What is a mindset?

When you’re confronted with a challenging task, do you A) give it your best shot, or B) have a nap? Your answer to this question is probably determined by the kind of mindset you have. Learn about fixed and growth mindsets, how to make the most out of your mindset, and what to do if you're still having trouble.

Check this out if:

  • You’re not really sure what a mindset actually is
  • You want to learn about fixed mindsets and growth mindsets
  • You want to develop a growth mindset
  • You tend to be pretty rigid about what you think you can and can’t achieve
guy in water

What’s a mindset?

You know how many people like to define themselves as being either a “glass half-full” or “glass half-empty” kind of person? What they’re talking about is their mindset. Simply put, a mindset is a set of ideas and attitudes that shape the way someone thinks about themselves and the world. Someone’s mindset will determine the way they behave, their outlook on life and their attitude towards everything that’s going on around them. 

For example, getting back to the glass analogy, if you’re a glass half-full kind of person, you tend to have a positive mindset which means you approach everything that you do in an optimistic way. If you’re a glass half-empty kind of person, you might approach or think about many of the things you do in a more negative or cynical way. 

The kind of mindset you have can really shift the way you approach your everyday life. And the good news is, your mindset is not set in stone; there are things that you can do shift your mindset so that you’re getting the most out of it. 

The different kinds of mindsets

There are two different kinds of mindsets: growth mindsets and fixed mindsets. 

Someone with a growth mindset is likely to:

  • Be keen as a bean to learn from the people around them
  • Understand that in order to get what they want, they’ve got to  put the hard yards in
  • Recognise that failure is an opportunity to learn
  • Be aware of their weaknesses, and focused on improving them
  • Welcome challenges
  • Be open to new things and new ways of learning. 

The flip side of that is a fixed mindset. Someone with a fixed mindset is likely to:

  • Avoid challenges where they think they might stuff up
  • Not deal very well with setbacks
  • Try to hide their mistakes
  • Be convinced that their abilities are limited to one area. For example, believing that they’re a ‘creative’ type or an ‘athletic’ type etc
  • Practice negative self-talk by saying things like “I can’t do it.”

How to get a growth mindset?

So, it’s clear that growth mindsets are really important for learning new things, embracing new challenges and dealing with setbacks. Check out some handy tips for turning a fixed mindset into a growth mindset:

  • I can’t do it…yet. The way we talk to ourselves in our mind (our self-talk) has a really big impact on what we actually achieve. If you tell yourself that you can do it, chances are that you will; even if it doesn't happen straight away. Check out how to challenge negative thinking.

  • Challenge accepted. Next time someone throws an unfamiliar or tricky task your way, don’t throw it back at them – embrace it. Even if you stuff up along the way, you can be sure that next time you’ll do better. 

  • Do some hard yakka. You’re unlikely to reach your goals if you’re not putting in the effort to match. Put the hard work in and you’ll be able to enjoy the rewards.

  • Ain’t no such thing as perfect – there is always room for improvement. Always put as much effort as you can into the learning process. Practice your skills and make an effort to learn new ones. Last time we checked, the guitar isn't going to learn itself.

  • Celebrate the big successes, and the small ones. 

  • Be open to new ways of doing things. You can never be sure of how something is going to pan out if you’ve never tried it before. Before you make the assumption that something will never work, ask yourself “Why won’t it work?”

  • Don’t let setbacks get you down. When you come across setbacks, think about things that have helped in that situation before, and things that haven’t. Take feedback on board, and make changes accordingly. Setbacks don’t mean you’ve failed; just that you need to try a different approach.

Troubled by your mindset?

If you’re having issues getting your mindset to a place you’re happy with, have a chat to someone you trust about it, like a a friend or teacher. Otherwise, have a chat with a counsellor; they’ll work with you to help you understand what’s going on and figure out how to improve things.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 04 September, 2015
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