Published in The Border Mail as ‘Believe in your brain’s ability and let it grow” on 4th January 2021

Our ears sparingly encounter the words growth mindset. Most of us are familiar with the terminology but might not know where it originates from or what it entails exactly. It was first coined in 1986 by Carol Dweck. Since then, it has been endorsed by many other researchers from various fields of study. The latest research in the arena has introduced another concept of ‘belonging mindset’ alongside ‘growth mindset’.

The perception developed from the understanding that intelligence quotient can increase over time. It quite literally means that ‘brain can grow’. In a nutshell, an individual’s intelligence can grow if they believe it can. Empirical research shows that “students who believed their intelligence could be developed (a growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (a fixed mindset).” In 2015, Dweck clarified the beliefs surrounding growth mindset. She explained that it’s not just about having faith but also about effort. And while effort towards learning may be the means to an end, it is essential that we understand that there are certain approaches and strategies towards learning that we must adopt. These strategies will vary from individual to individual depending on their skill set and learning preferences.

You might prefer self-directed online study over face-to-face learning. You may learn quicker than others and work best with self-paced courses. If you are tech savvy and possess grit, you would swiftly work your way through certifications. If you get stressed easily by big goals, you may want to adopt the micro-credentialing approach towards accreditation. This is a broader view of course selection based on learning strategies. However, your individualised learning process may also include adopting certain methods that suit your learning needs. Like drill and practice or analysing and creating. Repetition, prolific writing, or avid reading. Therefore, we can say that while growth mindset begins at developing cognitive abilities, it concludes with achieving metacognition for absolute ascendency.

With this, Dweck introduced a new concept of ‘belonging mindset’ that highlighted the importance of environmental support. The fact that a person stand alone cannot determine his destiny exclusively and is subject to chance that arises from his surroundings. This may include favourable and unfavourable circumstances – opportunities and barriers.

The claim that people with a certain mindset progress and succeed can be further enhanced. It can be reworded as ‘people with a growth mindset succeed provided that they effectively interact with their environment’. This interaction includes the attitudes they have. The opportunities they avail. The networks they create. The failures they face. The reactions they have. It all comes back to the way they create their learning experiences and the way their environment shapes these experiences for them. Thus, community’s support is an integral part of the process.

Failures teach these innovators lessons. They have faith in hard work. If improvement requires upskilling, they do. As you are never perfect, and the world is constantly changing; you must learn to stay afloat. If you are willing to learn and engage in continuous cognitive or skill development, you are on a never-ending journey to success.

Growth mindset brings people together. It’s a mindset that informs social interactions. It takes the orthodox out of the equation. People with similar attitudes grow together. Their yearning for learning serves as a commonality to develop rapport amongst them. Therefore, their growth mindset can help them achieve a belonging mindset. Once they belong, they flourish. Growth mindset is contagious, use it to your advantage.

It can be said that our social associations are responsible for our growth and progress. We must let our minds lead our interactions. We must not compromise when it comes to choosing who we associate with. Trust and honesty will only strengthen these relationships based on mutual evolution.

Don’t sell yourself short. Stick to your values. Connect with your surroundings. Network genuinely and effectively. Enhance your wisdom through both bad and good experiences. Learn every step of the way. Analyse and reflect. Reflection can help you reach a height of self-awareness that nothing else can.

About the writer… 

The writer is an Education and Career Consultant who has two gifted children. She is a professional member of the Career Development Association of Australia. She has a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering, Graduate Certificate in Careers Education and Development (RMIT) and Certificate of Gifted Education (UNSW). She also holds a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and Certificate of Fashion Illustration.

She worked for a multinational engineering manufacturing industry before switching to career counselling, professional development, writing, teaching, and case management.  She has worked in the British and American schooling systems and is now consulting with Australian schools. Her diverse experience of working around the globe in the education and corporate sector and strong academic background enables her to see the bigger picture.