thing if we have a fixed mindset about some parts of our lives – we just have to be able to acknowledge that’s the case.

By acknowledging the little voice in our heads which says “Don’t try this, you’ll embarrass yourself” or “I’m not good at this, so I’m not going to even bother trying” we can challenge our fixed mindsets. Accept and recognise the thoughts are there, but talk back and adjust them with a growth mindset: “This may not be easy at first, but I will get better with time” or “I may not have got this spot on this time, but next time I’ll tackle it a different way and I’ll do better”.

Of course, there are still limits to this theory. No matter how much we work on our tennis game, we’re probably not going to beat Roger Federer, BUT we can become better tennis players – even really good tennis players if we acknowledge the possibility, don’t give up before we’ve started and stick at it through the tough bit at the start. A growth mindset doesn’t deny that people differ in their talents and abilities, but you can still always personally improve.

There are simply loads of things in our lives we may have a fixed mindset about. One of these may be about the ability to quit weed. Perhaps you think “I’m just an addictive person so I’ll never be able to quit weed”. Maybe you’ve even tried to quit weed a few times in the past and not been successful, so this has just reinforced your belief that you can’t do it.

While failing to quit weed in the past has been disappointing, you shouldn’t let it label you as someone who can’t quit – as someone who will just have to deal with this forever, even though you don’t want to anymore. If you take a growth mindset approach you know you can just keep trying and eventually you’ll get there – it just takes some patience, perseverance and positivity.

In this case, it also does help to have someone on your side – someone who can help you reframe those “I can’t” statements, to “I will” statements. If you don’t have a friend or family member who can help with your growth mindset, try calling our national cannabis helpline on 1800 30 40 50 – the trained counsellors are excellent listeners, great with advice and happy to help you remember you can do this!