I love a growth mindset.
Being open-minded to expanding our skillsets, failing forward, and taking on new opportunities sounds great in nature.
But as this term has grown across the personal and professional landscape, so has its misinterpretation of how it can make you successful.
In fact, saying you’re going to embody a growth mindset may actually be setting you up for failure.
In my last post about personal development trends, I made the point that our mindset is the micro aspect of our life while our mentality and actions are more macro in nature.
Let’s take that point a step further. Think of a growth mindset as a universe that you live in.
Living in that universe by no means translates to success in dealing with adversity and uncertainty.
Same goes for other mindsets. Let’s take health for example.
You know you should live a healthy lifestyle with an important balance of nutrition and physical activity.
But knowing that mindset and living in that universe doesn’t guarantee success. Of course, we know that we should be healthy, but when it comes time to execute and stray into uncomfortable new habits that make the little voice in our head cringe, we stall.
That should also explain why so many people fail with their health and fitness goals.
The same logic applies to a growth mindset.
We know we should be willing to continue our growth by diving into new opportunities, learning more, increasing our willingness to fail. How does that happen tactically and consistently though?
The answer - your brain and training it to live and respond in that universe.
If a growth mindset is the macro universe that you live in, it’s your brain, the most important muscle in your body, that carries the micro responsibility of making it a reality.
Moreover, if you don’t have the right tools and practices in place to enable your brain to carry out that mindset, then you might as well drink a daily ice cream smoothie with fudge and say that you’re healthy.
That’s my issue with a growth mindset these days. Everyone wants to be healthy, but they don’t understand “the how”.
Below are the 3 ways to start to fundamentally shift your mindset and train your brain for how it can handle adversity and uncertainty, while simultaneously strengthening it as the muscle and foundational piece that will enable you to live in that growth universe.
1. Journaling it into Existence
If we’re following the logic that your brain is the muscle that can be trained to embody a certain mindset (which it is!), then that means you have to be consistent in what you tell it. Writing it into existence is one of the easiest ways to do that.
As one of my goals for 2021, I’m making the conscious effort to be more fearless and bolder in my actions, specifically with my coaching practice. Every morning, when practicing Morning Pages — a form of journaling — I write at the top of the page that I am fearless and bold. If I’m going to continue to go outside of my comfort zone (and expand my skillsets publicly), then I’ll need to consistently remember that message (you remember 75% of what you write down) so that my brain starts to believe it too.
And every time I write it, I feel the shift in my mindset starting to become more and more consistent.
2. Coaching Your Brain Through Self-Talk
Top professional athletes have one thing in common, they’ve become exceptional in their own self-talk for their in-game performance when facing adversity.
They’ve taken a Learner Mindset, which focuses on the positive and solution-oriented comments and questions that we ask ourselves, made it a foundation of their self-coaching, and ran with it.
I’ve written about a Learner versus Judger mentality in several posts and I’ll continue to do so. It’s an invaluable coaching tool to change and adapt the tone and subject of the comments and questions we ask ourselves for different situations to be less negative and more positive in nature.
Without an understanding of this tool and the ability to make it a consistent foundation of your braining muscle training repertoire, living and sustaining yourself in a growth mindset universe becomes increasingly difficult.
For example, the second you come up against adversity with a new opportunity in a growth universe, that little chill but equally hot sensation will climb up your spine. The little voice in your head will push back saying, “this isn’t for me. You can’t do it.”.
How do you respond in real-time without grabbing your journal?
Coach yourself with self-talk.
Dr. Jim Loehr, a performance psychologist and co-founder of the Human Performance Institute, provides a perfect analogy for this. If you were to project your own voice on a billboard in text that relays your internal comments and questions, would they seem positive in nature and like something that can propel you forward? If not, you’re setting yourself up to fail in the growth mindset universe.
Like journaling about your mindset, consistency in bringing awareness to your self-talk and how you can get yourself out of a rut to dive into a new opportunity is equally as key in making a growth mindset realistic.
3. Positive Affirmations
The final tool to train and strengthen your brain muscle comes from positive affirmations.
According to Mindtools.com, positive affirmations are defined as the “statements that can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When you repeat them often, and believe in them, you can start to make positive changes.”
Initially, positive affirmations are one of the more challenging tools to use when training your brain muscle. This is especially true when trying to create a context that you may not necessarily think to be true or possible.
For example, if you’re going through a grueling job transition process, saying out loud that you’re going to land your dream job will sound uncomfortable. Saying that you’ll be able to land a job in the first place may even be a challenge too, especially if you’re a few months into the process and your brain and mindset are internally telling you something else.
The more consistently you go through the motions of saying these affirmations out loud, the more your brain will start to believe them.
As you continue to push into 2021, don’t just rely on a growth mindset to be successful when taking on new opportunities and looking to expand on your skillsets.
Rely on the tools that can strengthen your brain muscle and make a growth mindset possible in the first place, especially when dealing with the inevitable uncertainty and adversity of life.
To recap, these tools include:
1. Journaling a mentality into existence 2. Coaching your brain through self-talk 3. Positive affirmations