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Growth Mindset 
A Tool To Get You Through Challenges and Turn Them Into Opportunities

Briefly, when someone is acting from a Growth mindset they believe that they can learn and grow.  They believe that they can learn from their “failures” and collaboration is a good thing. 


Someone who is acting from a Fixed mindset believes that your traits are fixed in stone and that you have to look good, smart, right, etc.  This leaves little room to collaborate and cooperate if one is worried about looking good, right, justified, etc. 

Before we go into the states of grief, the processes and emotions you and your children are and will go through, we will discuss what Dr. Carol Dweck, [Doctor of Psychology] a professor at Stanford University and the author of a multitude of books, calls Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset.  We will also talk about the language that  Dr. Skip Downing [Doctor of Counseling Psychology] talks about as Creator or Victim language and the differences between people who adopt, that means they choose, the role of Creator or Victim.


Goal: Look Smart, Right, Good, Etc.

Responses to Situations


Give up easily when there is an OBSTACLE.

They think that EFFORTis fruitless, and makes them look stupid or weak

They ignore CRITICISM or get angry when they think something they have done is being criticised.

Resent the SUCCESS OF OTHERS and are threatened by the perception that someone knows more than them or have received more recognition

Growth - Fixed LIST



Responses to Situations


Persists in the face of OBSTACLES, setbacks and apparent failure.  Sees failure as feedback.

Sees EFFORT as the path to Mastery and success.

Listens to criticism, evaluates it, learns from it and sees CRITICISM as feedback.

Finds lessons and inspiration in the SUCCESS OF OTHERS, may ask others who are successful for information and mentoring.

Carol Dweck (2006) in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, says, 

“For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value. How does this happen? How can a simple belief have the power to transform your psychology and, as a result, your life?”   

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Your brain changes by the minute, based on what you are thinking and doing.

How indeed, it has to do with Neuroplasticity [8 min] and the fact that what we repeat, we strengthen.  To get a visual on this, think of physical exercise.  If you practice strenuous weight training and other exercise on a regular basis, your body gets stronger. 


If you are practicing shooting hoops correctly over and over, the movements become automatic.  A golf swing, the same thing. 


If you think and act from a certain point of view, repeatedly, these thoughts and actions become automatic and you become the person that matches them. 


Sit with that thought.  YOU can choose.  Effective, loving parent, successful life, these are things YOU can choose.

She goes on to say that a growth mindset can be learned and acquired through practice.

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Brain plasticity is a two-way street; it's just as easy to generate negative changes as positive ones.

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Remember that all your actions begin with a thought and who thinks that thought?  All your FEELINGS / EMOTIONS begin with a thought.  That is right, YOU do, YOU think the thoughts that lead to your emotions and actions.


Sometimes they seem to just “pop up”, and if you will become aware of what you are thinking you will find that the thoughts you are thinking today . . .


. . . were the same ones you were thinking yesterday, in the same way you were thinking them yesterday. 


Remember that all of your actions begin with a thought

. . . and who thinks that thought?

Since these are YOUR thoughts, as you become aware of the ones that are making you sad, angry, ashamed, hopeless, and the list goes on for the negative that sucks your energy away, you can change them.  By consistently changing those negative thoughts to ones of hope and empowerment you will be building new habits of thinking. 


About thoughts, we think over 80,000 thoughts a day and most of them are the same thoughts we thought yesterday.

Brain Plasticity quote 2

Every time we learn a new fact, a new skill, every time we give a new response, our brain changes, this is Neuroplasticity? And this is true for adult brains too, so don't stop learning.  - Aadil Chimthanawala

Remember that all of your actions begin with a thought

. . . and who thinks that thought?

Changing your thoughts may be as simple as adding the word “yet” to the end of the sentence.  Like, “I can’t figure this out ----- yet.”  Yet implies that there is a way and it is available to you.  It may mean getting help from someone else, putting more effort into what you are doing, believing that you can come up with a solution.


If you do not believe you can succeed at something, anything, you are much more likely to give up --- and you may be giving up just before you get to that experience of success.  I know the story is old, but Edison said that he found thousands of ways NOT to make a light bulb.  What if he had stopped after the first 20 tries?


