Growth Mindset: How to Find Comfort in the Uncomfortable
Updated: Aug 31
"I can't do that because I'm not good at it."
"I would embarrass myself if I tried to do that."
"I don't have what it takes."
Have you ever had thoughts like these? It's likely we all have, and likely that we've heard similar remarks from those around us as well. Each of these thoughts has rooted itself inside us by a narrative we've been holding onto - a conclusion we've come to based on a past experience we've had. And ever since that past experience that made us believe we weren't good enough, we've held on tight to believing that we never would be.
We've adopted a fixed mindset. And unbeknownst to us, this mindset continues to impact our every action in the future.
Think for a moment about some of the narratives you might have in your head. What is that thing you'd like to try, but you just know will end in failure? What is that experience that just even thinking about makes you uncomfortable as you recall that embarrassing moment years ago? What is something you won't even come close to trying because you know you don't have what it takes?
And now try to think of where those feelings might be coming from. Try to pinpoint a moment or chapter from your childhood or past that might have made you feel that way. If you never try that yoga class at the gym because you're worried you'll embarrass yourself, why is that? Do you have a memory where that once happened? If you're always too afraid to share your opinions in a work group at the office, why is that? Did you speak up once and it ended poorly?
These thoughts and beliefs we hold to be true are known as limiting beliefs: stories or narratives that we tell ourselves about who we are that hold us back from becoming who we are meant to be.
And when you've adopted a fixed mindset, you often hold many limiting beliefs. A fixed mindset is one in which you believe your intelligence is fixed - that if you're not good at something, you'll never be good at it. You believe those limiting thoughts about yourself are true and will never not be true. And this mindset holds us back - because the way we view our talents and intellect shapes not only how we feel, but also affects what we achieve. That's right - thinking you can't do something can actually impact whether or not you can!
And it's not your fault.
Before you toss your computer aside in frustration over just another thing you believe to be wrong about yourself - pause for a moment. Having adopted a fixed mindset is not your fault. The society we live in doesn't often build us up or make us believe in hope for things to come. As we grow up, without careful attention, comparing ourselves and our classmates can breed many deep and hurtful feelings that remain hidden through adulthood. We hide away the parts about ourselves that we're scared to show the world.
The Growth Mindset
What if you believed that your talents and intellect could be developed? That you could learn and get better over time?
This is the basis for a growth mindset, coined by psychologist Carol Dweck. People with a growth mindset view their current intelligence and skills as qualities that can be developed. They recognize that failure and setbacks are part of a larger learning process that ultimately makes them better in the end.
Broken down by the Mindset Health, people with a growth mindset are more likely to:
Embrace lifelong learning
Put in more effort to learn
Believe effort leads to mastery
Believe failures are just temporary setbacks
Willingly embrace challenges
View others' success as a source of inspiration
View feedback as an opportunity to learn
Research proves the benefits of adopting a growth mindset, of being comfortable in the uncomfortable. Since the early studies into the neurology of the growth mindset, over 30 years ago, there has been countless scientific studies about the benefits of this approach. Often studied on students in the classroom, many studies show that students with a growth mindset achieve higher test scores and preform better overall than their peers with a fixed mindset. In one study, researchers analyzed the mindsets of 10th grade students and their scores on a national achievement test in Chile. As described by the Student Experience Network, "Students who held a growth mindset were three times more likely to score in the top 20% on the test, while students with a fixed mindset were four times more likely to score in the bottom 20%."
And you can experience these benefits, too.
"Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right." -Henry Ford
Adopting a Growth Mindset
Rewiring your brain from years of fixed mindset thinking to a new approach may take some time. But with determination and practice, you can succeed at this (*did you notice that growth mindset thinking?). Here's how:
Believe in Yourself. No, seriously - believe in yourself. This is an absolute must in starting this journey. Look yourself in the mirror every day and remind yourself that you are strong enough to change. You can change your thinking. You can accomplish what you set your mind to. You can commit to practicing this way of thinking. You can be better, for you. Pick a daily affirmation and commit to repeating to yourself every morning. "I can do hard things", "I am strong enough" or "I am worthy of growth" are great places to start.
Be Curious. Recognize when you don't know something. Take note of moments throughout your day when you are met with challenge. Notice that internal feeling of tension, worry, and stress at not knowing, and pause. Repeat your affirmation back to yourself and remind yourself that not knowing is not a reason to be embarrassed or ashamed. You can be curious about things you don't know. Be excited. Start to ask questions. Wonder.
Accept Failure. It's Part of the Journey. When you begin to put yourself out there and begin to lean into your curiosities, your not-knowings, and your discomfort, you have to accept that you might fail. This is at the heart of the growth mindset - trying, failing, and trying again. Not letting the worry of failure keep you from trying. This step takes daily practice, since the society we are surrounded with daily doesn't often reward failure. Remind yourself that failure is not a sign of weakness but an indication that you are doing the hard work it takes to dismantling your fixed mindset. And when you get back up and try again, you are succeeding.
Reflect. Take a moment at the end of each day and reflect. Ask yourself - did you try something new today? How did it go? Did you fail? Was it embarrassing? Was it frustrating? Take a deep breath and give yourself a pat on the back. You're going to try again. That's part of the practice. And you're going to be better off for it.
Leave Your Ego Behind. In the journey towards adopting a growth mindset, you can't worry about protecting your reputation and your ego. This practice will make you uncomfortable. It will may make you feel unaccomplished. But this work pays off. You will be happier because you won't be gripping tight to upholding unrealistic expectations for yourself. You will be more successful because you'll allow yourself to try new things and have new experiences that build new skills and develop your being. People will be more drawn to you. You'll be more drawn to you. Leave your ego behind and challenge those limiting beliefs.
You can do this. You can lean into the uncomfortable.
Here's to more learning, more growth, more failing (and more trying again!), and a better you.
Are you on the journey towards a growth mindset? What have you learned along the way? Tweet us @annevangessel0
Until next time,
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