Watchdog Wellness: What is a Growth Mindset and How Can I Get One?

Photo by darraghoconnor12 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Why do people talk about mindset and why is mindset so important? Earlier this week, the Watchdog talked to HD 125: Motivation and Empowerment Counselor, Beth Luzzi, about growth mindset and how students can gain access to a mindset of growth.

When asked to define a growth mindset, Luzzi said, “Though I believe there are more factors that go into defining [a] growth mindset. I’m going to use Stanford University Psychologist Carol Dweck’s definition. 

“According to Dweck, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment” (Dweck, 2015). 

“Basically, as a student, this means approaching challenges with a positive mindset and learning from the challenges and failures that come up in life. With this definition, however, it’s also important to recognize that there are limitations or other inhibiting factors that impact growth mindset and/or how we view growth mindset due to outside forces such as racism, sexism, ageism, etc. It is therefore important to recognize the contextual factors that impact growth mindset and not take it as an umbrella term of one’s ‘success.’”

When approached with the question of how students can develop their growth mindset, Luzzi stated that, “It takes time, patience and practice. I like to think of the brain as a recorder.  When we’re born, a message begins to be recorded and reinforced by our environment, upbringing, beliefs, social norms, past experiences, etc. If you think about how old you are, that’s how long a particular message has been playing in your head. When I teach my class, I like to use myself as an example. When I was young, I would compare myself to my older brother who was brilliant in math. For every math class I took I would say, “I’m not good at math. I’m most likely going to fail this class.” I had this playing in my head for a significant part of my life, but never really did anything to improve my situation. Going back to the recorder, I had to hit “stop” in my brain, rewind and then record over that message with something more positive like “I may not get things as quickly as my brother, but I will study more, get a tutor, meet with my teacher and pass this class.” Again, it doesn’t happen overnight, but with practice, you can begin to rewire your brain to embrace certain challenges and learn from failures. It can also help you integrate concrete strategies on how to approach difficult situations.”

Luzzi concluded by explaining why mindset is so important. 

“There are a lot of nuances to mindset, but simply put, by shifting your focus, you can become more resilient to the challenges life throws at you, which can help you avoid decisions that could become self-destructive. If not kept in check, it’s easy for the brain to return to a pathway of negative thinking. Going back to the recorder, if you continue to repeat a message that is negative, after a while, you create a repetitive pattern and it’s easy for that to become a beaten path that’s easier and easier to return to. This can lead to being overly critical of yourself, insecure about your decisions and [can cause you to become] defensive. In academics, it can also lead to not fully understanding the material or learning in a productive way.”

If you are interested in learning more about mindset and creating positive habits, you can sign up for HD 125: Motivation and Empowerment with Professor Luzzi for fall quarter 2022.