When you find your thoughts spiraling downward in the “This is so awful and will never end” spiral, try saying the word STOP to yourself and find one possible good outcome for the situation, then look a little further and find another. 

Who thinks the thought?

Make a list of the good, and what you are grateful for, to go back to when all those habitual old thoughts start to close in.  This is to change the way you think.  If you need to, call someone who you know will help you find the good in a situation, not someone who will agree that everything is lost or wrong.  This is about creating a growth-mindset in yourself and fostering one in your children.  This is about building resilience in yourself and in your children.

A couple of things you may begin telling yourself to replace the "awfulisms" are:

  • All is well in my world.

  • This is only change and I can see the good here.

Remember it is our OWN thoughts that determine what we feel.

I like the quote from Marie Forleo,

"Everything is figureoutable."

Marie Forleo

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Your thoughts become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

There was a mention of people choosing to adopt the role of Creator or Victim above.  Below is a table adapted from a 2010 version of Skip Downing’s book On Course:  Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life. 

Creator vs Victim Role
Mahatma Gandhi quote
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Creators Choose their course of action, that includes where those actions begin – in their thoughts.  They may not be able to choose all of their circumstances, but they choose how they respond.  They know their values and make a plan for their life based on what they know about themselves.  They do not waste their time blaming and complaining.  They see the next action that best matches their values and plan for their life and use their energy and power to take that action.

Victims lives are determined by outside events and other people, they blame, complain, make excuses, and give up.  In other words, they give their power away.  Basically this is someone acting from a Fixed Mindset, in the terminology of Carol Dweck.

You can go to this link to see what the behavior of a Victim vs a Creator looks like:

Creator vs Victim - Text
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Visualize your thoughts and actions as each being part of building a particular path in your brain.  Now think about how a path is created in a field or a forest.  If you are in a forest and walk through a bed of ferns and other vegetation one time, you may be able to find your way back to where you began by seeing the bent and broken plants – or you may not.  However,  if you came back a week later to try to see where you had walked any trace would be gone.


How many times will you need to walk through the forest to create a footpath that is easily seen?  How many times and how frequently do you need to practice shooting a basketball to create those pathways in your brain so it is an automatic shot? 


…And how many times do you need to practice your new thoughts about people, things, circumstances, and yourself to create a new successful life for yourself?


How many times did this path have to be walked to bring it to the path it is now?

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Can you choose not to take comments from someone else personally?  No matter what you choose to think – you can tell yourself they are having a bad day, they have low blood sugar …. YOU can make the story that is less emotionally charged. No matter what the "truth" of the "reason" something happened is, your emotions are ONLY determined by the story YOU tell yourself.  Do you want to be happy, do you want to experience calmness, peacefulness?  ...Then tell yourself kind stories.


Instead of s/he did THAT just to inconvenience me.  You could think, Susie was having such a good time that [other parent] just wanted to see Susie happy, just like me, s/he really loves Susie.  Susie is so lucky to have two parents who love her.  It is your choice – which thought feels better to you?


  • Can YOU choose not to make negative assumptions – that make you mad?  … that take your peace away? 

  • Can YOU choose to let other people have their own opinion and way of doing things and realize you can do the same?

  • Can YOU choose to practice really listening to what your child is saying without taking it personally and getting angry?  …your child’s other parent? 

  • Can YOU choose to practice seeing situations from another person’s perspective?

  • Can YOU choose to practice giving yourself a break, saying “good enough” is fine – it doesn’t have to be perfect?  …I don’t have to be perfect?


How many times will you have to make those choices to create the paths in your brain for the thoughts that will help you to use your energy and move forward on your path instead of wasting your energy in creating unhappiness in your life?

You Choose
Neuroplasticity links
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  • If you keep thinking what you have always thought, you will keep believing what you have always believed.

  • If you keep believing what you have always believed, you will keep doing and saying what you always have.

  • If you keep doing and saying what you always have, you will keep experiencing (getting) what you have always experienced (gotten).

So create your own generous and empowering thoughts and change your experience!! 

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