Developing a growth mindset

Developing a growth mindset

What is a growth mindset?

Growth mindset was briefly mentioned in our previous blogs on compassion fatigue and resilience. Developing compassion for yourself and others includes the arts of forgiveness, growth mindedness and gratitude.

The terms growth mindset and fixed mindset were originally coined by Carl Dweck during the 1980’s (Dweck, 1986). A ‘fixed’ mindset is when somebody hgrowth mindsetas a fixed belief about their abilities. It can be either positively or negatively fixed, for example, someone might think ‘I’m good at cooking!’ or ‘I’m bad at maths’. The problem with these mindset statements is that if someone thinks they are naturally good or bad at something they are unlikely to try hard at it.

Alternatively, a ‘growth’ mindset links effort, not ingrained ability, to success. People with a growth mindset are likely to increase the effort they put in to achieve success. Most people have a mixture of growth and fixed mindsets for different activities.


Why are growth mindsets important?

Having a growth mindset is important in developing resilience in the workplace and also getting the most out of therapy. If someone enters therapy with a fixed mindset regarding their abilities, good and bad, they are unlikely to put effort into therapy and reach the goals they set themselves. Indeed, people with a fixed mindset relating to their anxiety or psychological wellbeing, for example, ‘I’ll always be an anxious person’ or ‘I’m an unhappy person’ may be unwilling to engage in therapy. Alternatively, engaging a growth mindset in relation to your own wellbeing may result in statement such as ‘I have used some unhelpful coping styles in the past and I want to learn new, more helpful ones’. Having a growth mindset in relation to therapy, work, relationships or any other part of our lives also enables us to recover from set-backs.


How to engage a growth mindset

A growth mindset can be developed. Try these strategies to encourage yours:

  • Focus on effort not intelligence in yourself and others. Praise yourself for the effort you put into tasks, not how skilled you feel you are at them.
  • Set mini-goals. It is important to set realistic small goals for yourself so that they feel achievable. Praise or reward yourself each time you meet a mini-goal.
  • Add ‘yet’. If you catch yourself using a fixed mindset statement such as ‘I’m no good at….’ try adding ‘yet’ to the end of the statement or adding a growth mindset statement on the end, for example:
    • I’m no good at my job…yet.
    • I’m rubbish at tennis… But if I try hard I’ll get better.
    • I can’t understand this new skill my therapist is trying to explain… But if I ask her and try my hardest, I will understand it soon.

As in some of the examples above, engaging a growth mindset can be helpful for moving forward in therapy. If you would like to discuss your psychological wellbeing call Dr Julie Hannan now on 07530 854530. Dr Julie Hannan also specialises in Midlife issues and can be contacted on 07530 854530. Further midlife information can be found at



Dweck, C. S. (1986). Motivational processes affecting learning. American Psychologist41(10): 1040–1048. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.41.10.1040.