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Cultivate A Growth Mindset: 3 Proven Techniques

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Hi everyone, I’m Fia Fasbinder. Welcome to the Moxie Talk blog, where we help you find your voice, share your message, and lead with confidence.

Today we are unpacking growth mindset! But before we do that, if you watch me on Youtube, please make sure to hit that alert button so you get notified anytime I put out new content. If you love the videos, make sure to subscribe to our channel and share it with all your friends and colleagues.

It’s been about a decade since I began creating content and it’s been four years since I started doing Youtube videos. My goal is to pass on to you all of the tips, the learning, and the techniques that I’ve acquired along the way.

Most of the time if you read my blogs and watch my Youtube channel, you know that those tips and techniques are focused on presentation and communication skills.

What’s more, some of the time my content is simply life skills that I’ve learned along the way—usually a lot of trial and error mistakes, rinse and repeat, and try again. My goal in these life skills that I’m teaching you is to help you thrive and succeed in anything you’re doing in your life that matters to you, whether it’s presentation-related or not.

In our previous blog, I unpacked a life skill that no traditional school offers in classes that I’m aware of but I wish they had—that life skill is Grit. However, there’s actually a second life skill that I also wish I had taken in school, which is Growth Mindset.

Grit and growth mindset go hand in hand. You really can’t have one and not the other. Because we don’t take any of these classes in school, I believe that these skills are learned in the school of life, or more appropriately, if you’re like me, the school of hard knocks. First of all, let us look at the growth mindset.

What is Growth Mindset?

The term was coined by a famous researcher named Carol Dweck, who has written numerous amazing books, articles, and TED Talks about growth mindset. If you want to deep-dive into growth mindset, there really is no end to the amount of literature that’s out there on the topic.

The Belief that talents can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others

To briefly sum up Carol Dweck’s findings, individuals who believe that their talents can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those who have a more fixed mindset which is those who believe that their talents and their skills are innate gifts.

These days most of us understand—at least on a rational level—that a growth mindset is necessary to achieve our goals, just like we understand that grit will be equally necessary, just like we understand that vegetables are good for us.

We know, logically, that hard work, good strategies, and feedback from others is a better way to improve and progress than believing that we either do-or-don’t have what it takes to make our goals come true. But really having a growth mindset is much easier said than done.

Here’s where my life experience comes in. I want to share with you my top 3 favorite techniques to develop a growth mindset. But before I do, I want to share with you a study that was done by:

David Yeager

David Yeager is a psychology professor at UT Austin who studies growth mindset. In one famous study that I think is really cool, Yeager worked with grade school teachers. He had the teachers get the kids to run a mile, take a math test, and write an English report.

Group 1 heard from the teachers that they were innately talented in doing these things, such as, Wow! You’re so fast, or You’re just great at math, or You’re a really good writer. Now, these sound like just simple compliments, right? There’s no harm in these compliments, but these are actually an example of a fixed mindset—either these students are good at these things or they’re not.

The other group was told by the teachers that they worked really hard to improve their time on the mile, or that they could tell the students were putting in their time to get better at the division, or it was clear that they had read and re-read their essay to make sure there were no grammar mistakes.

Now each of these tests was done 3 times with the teachers giving either encouragement around a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.

Which group continued to improve in all three areas?

The group that was given encouragement focused on a growth mindset. Why?

Because the group whose encouragement focused on a fixed mindset rested on their laurels. They were already fast or good at math or great at English. Why even try to get better? It’s not about getting better, it’s about I’m already there.

Well, the other group that was trying saw that consistently putting an effort led to better results. This is not to say that if elementary school kids can get it we can get it too.

I know it’s not that easy. I understand. I struggle with it and I see my clients struggle with it every day, but it is possible. Let’s break down those 3 strategies that I’ve used to develop a growth mindset and that I hope you can use too.

Technique #1: Failure Is An Option

Number 1 is failure is an option. I know that there is this quote from Apollo 13 flight to the moon that Failure is not an option. We actually have a coffee cup with this quote in our kitchen but let’s keep in mind the context of this quote.

This was a group of astronauts trying to land a rocket ship on a planet in outer space. Clearly, there are times when failure is not an option and this was one of them. But in order to get to that flight that could not fail, there were countless failures along the way.

In fact, when you listen to the accounts of these astronauts speak about their experience, they literally trained for 20 years, making every kind of mistake possible before they nailed it. In fact, the astronauts on further flights that worked with the Russian team even had to learn Russian before they went into space.

By the time they went to the moon these astronauts said that they knew every inch of that rocket ship so well that they could have navigated with their eyes closed. That is only because they had trained so long and made so many mistakes along the way.

Failure is part of success, not the opposite of it

Failure is not only an option—it’s necessary. Failure is not the opposite of success. Failure is a stepping stone on the ladder to success, but most of us are so afraid of failing that we don’t even try. In fact, when we really think about it, we’re not even afraid of failing; we’re afraid of what everyone will think if we fail.

We’re not afraid of failing. We’re afraid of others seeing us fail

There is an actual psychological term called the spotlight effect and I’ve spoken about this in previous blogs. The spotlight effect says that we have a bias to think that people are paying more attention to us than they actually are, usually in a bad way, not a good way.

This is not narcissistic, this is not a case of narcissism; this is just a common bias that can keep us from trying new, courageous things out of fear of what people will think if we fail because we will fail on the way to trying these new things.

We will fail on anything new we try. I tell my clients and my kids all the time. My clients listen to me, my kids don’t. Nonetheless, this is true that you have to dare to suck. It’s really true and it requires bravery to dare to suck.

Dare to suck now so you suck less later

When you take that first brave step and you develop a growth mindset and keep at it at the regular, you’ll suck less and less every time. It’s really that simple.

