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What even IS a growth mindset?

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

I walk into the room. There are 3 authoritative adults from the paper sitting behind a desk. I'm scared, I feel sick and I want to go home. My heart is racing as we present our pitch to them.

I was 10. The local paper came in to do an activity with us where we created an advert and they chose the best design. Let's say it wasn't for me.

As a child I was under the impression that I was very mathematical and wasn't terribly talented at design, writing, sport... I dreaded sports day.

Oh I was, however, great at hand writing. I was second in my class to pass my pen test!

Given that, it may be of surprise to you that I have a BA degree in Dance. Became an entrepreneur as Personal Trainer. Have gone on to develop a business in coaching.

It may come as an even bigger surprise if I told you I was in the bottom PE (physical education) group at school and was very overweight as a child.

As a society we create boxes for children to fit into, based on; what they’re good at, how they learn, how they communicate... We create “labels” for them - which is undoubtedly useful sometimes. However, at a young age it could start to have us believe, that’s ‘just how we are’.

The theory with a growth mindset believes that the skills you have as a child are just the foundations. Anyone can develop themselves – it may take more time and effort in one particular area, but it can be done.

So what is a growth mindset?

I wake up and I really can’t be bothered. My mind is telling me “to give up”, “you’re tired”, “is it even worth it?". I accept it and get up despite how I feel. I leaflet, I post on social media, I do anything to get my name out there and gain more clients.

Fast forward 7 years and I had a fully booked personal training business.

A growth mindset is having a passion for stretching yourself, ESPECIALLY when it’s not going as well as you’d like it to.

In that moment when my thoughts would drift, and I’d hear “I’m tired! Is there any point!”, I would stop and think “If I carried on, who could I be? What could I learn from this?”.

It was something I learnt from my Mum.

I'm 12. I'm sitting on the sofa watching television after school. I'm tired. The thought of getting off the sofa was bad enough, let alone to dance.

I said "Mum I don't want to go dancing...", my Mum replied "I've paid. You're going. Get your stuff together."

It taught me resilience. It taught me to honor my commitments despite how I felt. It allowed me to push past the “I can’t be bothered”, to an opportunity to learn and grow as a person.

“I can’t be bothered to go for a run” - I run anyway.

“I can’t be bothered to tidy the house” - I tidy the house anyway.

I know there's more than my disempowering thoughts.

As human beings, we think we are a certain way, and that’s it – maybe we learnt this a child. The growth mindset theory challenges that idea. It says that everyone has more potential than they are using right at this given moment.

I don’t know what could have happened if I didn’t have this mindset. I surmise that it has increased my resilience and self-confidence. It allows me to have a greater comfort with taking risks.

It’s 2021 and we’ve been in and out of lockdown now for a year. Before the epidemic hit, I had a very “offline” business, initially when we all went into lockdown I panicked. A year later, whilst doing my tax returns, I realise that my business increased during the last year.

Having a growth mindset allowed me to start to explore the opportunities I did have to grow my business. What could I use? What could I create? What do people need right now? Who can I learn from?

Those who have this mindset see their challenges as opportunities rather than a sign of weakness. They work through obstacles and praise their efforts; they acknowledge themselves for thinking differently and taking action in difficult situations.

It wasn’t all 'hunky dory'. Some days I woke up and I was exhausted. Moment by moment, I had to retrain my mind to a different way of thinking. I learnt from the challenges and the things that (really) didn’t work. Sometimes I felt embarrassed, scared and lost.

Then I learnt something spectacular. Something's work and something just don’t work. Nothing's wrong. I started to learn to ask the question “What’s missing for me to fulfil on my goal?”.

A growth mindset is a blessing to have, especially as an entrepreneur! It's far past just impacting my business.

I'm sitting at my laptop. I haven't looked at my finances in months. I'm scared, mainly because I just hoped things would work out.

Fast forward to today, I check my account every single day. I have a year forecast of what's likely to happen. I can start to predict where the breakdowns might happen.

Having a growth mindset allows me to face things in my life that just are not working; and tackle it head on. I know that with consistency, perseverance and reflection I can take on pretty much anything.

It creates freedom and possibility for me.

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