August 2018

Change your Mindset, Change your Life

By John Rossillo
How many times does an opportunity arise and your response is, “I can’t," or your internal thoughts tell you, "I am not smart enough"? Do you face challenges with the "I can't" setback attitude or a fear of failing? If you do, you are interpreting your intelligence or abilities with what is called a fixed mindset. I have repeated over and over to students and athletes, “Saying ‘I can’t’ means 'I am not willing to try.'” This perspective can make a person want to shift the way they think.

In a fixed mindset, you are convinced that your skills, traits or talents are settled. You believe this is the way things are and become content with a life achieving below your ability. But in that mindset, how can you learn anything new? You must understand that you can choose how you respond to opportunity. Your belief and your behavior are linked. A fixed mindset can prevent important skill development. This type of mindset leads us to worry about what might happen to us instead of asking “What are we going to make happen?” Think of yourself as the cause, not the effect.
 
If you are only worried about the outcome, you are stuck in a fixed mindset. The growth mindset will help you value what you are doing regardless of the outcome.
 
Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University, author of the book “Mindset,” says, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – brains and talent are just the starting point.”
 
Dweck notes that a person with a growth mindset believes intelligence and skills can be developed. Students with a fixed mindset will give up when they can’t solve a problem, whereas students with a growth mindset will work to seek an answer. They will learn to overcome challenges instead of avoiding them. 
 
A growth mindset goes beyond a single event – it is incorporated on a daily basis. And we are not defined by a single event or single result. Rather, our identity is defined by our daily actions. Committing to the process is what helps us grow.
 
The key to changing your outlook is to understand that you have a choice rather than protecting yourself from failing.
 
Here are eight ways to help you develop your growth mindset.
  1. Embrace challenge – Anything worthwhile will not come easily. We reach new understanding when we accomplish something notable.
  2. Replace the word failed with the word learned – Think of the difference between saying “I failed the test” and “I learned from the test.”
  3. Stop seeking approval – Your potential for growth is more important than someone else’s approval.
  4. Expand your sense of purpose – Expose yourself to diversity and learn to think differently. Stretch outside your comfort zone.
  5. Ask for feedback – Remember that constructive criticism assists growth. This feedback improves your performance.
  6. Use the word “yet” for a better way to understand your challenges. An example is, "I am not a good free-throw shooter…yet."
  7. Be inspired by the success of others – Others’ success should be an inspiration and a source of information. Many outstanding leaders had mentors and role models.
  8. Surround yourself with growth mindset people – People’s moods become contagious to the people around them. We can’t always choose the mood, but we can choose the circle of people with whom we associate.
A growth mindset puts us on a track to success. It creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education and sports. Michael Jordan displayed his growth mindset when he said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
 
John Rossillo is a school counselor and coaches varsity football and track at Lindenhurst High School in Lindenhurst, N.Y. He has presented on using Glasser’s choice theory and the WDEP method (wants, direction, evaluation, plan) to help students recognize choices and change behaviors to help them reach goals. Contact him at jrossillo@lindenhurstschools.org.