The power of “yet”- Growth mindset explained

By: Stephanie Lopraino, B.A Ed

How often do you use the word “yet”? Your answer could tell you a lot about what type of mindset you have. Growth mindset is one of the trendiest topics in education today; but what does it mean? It can be described as having a positive outlook that is based on progress- which in definition is the process of improving or developing something over a period of time.

This is why the word “yet” is so powerful when it comes to growth mindset. The word “yet” is often put at the end of a sentence to describe something that hasn’t happened- hence progress! When we talk about growth mindset we often refer to the improvement of talent, intelligence or success. Many believe that they are developed with hard work, effort, dedication and persistence. This is the theory of growth mindset.

Stanford University Psychologist Carol Dweck’s interest in personality, motivation and achievement led to the discovery of growth mindset theory. Her research focused on why people succeed and how to nurture success. Dweck’s research challenged the belief that intelligent people are simply born smart and recognized the importance of accepting challenges and mistakes.

Dwecks growth mindset is heavily supported by brain science. The brain acts like a muscle. The more we use it the stronger it gets. Think about learning how to ride a bike for the first time. You fall many times and keep practicing. Eventually riding a bike is automatic. This is neuroplasticity in action. Neuroplasticity is basically your brain remembering how to do something so that each time it becomes easier. This proves our brains are wired for change and growth.

People who believe in a growth mindset are less likely to be discouraged by mistakes and failure. Research shows that having a growth mindset leads to having a more successful life. It’s no wonder why it’s so popularly promoted. As parents and teachers, how do we encourage children to have a growth mindset? One way is to praise work ethic rather than results. For example saying things like “I can tell you have been practicing” or “I love how much hard work you put into that”. It helps to remove emphasis on speed or grades. Explain that the effort and strategies they use are far more important than the final outcome.

It is also important to encourage children to follow-through rather than quit. Asking questions like “what can you do next?” or “how can we fix this?” when they face failure. It is important that we show children that adults fail and make mistakes too. Model and praise your mistakes as opportunities to grow. Be mindful of your own attitude and mindset. Don’t react negatively to problems instead show how you persevere. Share real-life stories and discuss how you and others have overcome failures and reached success.

Developing a growth mindset is not done overnight- ironically it is a process. To start, just remember the power of the word “yet”.  When you want to give up and say “no” replace it with “Not yet”. Eventually “I can’t do it” becomes “I can’t do it yet”. “I’m not good at this” becomes “I’m not good at this yet”. Changing your words can change your mindset.

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