I can because I think I can

Last week my seven year old son had a 'sleep over' in my bed. We chatted for a while before lights out. I couldn't read as the light would have kept him awake, so I decided to listen to a podcast instead. He asked me what the podcast was about so I told him it was about a 'growth vs fixed mindset'. I was absolutely overjoyed when he told me everything he already knew about the concepts. He informed me that his head teacher had spoken about fixed vs growth mindsets at the school assembly the previous week. I wish Carol Dweck had published her work on mind sets when I was in Year 2.

Let me break down her concepts for you. People with a fixed mindset find it very difficult to change things they do not like about themselves because they think traits are fixed. This could be anything: weight, intelligence or a bad habit. They believe their talents and intelligence will get them places rather than hard work. They worry about looking dumb in front of others as they believe they can't redeem themselves once someone perceives them in a certain light. Remember, they can't change their traits.

Then there are those with growth mindsets who believe that their talents and intelligence are malleable. They believe that their effort has an impact on their success so they put in extra time and energy leading to higher achievement. They are also not discouraged by failure but rather view it as a learning process. The example of Thomas Edison is .often given as he had over 1000 attempts of not getting the electric light bulb right before he was successful. When asked what it felt like to fail over 1000 times by a reporter, he said "I haven't failed. I have just found 1000 ways that will not work."


I think Dweck's work is summed up nicely with the old adage 'whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right'.

So what type of mindset do you have? Fixed or growth? Or perhaps I should be asking what type of mindset would you prefer? Personally, I have had a foot in both camps throughout my life but now I want to stay firmly grounded in the growth mindset as I have realised that to be happy I must constantly be learning and growing. If you would like to join me, below are some tips to help you get started.

1. View challenges as opportunities. For instance, taking up a yoga class. The more you challenge yourself, the more opportunities you have to see how your body and mind can learn, grow and heal.

2. Stop seeking other people's approval or what other people think. Instead focus only on yourself and what you think.

3. Focus on the process rather than the end result. This doesn't mean you should not have goals, it simply means that you should value the learning along the way and learn to deal with the challenges.

4. Focus on the purpose of what you are doing. Ask yourself often if what you are working on is linked to your big picture or what you want from life. If the answer is 'yes', that's great. If not, think about why you are spending a great deal of your time and effort on whatever it is you are doing.

5. Making mistakes doesn't mean you are a failure. It means you have learned what not to do. Learning isn't something that should be rushed. You should be willing to make mistakes and experience challenges.

6. Learn from the mistakes of others. If you see someone else making a mistake, ask yourself how you can apply that mistake to your life.

7. Learn to receive constructive criticism. Don't think of criticism as a personal attack about your inadequacies. Constructive criticism usually comes from those close to us in our lives for instance our parents, children, partners, teachers, line managers or friends. These are people who have our best interests at heart, so if they provide some constructive criticism, accept it and try to learn from it.

8. Cultivate grit. This means the ability to stick to long term goals and to preserve despite adversity.

9. Set a new goal for every milestone you achieve. Success is an ongoing process. Growth minded people always have a new goal to work towards. Personal growth is never finished as there is always another interesting goal or project to tackle.

10.Nothing worth doing happens overnight. It takes time to learn new skills, implement them and see what works.


These days whenever my seven year old son proclaims he can't do something, I always tag a "yet" onto the end and remind him of his school moto "they can because they think they can".

And then I remind myself "I can because I think I can."