Synopsis & Links
Growth mindset is bullshit when it’s presented as a catch-22. Here’s how you can learn to develop a growth mindset even if you don’t already have a growth mindset.
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Find the Unfuck Your Brain podcast by Kara Lowenthiel at unfuckyourbrain.com or anywhere you listen to podcasts.
Growth mindset is bullshit
When you’ve been raised with a fixed mindset, it can seem like there’s no way for you to develop a growth mindset without already having one.
What we can do about it:
- Look for evidence: Find areas where you already have a growth mindset, no matter how small. Find areas in your life where you’ve shown growth, no matter how small.
- Don’t just wait for the evidence to mount. Use a thought ladder to address your thoughts directly, by gently working from an unhelpful thought to a helpful one.
Join me again in two weeks for the next Ex-Gifted to learn how and why you might want to grow your understanding of the unexplained.
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The first time you heard about growth mindset, did it feel exciting and inspiring?
But then soon after you realized that your mindset is pretty fixed
Then the more people talk about it the more you feel like you SHOULD have a growth mindset, but you realize there’s no way to develop a growth mindset without already having a growth mindset about growth mindsets?
It’s a classic catch-22 because you need to have a growth mindset in order to get a growth mindset.
If you’re like me you’ve been struggling with the idea that you were taught as a child that you’re smart or not, that you’re athletic or not, and now you have this static, fixed view of yourself that feels impossible to change.
And the way growth mindset was first presented to me is like this is something that is taught to children. You are made to have either a fixed or growth mindset based on the way you were spoken to as a child by your parents and teachers. If you have a fixed mindset, they broke you. Sorry. And you can’t undo it because you need to have a growth mindset to do that. Sorry again.
Can you see just how ridiculous this is coming from the people who are trying to teach you that you are capable of change? But it gets worse from there.
Let’s pair this with years of messaging to just be yourself. Who you are is static, and you should never be anyone but who you are. Now it feels inauthentic to change this fixed version even if you could. Like you’re lying, hiding, masking who you really are.
Next you hear that you better have a growth mindset because without one you’re just holding yourself back so you have to make yourself have one!
How? Well just start believing in things that go against everything you’ve been told since birth. I told you to change why haven’t you changed yet?
Growth and fixed mindsets are presented as diametrically posed on a moral level. If you have a growth mindset then you’re doing the Right Thing and will be rewarded with success but if you have a fixed mindset then that’s the Bad Thing and you will take not only all the failure but all the blame.
So you do, you take the blame and start to think that you deserve to fail at whatever risks you take because you don’t have the good and right mindset to improve.
But of course that doesn’t help you either and it feels terrible.
Mindset is not a moral issue, it is just a tool.
Blaming someone – including yourself for their own struggles is a misuse of that tool.
It is 100% true that your thoughts can hold you back in all areas of your life but it has to be stressed and explained that there’s still no blame to go go around, especially if no one has ever taught you what to do with your thoughts.
Because even in all this talk about growth mindset no one ever actually just says “Okay now here’s how you start believing that you are capable of growth” They just tell you that you should believe it and to just trust them.
So let’s talk about how you can actually address these thoughts directly. How can you start to believe that developing a growth mindset is possible for you.
One pretty straightforward way is to look for evidence. And in this case there’s two things we can look for.
Look for evidence of areas where you have a growth mindset now. Look for things that you already believe you can improve, however small they seem. Look for areas where you have had a growth mindset in the past.
Look for evidence of areas where you can clearly see you have improved. Even if you don’t feel like you have a growth mindset about it right now. Are you a better cook than you were 5 years ago? Do you write more words a day? Can you name more Pokemon? Those are some of mine. If you see evidence of improvement in an area then you can start to teach yourself that you really can grow, which is a seed that can turn into a growth mindset
For this next one I want to give credit to Kara Lowenthiel of the Unfuck your Brain podcast who is where I originally heard of this technique from. I highly recommend it for any feminists listening which I hope is everyone?
Make a thought ladder. It’s the most direct, actionable way I know to consciously change a thought.
At the bottom of the ladder put a thought that you currently believe about a growth mindset. Something like “I will never have a growth mindset.” At the top of the ladder write in something really extravagant that you wished you believed instead. Maybe “My thoughts are powerful and my improvement is limitless as long as I believe.” The more outrageous and untrue it is the better, as long as it’s something that you really wish you could believe about your capacity for growth.
In the middle, add 3-4 rungs taking baby steps from neutral to progressively more optimistic thoughts. On the second rung something like “It’s possible that I’m wrong when I think I can’t develop a growth mindset” would be great and a little higher up “I can do hard things like building a growth mindset”
I’ve got a free printable version at exgifted.com/thoughts both with and without my suggested thoughts so you can make one that really resonates with you.
From there, practice. Scratch out the one at the bottom, and work on the next one up. You can repeat it as an affirmation. “It’s possible I’m wrong about my limits”
Or you can do one of my favorite practices and do a brain dump on the thought. Write the thought you’re practicing out at the top and set a ten minute timer. For the next 10 minutes write out all the evidence and thoughts that you have related to the target thought. I love this because it’s really engaging with the thought. Thinking about a target thought makes it more real and helps to solidify it.
If you hate the idea of writing for 10 minutes then try talking out loud, or even singing instead. However you practice, it’s best to take action, either speaking the words aloud or writing them down, versus just thinking quietly to yourself.
Keep doing this for 10 minutes daily until you look at that rung on the ladder and can say to yourself that of course you believe that, then move up to the next rung and repeat the process.
The goal isn’t to reach the top of the ladder as fast as possible. It might take weeks just to move up one rung, and for some thoughts you might never reach all the way to the top. But of course that’s okay, because any progress is growth.
And so with just that, just the tiniest bit of progress you have your evidence that you can grow. What will you do next?
Join me again in two weeks, on October 29th when we’re going to get a little spooky and talk about how and why you might expand your growth mindset when it comes to the unexplainable.