You have heard the importance of mindfulness. You know it helps you become more resilient. You want to develop a growth mindset. By now you may be asking yourself, how? How do I cultivate a growth mindset? What are some tangible steps to help me grow?
As we approach becoming more resilient and developing a growth mindset it turns out these concepts are interrelated and interdependent; each grows as you work on the other. In addition to resiliency being important while focusing on a growth mindset, grit is too. Angela Duckworth, an American Psychologist who studies grit and self-control, reassures us that grit is not something you are solely born with and thus have or don’t; rather, grit is developed through cultivating a growth mindset. Duckworth defines grit as “the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals”. Thus, grit has a critically important place in our academic lives. She goes on to explain that grit is our sustained effort towards our goal despite obstacles and failure. And fail we will. But isn’t failure just an opportunity to learn?
As we go towards any goal that challenges and stretches us, failure is part of the journey. However, we like to not use the word failure because we always look at every opportunity, success or failure, as learning that helps us grow and develop new, more proficient ways of solving problems. Albert Einstein reminds us, “if you have never failed, you have never tried anything new”. This is a comforting statement about learning to push outside of our comfort zone. It is important to remember that eventually, our comfort zone will expand with each thing we learn within those experiences, hence expanding our zone of comfort.
Grit is important so we can stay focused and committed to our goals despite the resistance and discomfort of change. Resiliency is our ability to bounce back from these “failures” and accept the discomfort of change. We don’t get dissuaded and frustrated by the challenges but instead approach them with curiosity and interest. We ask ourselves, “what can I learn from this?” We resiliently rebound but grit keeps us going. Relying on grit and resiliency requires a growth mindset, a belief that we have the capacity to grow and learn, that we are always evolving versus believing our skills are static. The greatest athletes practice hours each day because they know they have never learned all there is to know about a sport; instead, each attempt reveals new learning that can be applied to strengthen their skill.
There are belief systems, thoughts, and characteristics that people who are committed to developing a growth mindset have:
- Embrace challenges
- Persist in the face of setbacks
- See effort as the path to mastery
- Learn from criticism
- Find lessons and inspiration in the success of others
Carol Dweck is the foremost researcher on the growth mindset. She has helped us understand that as growth mindset expands there is a direct relationship to grit growing also. Dr. Dweck has been interested in and studied tenacity/grit in college settings. These four factors impact ongoing student grit:
- Their beliefs about themselves
- Their goals
- Their feelings about their social connectedness
- Their self-regulatory skills.
Posimations, within Ajivar, can be a tool students use to improve their thoughts about themselves. Posimations give us affirmative statements that we repeat, daily reminders of our value, worth and capabilities. What we tell ourselves about who we are impacts everything we do as our actions are a result of who we think we are and what we believe about our capabilities. As Duckworth found, our passion for our goal is important if we are going to persist. If we are following a path we think we should but don’t have a heart for, it will be tough to continue to do when we fail and experience challenges. But if we love what we are studying and the goals we are working hard towards, we are more likely to keep moving towards it despite the challenges. Sometimes we have friends, family, and support around us yet our feelings about these connections create a barrier for us seeing how connected we are. Other times we have limited support systems and need more. Regardless, it’s our interpretation of these connections, our thoughts about our relationships, that keep us willing to continue growing within them or to quit. Lastly, our self-regulation skills impact our grit and growth mindset. We need to be able to use our emotional intelligence to understand the connection between our thoughts and feelings and thus activate our self-regulation skills.
The Chopra Center gives us 5 tips for building resiliency and grit:
- Focus on your language choice
- Surround yourself with positive people
- Adopt flexible thinking patterns
- Set goals that align with your purpose
- Build time in your day for reflection
Journaling is an excellent way to reflect on your goals, be aware of the language you are using when approaching your goals and can help ensure your inner purpose is accurately reflected within your goals. As you focus on these patterns more routinely, in a non-judgmental, curious way, your thinking will become more flexible. Ajivar’s journal can help you keep track of your progress towards reaching your grit, resilience, and growth mindset goals. Each day, if you will practice with the assurance that over time your efforts will pay off, one day you will reap the cumulative benefits of your effort. In order to reach these goals, the importance of surrounding yourself with positive people in your life cannot be overstated. Positive people strengthen our grit, helping us to persevere despite setbacks. We need these types of social connections when times get tough. They will help us see the way out and believe there is a path to success despite the current circumstances.
You CAN develop a growth mindset. Each time you practice retraining your mind by pivoting from what you initially thought to what you want to believe, you strengthen your grit and resiliency. Take one thought at a time. You can do it! Believe in yourself!