Your mentee is working towards developing and utilizing a growth mindset. Simply put, a growth mindset is the belief that intelligence is malleable and with effort, new skills can be acquired.
Use this resource as a way to help your mentee identify when he or she might be using a fixed mindset and how to flip it into a growth mindset.
Step 1. Learn to recognize a fixed mindset voice.
As anyone approaches a challenge, his or her inner voice might say “Are you sure you can do it? Maybe you don’t have the talent.” “What if you fail—you’ll be a failure” “People will laugh at you for thinking you had talent.” “If you don’t try, you can protect yourself and keep looking cool.”
As anyone hits a setback, the voice might say, “This would have been a snap if you really had talent.” “You see, I told you it was a risk. Now you’ve gone and shown the world how limited you are.” “It’s not too late to back out, make excuses, and play it safe.”
As anyone faces criticism, his or her inner voice might say, “It’s not my fault. It was something or someone else’s fault.” He or she might get angry at the person who is giving feedback. “Who do they think they are? I’ll put them in their place.” The other person might be giving your mentee specific, constructive feedback, but your mentee might be hearing them say “I’m really disappointed in you. I thought you were capable but now I see you’re not.”
Step 2. Help your mentee recognize that he or she has a choice.
Let your mentee know that how he or she interprets challenges, setbacks, and criticism is a choice. Your mentee can interpret them with a fixed mindset as signs that his or her fixed talents or abilities are lacking. Or your mentee can interpret them with a growth mindset as signs that he or she needs to ramp up their strategies and effort, stretch themselves, and expand their abilities. It’s up to your mentee.
So as your mentee faces challenges, setbacks, and criticism, recognize if she or he has a fixed mindset voice and...
Step 3. Help your mentee utilize a growth mindset voice.
As your mentee approaches a challenge:
THE FIXED-MINDSET says “Are you sure you can do it? Maybe you don’t have the talent.”
THE GROWTH-MINDSET answers, “I’m not sure I can do it now, but I think I can learn to with time and effort.”
FIXED MINDSET: “What if you fail—you’ll be a failure”
GROWTH MINDSET: “Most successful people had failures along the way.”
FIXED MINDSET: “If you don’t try, you can protect yourself and keep your dignity.”
GROWTH MINDSET: “If I don’t try, I automatically fail. Where’s the dignity in that?”
As your mentee hits a setback:
FIXED MINDSET: “This would have been a snap if you really had talent.”
GROWTH MINDSET: “That is so wrong. Basketball wasn’t easy for Michael Jordan and science wasn’t easy for Thomas Edison. They had a passion and put in tons of effort.
As your mentee faces criticism:
FIXED MINDSET: “It’s not my fault. It was something or someone else’s fault.”
GROWTH MINDSET: “If I don’t take responsibility, I can’t fix it. Let me listen—however painful it is– and learn whatever I can.”
Step 4. Encourage your mentee to take the growth mindset action.
Over time, which voice your mentee heeds becomes pretty much his or her choice. Your mentee can learn to
- take on challenges wholeheartedly,
- learn from their setbacks and try again,
- hear criticism and act on it.
Practice recognizing both voices, and practice helping your mentee act on the growth mindset.
For more info on Growth Mindset, check out the following video: