Let's dive into what a growth mindset actually is...
Do you ever think these things when you’re studying?
- I’m just not that smart
- This is too hard, I want to give up
- I don’t get this at all
- I can’t improve
- You’re either good at studying or not...and I’m not.
These statements are elements of a fixed mindset – which Carol Dweck, Psychology Professor at Stanford University, explains is the belief intelligence is unchangeable. You either have a lot of intelligence or a little. Some people are smart and some are not. On the other hand, growth mindset is the belief intelligence is malleable – something that can be developed. With effort and perseverance, you can become more intelligent.
This blog post will explain why and how developing a growth mindset will increase your motivation to study and result in you achieving grades you never thought possible.
A fixed mindset leads to a focus on performance goals and a desire to look smart. Whether you have natural ability or not, a fixed mindset can hold you back. If you believe you are naturally talented, a fixed mindset may cause you to focus on maintaining that self-image by avoiding new challenges and focusing only on those you can already do well. If you believe you’re not that smart, you may feel there’s no point trying so don’t put any effort into improving your study skills or grades.
Dangers of holding a fixed mindset
- You avoid challenges and risks so find it difficult to progress or improve dramatically
- If you experience obstacles you’re likely to stop trying, feel helpless and give up easily. You fail to achieve your goals because you can’t overcome setbacks
- Too much effort is seen as unnecessary and you believe you’re either smart or you’re not. You believe ‘good enough’ is ok and you don’t spend time trying to improve…so you stay where you are
- You feel threatened by the success of others and attribute it to natural talent or luck rather than working hard. You miss out on valuable lessons that could help you achieve similar success
- You ignore useful criticisms and feedback rather than learning from them. You take criticism personally so ignore advice and repeat the same mistakes
- Any failures and mistakes you experience are put down to low ability rather than low effort and you feel like you want to give up, rather than think of ways to improve
- · You’re reluctant to try new methods and use the same strategies again and again.
Any of these beliefs could result in you failing to improve in your studies so you don’t achieve your full potential.
Instead, you should develop a growth mindset so you can continuously improve and reach higher levels of achievement.
Benefits of developing a growth mindset
- You embrace challenges, seeing them as a chance to learn something new and to become a better person
- If you experience obstacles you don’t quit. You know success isn’t a straight road and to be successful you have to learn to overcome your setbacks
- You believe effort is the only way to success. You work hard to achieve your goals as you understand you have to be a beginner first to become an expert
- You’re inspired by successful people around you. You want to learn from them so you can create success for yourself
- You believe mistakes provide opportunities to learn so you can improve and move closer towards success.
I hope this summary has made you realise the value a growth mindset could bring to your studies.
There’s no magic solution to better studying.
I can’t give you one method to get you top grades every time. But I can promise you your grades will improve dramatically if you can move away from the fixed mindset end of the spectrum towards growth mindset. While it must be great to be naturally academically talented, the values of hard work and motivation can be more powerful.
Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard – Tim Notke
I thought I was naturally talented, so when it came to Sixth Form I thought I would sail through. But instead, I was failing my modules and those who were never in the top sets before were overtaking me. It took a few years of feeling like I was stupid and not good enough before I realised the power of hard work. Here’s my method for success.
Hard work + growth mindset + the right study techniques = a solid foundation for success
The fact you’ve found my blog proves you’re looking to improve your study techniques. This blog post will hopefully get your mind thinking about the power of hard work and developing a growth mindset. If you can develop these three things you will reach success you never thought possible.
How to develop a growth mindset
So, now I’m going to teach you HOW to develop a growth mindset. Continue reading for actionable tips and further resources to help you on your journey to higher grades.
Believe you can become smarter
Psychology Professor Carol Dweck and her co-authors conducted two studies in New York junior high schools. 373 students starting 7th grade completed questionnaires on their beliefs and motivations around intelligence to determine whether they exhibited fixed or growth mindset. At the beginning of the study there was not much difference between the two groups mathematics test scores but over two years this gap widened as the students with a growth mindset increased their scores.
The researchers then started a second study with 99 lower ability students. They were randomly split into two groups who both undertook an eight-week intervention project after school. Both groups were taught study skills and how the brain worked. But one of the groups was also taught about growth mindset, and how learning makes you smarter. Over just a few months, the students who learned about growth mindset improved their test scores significantly compared to the control group who only learned study skills.
