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Change a Fixed Mindset Into a Growth Mindset

Purpose: Changing a fixed mindset into a growth mindset may help someone achieve their desired outcomes.


A fixed mindset is the belief that skills or personality are fixed and incapable of improvement. A fixed mindset often develops following a negative experience that limits how a person views themself in the world. According to Crystal Park, PhD, a person attaches meaning to an experience by how they define the cause of the experience, link the cause to their own identity, and then link the cause and their identity to how the world works. For example, someone may think the cause of their relationship breakup was their fault, link this cause to their identity of being a boring person, and then view their identity in the world as being a boring person. It is through attaching a negative meaning to an experience that a fixed mindset can develop. A fixed mindset can be problematic when it causes someone to doubt their capabilities and prevents the pursuit of goals and a desired future. 

Practice: This practice may help someone to change a fixed mindset into a growth mindset.

Before a fixed mindset can be changed into a growth mindset, the current self needs to decide what the future self wants (what resonates strongly and feels purposeful). Start thinking about the future self while in a mental state of gratitude, because this can help to establish an emotionally stable state. If the future self is thought about while in a negative emotional state, then the vision of the future self may be more limited. Write down details about the future self in a journal. For example, what does the future self do for work, where does the future self live, who does the future self spend time with, how does the future self spend leisure time, etc.


To choose the best goals for the future self, the current self needs to have: exposure, desire, and confidence. Exposure to new experiences, different perspectives, and knowledge will open the mind to new possibilities for the future self. Be honest about what resonates strongly and feels purposeful to the future self. As goals are chosen and pursued, have the confidence that they can be achieved. Confidence that was eroded in the past by negative experiences can be rebuilt with each new accomplishment. Since the brain tries to predict future outcomes based on past behavior, the process of pursuing desired goals may feel uncomfortable at first. Even if mistakes are made while pursuing desired goals, each mistake can be used as a learning experience.


Be sure that no desired goals are excluded because they do not fit with the personality, passions, or motivation of the current self. According to Benjamin Hardy, PhD, personality, passions, and motivation are capable of change and are developed by the actions that a person takes. Therefore, if goals are chosen according to the personality, passions, or motivation of the current self, then a path will be chosen that limits what the future self is capable of. 


The goals that are chosen for the future self should be measurable, definable, and visualizable. While working toward a goal, results should be measured to determine if the process is working. Adjust the process if the results are not where they need to be. According to Pearson’s Law, if performance is measured, it will improve and if performance is reported then its rate of improvement will accelerate. Defining a goal will help the goal to become clear so that a process can be created to achieve it. A well-defined goal will also create motivation because the goal and process are easier to visualize.


Now that a growth mindset has been established and goals have been created, it is time to overcome a fixed mindset. Overcoming a fixed mindset requires that past negative experiences are processed and reframed so that they no longer limit the future self. Psychological flexibility is needed to do this, so that the current self is open to change and isn’t afraid of attempting something new. Processing a past negative experience should be done while in an emotionally stable state because human memory is not a perfect recollection of what happened in the past, but changes according to current mood. Once in a positive mental state, start processing the past negative experience by asking how the future self would think about and respond if faced with the negative experience. Reframe the past negative experience so that it is not just something that happened to the past self, but something that happened for the past self and can be learned from. Then, use a growth mindset to overcome each past negative experience and continue the process of becoming the desired future self.


Additional Practice for Visualizing Goals


A visualization practice may help desired goals become more clear and achievable. Below are seven steps that may be part of a visualization practice.


Step 1: Find a comfortable location free from disturbances to practice visualization. Relax by using a relaxation technique such as breathing deeply and slowly with a six-second inhalation and a six-second exhalation or imagining each muscle from the toes to the head becoming lighter. 


Step 2: Choose a desired goal. Make the goal simple by breaking it into outcomes that need to happen first to achieve the goal. For example, if a desired goal is to get a new job, then searching for a job, applying for the job, and interviewing for the job may be outcomes that should be imagined first. 


Step 3: Once relaxed, begin imagining the goal in as much detail as possible so that it feels real and as if it is occurring in the present moment. Imagine the goal for as long as it feels right, without putting any pressure to do well. The experience of imagining the desired goal should be enjoyable. 


Step 4: Towards the end of the visualization practice, once the goal feels real, say a positive affirmation, such as “I love this feeling of working at my new job” or “What a beautiful view I have from my new office.” Accurate and honest thinking should be used and a positive affirmation added to connect the image with positivity. Suspend doubts and add an affirmation such as “I know that I will achieve this.” Affirmations should always be phrased in the present tense and in a positive way. For example, “I no longer arrive late” is negative phrasing while “I now arrive on time” is positive phrasing. The phrase should remain short, feel authentic, and convey a strong positive feeling.


Step 5: The visualization can end with a firm statement that leaves open the possibility that something different or better than what was imagined could happen. This statement could be, “this new job or a better job now manifests for me and to the benefit of all.” Including a phrase such as “to the benefit of all” is a mindfulness practice that enhances a sense of connection with people.


Step 6: After a visualization practice has ended, try to remember it throughout the day. This may help the goal feel more real and part of life.


Step 7: If a goal changes or is no longer desired, then change or remove it. Celebrate after achieving a goal.

Resources: Below are additional resources that may help someone to change a fixed mindset into a growth mindset.

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