Consider the following situation:

It’s a rainy day. You forgot your jacket at home. You got a flat tire as you were riding your bike to school. You arrived late to class. Your professor glared at you. You spilled coffee on the paper you had to turn in (and you burned your hand in the process). You received your score from the past exam: C-.

  • How do you feel and react to all that's happening?
  • What’s going through your head?

The attitudes we have during obstacle-ridden days are good illustrators of our mindset. Carol Dweck (2006), a professor of psychology whose research specializes in motivation, found two mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. People with fixed mindsets believe that their talents, abilities, and qualities are carved in stone, whereas people with growth mindsets believe that their basic qualities such as talents and intelligence can be cultivated through their efforts (Dweck, 2006). Those with fixed mindsets avoid challenges, give up when obstacles get in their way, ignore criticism, and find the success of others threatening. Those with growth mindsets embrace challenges, persist through obstacles, learn from criticism, and are inspired by the success of others.

With the growth mindset, we can acknowledge our failures and find inspiration to keep improving. For example, getting a C- on a paper is not the end-all of your college career. That C- shows the potential for improvement and learning. The C- might inspire you to work harder and seek out the resources and tools that will help you earn the grade you are capable of achieving. While the grade may be frustrating, your mindset will affect your response to either avoid the challenge or embrace the challenge and improve your work.

Check out these tips to help you engage in your growth mindset path.

  • Seek out new challenges. Even though you may struggle or fail, the amount of growth you’ll experience through your willingness to engage in the process and try things that ask you to stretch in new ways will be powerful and could have a profound influence, not only on other areas of your life, but on your approach to what it means to encounter challenge and difficulty in general.
  • Be persistent. When obstacles get in your way, power through. Don't give up. Seek support and take time to reflect on where you are and where you're determined to be.
  • When you receive criticism, do not ignore it. Listen to criticism. Learn from it. See if you can change your thinking or actions and if this can help you to achieve your goals/success in the future.
  • Draw inspiration from the success of others. When your friends succeed, offer sincere congratulations. Be motivated by success — theirs and others around you, too. Avoid comparing the success of others with your own path, as no two paths to success will look alike. And that's great. As you draw inspiration from others, remember others are likely drawing information and learning from you, too.

Curious to learn more about Growth Mindset? Interested in testing your own mindset? Whatever you learn and find out, be curious: where are you already utilizing a growth mindset in your life, and where might you bring more of this thinking in to play?

Come and see us if you want to talk about this or anything else you might be working on in your academic journey at OSU:

The Academic Success Center | Waldo Hall 125 | success.oregonstate.edu | 541-737-2272