We have to be brave enough to lean into the suck as Brene Brown would say. Theodore Roosevelt has a quote which I love and that quote is,

It’s hard to fail, but it’s worse never had to have tried to succeed.

Failure is scary. Mediocrity is even scarier.

Technique #2: Choose Growth Over Goals

Let’s move on to technique number 2 which is to choose growth over goals.

When I’m working with clients towards a long-term goal of maybe giving a Ted Talk and helping them prepare for that, or preparing for an upcoming conference keynote, or even a high-stakes presentation to an executive team, and I’ll often, in that process, show them a video of somebody that I believe is a great speaker or a great ted talk or a great orator and I will often hear them say:

  • I’ll never be that good
  • I’ll never be able to do it like that person
  • I just suck at public speaking

My response is always to remove the never and rephrase the statement by adding a yet to the end of the sentence. So that you’re now saying, ‘I’m not able to do it like that person yet.‘ That is the difference between talking to yourself with a fixed mindset and talking to yourself with a growth mindset.

Then I piggyback that phrase and help them rephrase that inner talk by saying, ‘You’re right! You’re not there yet. You can’t do it like that person yet—but if you show up every damn day and do the work, you will get there.’

Now you can see how grit and growth mindset go hand in hand. This is because if you choose progress over perfection and you keep moving towards this goal, to borrow a phrase from one of my favorite Peloton instructors,

What was once your ceiling, now becomes your floor

A goal is a result; either I hit it or I don’t hit it. However, if I focus on the growth instead of the goal, then I won’t get as defeated and deflated as easily when I don’t reach that end result in one fell swoop.

Believe me, of all of the techniques I’m suggesting to you, this one is the most difficult for me personally. Being somewhat of a perfectionist and an A-type personality, I can easily get impatient if my growth or my progress doesn’t happen as quickly as I would like it to happen.

When that happens, I can hear this inner critic in my head say, ‘Well you might as well give up since you didn’t get there the first time,’ or ‘Why even try if it’s not going to be perfect?’ 

It is only after years of struggling with this I can now recognize that inner critic voice and I can turn it down or I can change the channel to my inner advocate voice and encourage myself to stay the course.

If you want more ideas on how to change the channel on your own inner critic or your own negative inner dialogue check, out my video on grit.

So stay the course and measure growth instead of goals and then it’s easy to stay on track.

Technique #3: Love Yourself Now And Still Strive To Be Better 

Now on to our third technique for developing a growth mindset: love yourself now and still strive to be better. This one is so important because you simply can’t hate yourself into change.

That may work for a very short time period. You might be able to bark at yourself like a military drill sergeant, but in order to keep moving towards transformation, you’re going to have to love the current version of yourself and keep moving towards a better future version.

There is actually scientific proof to this. When we lose or fail, we release hormones of stress and depression. Typically that’s cortisol but when we celebrate small wins, we get a hit of dopamine.

That dopamine is that feel-good hormone that makes us want to keep going and motivates us to keep going through those failures and to keep our eye on a bigger goal.

Tim Grover, who’s a trainer to some of the basketball legends of all time like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan says,

Learn from your failures, but also celebrate your wins

Failing forward is so necessary because we learn from our failures but if we don’t allow ourselves to fail and learn from our failures, then we’ll never win, but you also must allow yourself to celebrate those wins. So it’s not all failure all the time.

Apparently, when he would push these basketball teams towards really high-stakes games and high-stakes situations, he would first make them look back at some of the smaller wins.

In order to work towards that goal knowing you’re going to fail along the way, you must celebrate your wins no matter how small they are.

For those of you who are always charging forward, I get it. I am like you. Believe me, I’m the same way. But our negativity bias is real. If you don’t know what a negativity bias is, it is this idea that our brains are hardwired to hold on to negative experiences.

Negativity Bias: Your brain will hold on to negativity longer than positivity

Negative experiences are like Velcro and positive ones are like Teflon. The only way to make those positive experiences as sticky as the negative ones is to change our neural pathways.

According to neuroscientists, this means you must spend intentional, purposeful time in the positive. This means when you feel that negativity bias coming on, you say a mantra to yourself. You develop your own inner coach who says things you need to hear, or intentionally and purposely focus on a recent win, no matter how small that win is.

I’ve done many other videos about how to build your positive neural pathways, I encourage you to watch them if you want some more techniques.

I have so many clients who will work with me for months on a high-stakes presentation and we’ll have a debrief following that presentation and I’ll ask them how it went.

The first thing they say is a criticism of what they could or should have done better or what went wrong, and I always stop them in their tracks and say, ‘I get it! I know this is difficult and we’ll get to the things we need to keep working on or the things you need to improve or could have been better—but first, tell me what went right. Tell me what you did well.’

It’s as if these iron doors start closing in with all the negatives and they literally have to push those doors open for a moment to focus on where they kicked ass.

If this is you, you can do anything from mantras to focusing on the positives to visualizations. I was recently introduced to the idea of a win wall, if you need that.

You can high-five yourself in the mirror which Mel Robbins suggests.

Find a technique that really works for you but love and accept yourself now if you want to truly become the best version of yourself in the future.

There you go, 3 techniques to help you develop a growth mindset. Know that failure is an option. Try to choose growth over goals, and love the current version of yourself while you strive to do better.

In the famous words of Carol Dweck, we like to think of our champions and our idols as these superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.

I hope you found this blog valuable, informative and relevant. If you did, please make sure to share it with a friend and like our videos on Youtube. For more information on everything from soup to nuts presentations, check out our other blogs.

If you want more information on the coaching and the training we do here at the Moxie Institute around developing a growth mindset, check out moxieinstitute.com.

Until next time, live brilliantly, lead boldly and always Speak with Moxie.

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