Learn more to stay sane: How a growth mindset can help mental wellness

October 24, 2019

The practice of believing one's abilities are malleable to foster a positive mindset

“I am bad at public speaking. Look at how I freeze every time I speak in front of an audience. I am going to avoid it as much as I can.”

“I don't like my job, but I perform better here. So, I am staying.”

“No one has ever tried doing that! it is too risky. I am not doing it.”

“What’s the point of learning those new skills? Anyway, I am too busy with my work.”

Do these scenarios happen at certain points of your life?

If such thoughts appear frequently, you fall into the category of people with a “fixed mindset” or according to Carol Dweck’s Mindset Theory of Motivation, are a part of individuals who believe that their abilities are fixed, and there is no way to change it regardless of the amount of effort and persistence they put in.

Fixed Mindset

To clarify, an individual with a fixed mindset tends to be very hard on themselves when they fail. They may choose to give up during challenges or avoid possibilities of failures. These individuals prefer to stay in their status quo and “safe zones” instead of taking risks.

Well, but what’s wrong with making mistakes in life? Why do you have to hide and avoid failures instead of turning them into learning lessons? Why settle for a job that makes you seem capable but renders you dispassionate or even unhappy? Why settle for experiences tried and tested by others instead of exploring novel paths to push your limits and potential?

Growth Mindset

Courtesy: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

The desire to outgrow ourselves and believing that whatever happens in our lives are learning lessons that aid our growth – this is what we term as the growth mindset. Individuals with such mindset tend to believe that their abilities are malleable and “hard work does pay off.''

Such a mindset is extremely beneficial for us. It fosters a positive mindset towards our setbacks and instills belief that we do have a certain power over our lives. Such neuroplasticity thereby enables us to navigate our stress and challenges better, enhancing our mental well-being. Besides, if you refrain from venturing into the unknown and stick to the status quo instead, you’ll never know what new opportunities await. In fact, research has shown that learning new things can actually help us feel good about ourselves, boost our self-confidence and connect with others. For those unsure about their purpose in life, exploring new things may help find some answers.

Better psychological well-being and happiness

Courtesy: Authentic Happiness, Seligman's homepage at University of Pennsylvania

Apart from the growth mindset there is yet another way to cultivate psychological well-being. Martin Seligman’s PERMA Model developed these 5 core elements which when adopted brings a lot of balance and happiness into our lives.

Positive Emotions: It is the ability to be optimistic with challenges.

Engagement: Immersing in activities/tasks that bring enjoyment and helps us to remain present.

Relationships: We are social beings in need of human connections, no matter how independent we are.

Meaning: As humans, we seek for meaning in the things we do, which is why ‘purpose of life’ is so often discussed.

Accomplishment: Having goals and ambitions motivate us to strive to be better individuals and receive fulfilment and joy from our achievements.

There is a close connection between the Growth Mindset and the PERMA Model. Growth Mindset helps individuals view their failures as learning lessons and rooms of improvements instead of viewing them with negativity and hopelessness.

It also encourages us to try out new experiences that may interest us. This may lead to finding jobs/tasks that give us a sense of meaning and satisfaction instead of doing things for the sake of doing.

Of course, learning comes when we share our knowledge and experience with others, and this brings us a sense of belonging that enhances our well-being.

How do I adopt a Growth Mindset in my daily life?

Courtesy: Shirstok's portfolio/Shutterstock
1. When we experience any setback/ failure, tackle instead of avoiding

Attempt to solve the issue, and if it does not work out, learn from the mistake. Move on to the next challenge in your life. This does not mean encountering the new challenge on a clean slate but rather making the lessons learnt the foundation of solving new challenges.

2. Have the habit of learning something new each day.

It can be learning how to use Adobe Photoshop, Python or even to play the guitar. No learning lesson is too minimal or insignificant. If it is hard to start the habit, begin with something simple. Don’t forget that a habit takes at least 21 days to form.

3. Share that growth mindset with your loved ones.

Discuss the incident on the news today, how you are learning from the mistake you’ve made or bring your friends along for the new classes you signed up for.

4. Learn the power of the word “yet”

I tried but I cannot do it” vs. “I tried but I cannot do it yet.”

“Failure is so important. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success.” - JK Rowling

Our mindset –whether fixed or growth – affects how we view our failures and successes and this, in turn, changes the meaning of our efforts. Our thoughts and actions are hence altered, bringing us to different paths in life. So, the next time you come across a failure, think twice on which mindset to adopt so it is beneficial to you.

There’s so much to learn in life and we are never too young or old to keep growing. What are you waiting for? Join us on this journey of self-discovery and learning to start falling in love with the unfamiliar.