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  • Writer's pictureStudent Wellbeing Service

The benefits of having a growth mindset and stepping out of your comfort zone.


A growth mindset means that as an individual, you understand that you have the ability to improve and are willing to push past obstacles or barriers in all areas of learning and self-development.

Having a growth mindset can impact positively on your studies and enhance relationships, wellbeing and everyday life.

What is a growth mindset?

Carol Dweck author of The Growth Mindset outlined that as humans we operate under one of two mindsets: a fixed mindset (which assumes you are unable to improve) or a growth mindset.

A growth mindset means you understand you have the ability to improve. Sometimes, a journey (academic or personal) can sometimes lead to failure. Having a growth mindset means that you know that failure is not the end of the journey and is often a stepping-stone in the knowledge process and an opportunity to learn and keep going. Often mistakes result in our biggest opportunities to learn.

Employing a growth mindset allows you to live your life without self-imposed barriers. During coaching or therapy sessions counsellors may use the “Miracle Question” which asks the client to imagine being able to imagine and describe how they would like their life to be without any of the barriers or issues that are preventing them from leading this life.

Realistically, there may be barriers that are external to moving forward but this exercise in removing self-imposed barriers can be helpful in visualising an alternative future full of possibilities and be a creative or freeing experience.

Ben Treanor, Wellness Coach & Founder of Mål Paper suggests that when you put yourself in control of your own life and believe in your own ability to improve your skills you develop a more meaningful life for yourself. Some of the benefits of this might be feeling more fulfilled, improving positive wellbeing, being unafraid to move out of your comfort zone and recognise that failing is an opportunity to learn. Improved positive wellbeing will positively impact on all other areas of life and relationships and increase resilience.

Six ways to develop a growth mindset

Embrace mistakes and imperfections

Accept that being human, we make mistakes, have imperfections and sometimes fail, and this is OK. This is an integral part of the human experience and no one is perfect. Recognising that you are not perfect and you will make mistakes and this is an opportunity to learn will enable you to be more open to trying new activities and moving out of your comfort zone.

Practice positive affirmations

Embracing mistakes and imperfections can be hard and will take time to practice. Some of us are accustomed to having a negative internal monologue that suggests if we fail, we are not perfect and then we have no worth. This is simply not true. It is worth remembering that thoughts are thoughts not facts and so we don’t have to accept or believe everything that our brain tells us.

Some of the affirmations suggested by Ben Treanor are below.

  • I am worthy of love regardless of my achievements

  • I can learn new things

  • I am allowed to fail and learn from my mistakes

  • Failure is good. It helps me grow

  • I believe in myself and my ability to improve

  • I allow myself to be a beginner

  • I don’t have to be good at something to have fun doing it

  • The only opinion of me that matters is my own

  • I am in control of making my dreams come true

  • I am loveable, I am worthy, and I am capable

Reflect on your progress daily but with compassion

How we function and feel will vary from day to day and sometimes we will feel as though we have made progress and other days we may feel as though we have taken a backward step. Reframing progress as a journey that is not necessarily linear but is much more complex and can go up, down, backwards but will progress forward. Allowing for multiple setbacks and recognising they are a part of development and not a hindrance for your journey.

Face your fears and challenges

Fear is a normal part of the human experience especially the fear of failing. It may be tempting to reduce the discomfort that those feelings produce by giving up or avoiding the task or activity. Having a growth mindset however helps you recognise if you fail or succeed, you have the strength and resilience to keep going. If you fail, you don’t actually fail as in reality you succeed or you learn something.

Reduce your need for external validation

A growth mindset is anchored in self-belief. When we rely on others for reassurance, we are essentially giving our power to others. By believing other people’s opinions are more important or valid than our own can be hugely unhelpful especially if the message from them is we should not or cannot do something. This will undermine our self-belief and so try to develop a habit of looking within yourself for reassurance, and trust your own instincts, as you are the expert on yourself.

It is about the journey, not the destination

Sometimes we get fixated on the end goal, but by adopting, this approach narrows choices and excludes the myriad of possibilities and opportunities than may unfold during the journey. Having a defined goal leaves yourself vulnerable to disappointment and failure whereas recognising that life is fluid and open to change often and without warning, circumstances change, having a fixed goal suggests that if you come across an obstacle you are more likely to give up.

A growth mindset is all about embracing the journey of growth and improvement and taking back control of your life knowing you are the expert on you, it might open unexpected doors that were previously closed and help develop the self-confidence to work towards your goals. If you can internalise self-control and self-belief knowing that if you keep trying you will make progress, sometimes you may feel stuck but you will move forward and grow.

Written by Viv Farrand Wellbeing Adviser - Faculty of Science

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