What’s Your Mindset?

Simply defined, your mindset is a set of beliefs that shape how you see yourself and the world around you.  It influences how you think, feel, and behave in any given situation.  Psychologist Carol Dweck has spent her career looking at the role that an individual’s mindset plays in their success. She coined the terms growth mindset and fixed mindset.  According to her research, a person with a fixed mindset believes their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits where someone with a growth mindset believes that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. A growth mindset allows for the potential to learn and grow and improve throughout a lifetime.

Somewhere over the last few decades, this concept has been replaced with the idea that we should know how to do something inherently, that mistakes make you a failure and that perfection is the only valuable goal. It is not uncommon for students to drop a class when it proves challenging, quit the team when they aren’t named the starting quarterback, or leave the play when they are cast as an understudy. Many are missing the drive to pursue tutoring or put in extra practice outside of school and instead walk away because they weren’t automatically successful.

We know that a strong growth mindset is critical for success.  If we can start early and encourage a child’s growth mindset from the start, he or she will greatly benefit from it in the long run.  I work with school aged children in my practice and spend a great deal of time working to sow the seeds of a healthy growth mindset. This is something parents can do at home with their kids as they go about their everyday life.

 Here are a few quick tips to strengthen your child’s growth mindset.

  1. Acknowledge and embrace imperfections and differences – this is the spice of life – no one is the BEST at everything.  It’s okay to be more skilled in one area and weaker in another. You’re a creative writer, but can’t spell worth a flip?  You’re great with one-on-one interactions, but struggle in a large group setting? No problem. Its ok that you love to run and I love to read.  Help your child see their God given strengths that make them unique.
  2. Praise the effort and not the outcome.  This is a big one!
    1. You were working so hard on the court; I could see the sweaty determination on your face.
    1. You chose to tackle a long novel this semester, good for you.
    1. I noticed you making flash cards for your science quiz, great idea!
  3. Understand that mistakes are expected and welcome – it’s how we grow.
    1. I can see you’re disappointed in the grade, what will you do differently next time?
    1. I know you were hoping for a win, what adjustments could you make?
    1. I understand you were hoping for a different role in the play, what do you think this role will teach you?

Try this phrase the next time you watch your child in action: I love watching you play soccer, play the guitar, hear you sing, etc.  This emphasizes the process not the outcome and will help foster a healthy growth mindset.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)


Marcy Blake, LPC, has been working for Meier Clinics since 2005, working with children as young as six, adolescents, and adults. She describes her therapy as solution-focus cognitive behavioral therapy and her goals for her clients are to learn new ways of thinking and alternative ways of coping that can be applied to future problems or concerns. Marcy strives to help clients identify negative thought patterns and replace them with truthful, healthy thoughts.