Do you control your brain or does your brain control you? Turns out, it’s a big, healthy mix!
Researchers and medical professionals have poured countless hours into figuring out the brain. They have discovered that, because our brain is constantly changing, we have the power to direct its changes through something called a “growth mindset.”
In the same way your personal experiences and memories shape how you think, adapt, and respond to the world around you, a growth mindset takes that same kind of transformational approach.
Our life circumstances and encounters can also develop what’s known as a “fixed mindset.” This mindset processes moments like when your mom told you that you’re brave, when your teacher gave you the science award you wanted, or when your manager said you could run your own company someday. On the flip side, it can include negative situations that result in things like low self-esteem, a lack of ambition, or a fear of stepping out on a leap of faith.
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All of these fixed emotions come together to form the foundation of who you are. But just because they’re fixed doesn’t mean they’re permanent. Adopting a growth mindset can help you adapt in new ways, bounce back from failures more quickly, cultivate resilience, and challenge what you consider to be your “weaknesses.”
OK, sounds great — but how does it work? We’ve got you covered! Here are four ways to develop a growth mindset.
1. Change your perception of your brain.
First, we have to see the brain less like an organ or a complex system and more like a muscle that requires exercise (or, for our visual learners, like a moldable piece of clay).
The more you exercise (or knead) it, the easier it becomes to develop it into something even greater. Keep your brain active by constantly stretching it, challenging it, and feeding it new information. This strengthens your brain, causing it to reproduce new neurons with tighter connections.
2. “Mindset” your dreams into reality.
It sounds crazy, but take science’s word for it. Think about something you’re struggling with right now — maybe it’s financial issues, an obstacle in your career, or a health-related goal.
Now sit down and think about the advice you would give someone else going through a similar situation. Maybe even write out your hypothetical tips. Once you complete your list of suggestions, you now have an outline of thoughts and actions to put into practice for yourself. Revisit these ideas often and begin to train your brain to put belief behind them.
3. Recall your own success stories.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you should remind your brain (and yourself) what you’re capable of. Recall a moment in time when you were able to start something from scratch and continue to build your knowledge and understanding until it turned into a skill.
Fight off those pesky fixed mindsets that are telling you what you can’t do by boosting your perception of what your brain can do.
4. Think “growth” thoughts.
Stretch and challenge your brain by asking questions and thinking thoughts that develop new perspectives and beliefs about yourself. For example:
- After a failure, think, “Setbacks are inevitable, and now I’m just one step closer to finding the solution.”
- Instead of considering all the potential negative consequences of trying something new, try, “I wonder what good might come from challenging myself to try this. What would happen if I succeed?”
- Avoid focusing on others’ perceptions of you, and instead cultivate excitement over learning something new. Think, “Life is short, and I’m glad I’m getting to add this to my list of experiences!”
In Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” she says, “For 20 years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.”
What do you have to lose in giving a growth mindset a shot? Try out these simple tips in your own life, and share these techniques with a friend.
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