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Growth Mindset: Struggle well using the art & science of positive psychology

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

By Andrea Seydel


The purpose of this section of the book is to help you build mental skills for resilience starting with the fundamental skill of cultivating a mindset for success: growth mindset. This chapter will introduce you to fixed and growth mindset and help you build your capacity for bouncing back when facing adversity by getting curious and staying on the learner path. These skills will prepare you to stay solution focused and empower you to move through life challenges that come your way.

Mindset impacts resilience; holding a growth mindset is a pre-requisite for bouncing back better. Beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies (SFP). Fixed mindset tendencies put you into a place of judgment and criticism while keeping you problem focused. Growth mindset tendencies put you into a place of learning and keep you solution focused.


According to the research of Dr. Carol Dweck, she has identified the people can have two very different mindsets about a particular topic. She coined the terms and two mindsets as a fixed mindset and a growth mindset

It started off as research that she was conducting on learning in young children, she found that children when faced with an obstacle, such as a difficult puzzle task to take on, they would have radically different perspectives on the obstacle. The thing that impacted whether or not they kept going when the challenge got hard or whether or not they backed away, had to do with their mindset, or their beliefs about what it meant to be intelligent or to be smart.

The different mindsets become really important when we look at what it means to be resilient because when you're stuck in holding a fix mindset you are more likely to be judgemental and critical of yourself, of others and the situations. When people tend to have more of a growth mindset they really focus on learning and asking questions like, how can I learn and how can I become better.

Fixed mindset- is the belief that you either have it or your don't, either you're smart or you're not, talented or not. It is believing in natural talent, nature or being gifted or talented. People with a fixed mindset tend to not want the obstacle, not want to challenge and therefore give up easier or not push themselves harder. Fixed mindset- focused on judging. "This means I am a loser"

Growth mindset- A belief not just in nature but also nurture. That we can sculpt our ability and therefore we are more malleable. These children didn't just focus on talent they really focussed on developing curiosity and your desire to learn. Part of the reason that they’re more focussed on learning is that they believe that with effort you actually can get better.

WHY IS MINDSET IMPORTANT: In order to get us into a place of resilience we have to learn how to make this jump from fixed mindset into growth mindset. It is particularly very important when we face an obstacle. Resilience and bouncing back is all about what do you do when you hit a small bump in the road or even a big bump in the road. When you hold a fixed mindset you're more likely to say “I am a failure" and show judgement of the situation that you might be facing is bad, or it never going to change. Where as a growth mindset you don't judge yourself as having had been a failure if something bad happens


NAME THAT MINDSET: (See if you can spot the mindset in these statements) This means I am a loser. This means I'm a bad wife. I look so stupid right now. I suck at this.

MAP YOUR MINDSET: Ask yourself where in your life have you had this black or white thinking, all or nothing thinking, and for a bonus, can you figure out where might that thinking have come from? OR Do you believe that people can learn to become better as they put more effort in? When have you had a learning, curious mindset?


Let's look at the psychological principles of self fulfilling prophecy and how mindsets becomes a self fulfilling prophecy’s. The definition of a self fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that a belief, either directly or indirectly causes itself to be true.

Our beliefs or mindsets affect our behaviour. Our beliefs and mindset determines how we behave and respond to the world. For example, think about a sales person, someone comes into the store and despite the wonderful help the sales person provides the person doesn't by anything. There are two ways to look at this event. I'm a failure (fixed mindset) or What happened there? (growth mindset). Judgement or curiosity. How we think affects how we behave therefore, our mindsets become a self fulfilling prophecy.


We know that growth mindset is the key to grit. Growth mindset is taking you from good to great. It will help you want to put the effort in and enjoy the journey. Grit helps you preserver during obstacles and stay curious and optimistic. One simple technique to building a growth mindset is adding the word YET to anytime you hear yourself say something you can't do. It reminds you to be curious and open to possibility.

ACTIVITY: BUILD YOUR GROWTH MINDSET- Make a list of as many things that you "can't do"- notice how it feels. Then rewrite the statements adding the word "yet" to the end of your sentences.- notice how that feels different.


In the book Change your questions change your life by Marilee Adams, she demonstrates that there are two paths we can choose. A judger path and a learner path. That people think in questions and we tend to go down the judger path when triggered. If we cultivate question thinking. She created a choice map, where she demonstrated that we can choose what path we go down. We can judge or learn. Approach life like you are standing at the beginning of a path, when anything that impacts us at any moment (aka trigger), we have thoughts, feelings and circumstances. WE CAN CHOOSE WHERE OUR MIND GOES or, let the mind react by default.

The judger path tends to focus on who's to blame. Question you might ask are: What's wrong with me. Why am I such a loser. Why are they so dumb. After a while we go into what Marilee Adams called the JUDGER PIT where we stay in the problem. On the learner path tends to focus on opportunities to learn. Questions you might ask are: What can I do to grow from this situation. What happened. What is useful here. What are the options. Another way to see this is. You can switch paths at any time. Simply change you questions to more curiosity based questions such as: What will I do next. How else can I think about this. What do I need right now.

The judger path is problem focused and the learner path is solution focused. Judger path makes you feel stuck. The learner path keeps you moving, working through life circumstances. Judger is a fixed mindset and learner is a growth mindset. Curiosity encourages a growth mindset. You will naturally find yourself in this upward spiral when you use curiosity as the antidote to a fixed mindset. Ben Zander suggests using the expression regularly, "How fascinating" in order to step into a place of curiosity and a growth mindful.

ACTIVITY: WALKING THE TWO PATHS- Think of a recent adversity. Use the learner and judger path map. Fill in the statements that would put you on the judger path. Fill in the statements that would put you on the learner path.


Cultivating curiosity and a growth mindset will enable you to persevere in the face of setbacks and obstacles, support you in valuing effort and personal mastery, keep you open to feedback and learning from others, and many other factors that lead to success. A growth mindset is a prerequisite to being able to step into a place of resilience and being able to bounce back better.

Growth mindset is the prerequisite for resilience.

Challenge your fixed mindset beliefs. Identify your triggers and practice redirecting from the judger path to the learner path. Cultivate your curiosity. Practice thinking, “How fascinating?!”

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