Once the growth mindset students learned their intelligence was malleable they were more empowered and motivated to learn which increased their grades. One boy, a previous troublemaker, had tears in his eyes learning about growth mindset and said, ‘you mean, I don’t have to be dumb?’.
You are never too far down your path to stop, pivot and change your route.
Identifying yourself as a bad student or someone who’s not very smart is damaging as it limits you and your ability. Believe you can become smarter and you’re already part of the way there.
Mistakes are necessary for success
Getting a low score on an essay sucks. Sitting an exam feeling like you don’t know ANYTHING…sucks. Having to submit an unfinished essay because you ran out of time…sucks.
But do you know what sucks more?
Making the same mistakes again. The true failure is not in the mistake, but in failing to take action to improve so it happens again.
There’s three key lessons here.
1) Mistakes aren’t something to be afraid of.
The expert in anything was once the beginner and you can’t become an expert without making mistakes.
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work – Thomas Edison
A growth mindset allows you to see mistakes as opportunities to learn and improve.
2) If you experience a setback or a low grade, try some different study techniques.
Rather than repeating the same thing over and expecting different results – learn some new study methods (from my blog!) and trial them out to see if you can improve. Here’s a post on different note taking methods, 21 ways to improve your academic writing, and 15 ways to overcome your studying procrastination.
3) Learn from all useful feedback
The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing – Henry Ford
I go into more detail about learning from feedback in a previous post but it’s so important to listen or read all your comments, then create a simple plan to improve. Whether it’s writing a clearer introduction, improving your referencing or writing an essay plan before starting. Small tweaks can result in higher marks.
Put on your persevering pants
Those with a fixed mindset believe failures result from their low ability so they might as well give up.
However, those with a growth mindset believe failures result from not putting in enough effort, or from a need to change strategy.
A fixed mindset belief is that you can’t be that smart if you need to put lots of effort into studying. Try to flip this as the growth mindset belief is that employing effort is the way to get smarter. It’s the growth mindset ability to keep plugging away and put in the work that leads to success.
Success doesn’t come to you, you go to it > Marva Collins
A way of developing growth mindset is to focus on your effort, not your outcomes. Do you submit essays that are ‘good enough’ – even if you had time to work on it a bit more? Ask yourself instead, ‘is this my best work?’ If the answer is a hesitant no, think about how you can improve. You could spend more time on the work, try different study techniques or ask for help.
Embrace the power of YET to remind yourself learning is a journey
I don’t understand this…YET
This doesn’t make sense…YET
I’m not good at this…YET
I can’t do this…YET
This doesn’t work…YET
This isn’t clear…YET
Try to focus on what you can do this week, today or in the next hour to move you forward. Try not to fixate on the long journey ahead as that can make you feel helpless, an element of fixed mindset.
Remember to recognise your achievements. It’s easy to just cross tasks off your to do list and keep adding more. But spend some time looking back at how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved.
Be inspired and learn from successful people
It’s so easy to feel jealous of people you think are more successful than you. And you might even try to explain their success by saying they got lucky, had lots of help or are just naturally talented.
But there are very few people who have become successful by chance or by sitting back and letting natural ability dictate their achievements.
While we may see their success, what we don’t see are the layers of dedication, hard work, and failures they went through to get there.
So instead of feeling jealous, or writing off your own possible success – be inspired by successful people, and see if you can learn something from them to help you on your journey. Below are a few of my go-to inspirational sources that will help you develop a growth mindset.
Read inspiring biographies and autobiographies
The Climb – by professional road racing cyclist Chris Froome. Whether you like cycling or not, this book details the incredible obstacles and hard work Chris endured to achieve his cycling success today – very inspiring!
Wild – Cheryl Strayed. There were many times Cheryl believed she wouldn’t complete her journey, but she persevered any way. The movie’s great too!
Listen to inspirational podcasts
Episode #174 of the Tim Ferriss Show – featuring Nicholas McCarthy, a one-handed concert pianist who succeeded when everyone told him he couldn’t.
Watch inspirational documentaries and TED talks
Kids can Teach Themselves - TED talk. his TED talk explains how children in remote parts of India were able to teach themselves how to use a computer when one was *mysteriously* left in their village. This talk made me believe I could learn more and be more.
I hope this blog post has made you realise you can achieve much more than you might think. Studying is difficult and it’s easy to attribute this difficulty to just not being that smart. But try to step away from this belief and develop a growth mindset. Maybe you just haven’t learned how to be a good student yet?