Level Up Your Thinking: Growth Mindset Isn’t Just for Students

Take a look around your classroom. If you’re like me, your walls are covered with positive messages for your students. “You can change the world.” “You can do hard things.” “It always seems impossible until it is done.” My favorite is “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.” We do our best to train our students to think with a growth mindset. However, as adults we often allow fear and limiting thinking to determine our path. Growth mindset is the key to creating a life you love. It’s time we level up our thinking.

Limiting Thinking, Another Name for Fixed Mindset

When our thoughts tell us lies in an effort to protect us from failure, judgement by our peers, or disappointment, it’s called limiting thinking or fixed mindset. We easily identify statements of fixed mindset when our students use them.  We know that “I’m not good at solving word problems” means they are afraid of failure, so we tell them about the “power of yet.” But do we recognize that when we tell ourselves, “I don’t have the money to pursue a masters degree,” it’s limiting thinking? Do we reframe our self-talk to say, “I don’t have the money YET?” It’s time to start taking note of the lies we are telling ourselves.  You are not too old to run a marathon, or too young to be taken seriously as an administrator. And just because you haven’t successfully lost weight in the past, doesn’t mean you can’t do it now. Remember that poster on the wall for our students: Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.

Overcoming Limiting Thinking to Turn Obstacles into Action

You have a goal in mind, but your self-talk won’t stop listing countless reasons why that goal is unachievable. Follow these steps to prove your inner voice wrong.

Step 1– Make a list of all the obstacles your inner voice is spewing. Just because you hear the excuses, doesn’t mean you have to buy into them. Instead write them down. Make a list of all the challenges, roadblocks, and excuses your mind is coming up with.

Step 2– Sort the list into real and perceived obstacles. That is to say, some of the obstacles are real. As teachers, we don’t have unlimited funds, we don’t have flexible work hours, etc. However, some of the obstacles on your list are perceived and not real. If one of your students or a loved one told you the reason they weren’t pursuing a goal or taking a risk, you would probably remind them that they can do hard things, or remind them about the power of yet.  Apply this approach to your own thinking. Empower yourself to overcome the perceived obstacles like fear of failure, or judgement by peers. 

Step 3– Turn the real obstacles into your action plan. This will require some creativity, patience, and commitment. Consider these obstacles speedbumps rather than roadblocks. If money is tight, come up with a plan for saving, look into loans or financial aid, or get a second job. If time is limited, learn to say no to requests that are diverting you away from your goal. Be patient with yourself. You may not achieve the goal as quickly as you’d like, but you will be getting closer with each step you take.

Step 4– Write down everything you need to do and put it on your calendar. Get clear on your goal. Talk to the people whose help and support you’ll need to reach the goal. Make a list of resources you will need in order to achieve it. Be specific about what steps you will take to acquire the resources and work toward the goal. Create a realistic timeline for yourself and write it on your calendar.

Commitment to Priority is Key

I truly believe that we have time for what we make time for. It all comes down to the choices we make. If we are committed to a particular goal and make it our singular priority, we will figure out a way to turn it into reality. So get clear on your goal.  Visualize how you will feel once you’ve achieved the goal. Imagine the life you are creating by working toward this goal. Make achieving it your priority. Learn to say no to distractions. Anything that isn’t getting you closer to your goal, is diverting your attention away from it. Finally take action. It’s not enough to just think about a goal or even to write it down. We must take action in order to create the life we love. And remember those posters in your classroom are meant for you, too. “You can change YOUR world.”

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