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Transitioning to a growth mindset – a personal anecdote

The mindset we use to approach things can determine how we grow and learn. For some individuals it can be difficult to open up to new experiences and they struggle to persist when faced with challenges. This may be due to a concept known as “the fixed mindset” in which a person may be restricted from learning due to their own beliefs that individuals are born with abilities which cannot be improved upon. An example of this may be someone who had once been rejected at a job interview and became demotivated due to the first result. On the other end of the spectrum there are some individuals who try to understand that no one can be perfect and that it takes a lot of effort and learning to become better at something. This is known as a concept called “the growth mindset” in which an individual values “the learning process” and sees challenges and new experiences as a chance to grow and improve upon their own skillset. An example of this is someone who has failed at playing a certain song on the piano properly after taking a few lessons, but continuously practices and forms strategies to improve upon their own ability. As for myself, I was someone who probably saw things as they were without thinking about the need for change in myself for the longest time until recently. This is a small story I would like to share about how I transitioned from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. 

As a young adult it can be quite overwhelming hearing about all sorts of goals and expectations people have of themselves. Social media now more than ever, probably exaggerates how important it is to set up your life from an early age and can have an effect on what each person’s perception of “success” looks like. Even though I was aware that others my age were striving for success due to social media, I was quite comfortable with where I was at the age of 18-19. I was studying my psychology degree at university, working a casual job, and using my time off to relax. There wasn’t anything wrong necessarily, however I still somewhat felt unfulfilled. Especially, when thinking about my future and how I had always wanted to work with many different types of people in a mental health setting, I was never really doing anything significant towards learning. 

The first thing that had blocked me was rejection. I would say that I had always somewhat had a fear of rejection due to various experiences in the past. This had contributed to my overthinking about what may go wrong if I were to put myself out there for volunteering experiences. Since I thought I didn’t have experience that meant I didn’t know what I was doing, in my mind I thought I shouldn’t be volunteering. I was scared of possible scenarios in my head which involved rejection by other people. My fear of rejection made me encompass a fixed mindset which meant that I waited for change to happen in my life. Until about the age of 21, I stayed in this loop of not trying new volunteering experiences because I felt I didn’t have the skillset to help people efficiently. I grew unhappier as those 2 years went on but definitely still felt comfortable. This unhappy feeling made me think a lot about what I could do to change things, but I had come to realise there was only one answer. Instead of waiting for change to happen, I had to be the change in myself. 

It was quite difficult for me to initiate the change however I bit the bullet and applied for a few places. I finally got a volunteer experience as a mentor and was quite nervous to go but at the same time I was also excited that I was trying to change and do something different. The first day of volunteering I definitely wasn’t the best mentor there was but felt better about trying. Over time during my volunteering experience, it started to become natural to act as a mentor every week and I started developing better communication skills which I never thought I had. At this point I enjoyed the learning process and started developing a growth mindset in myself which also translated into other things such as sport, friendships, and home duties. Nowadays, I feel I am still learning to encompass the growth mindset as there are days where it can be difficult.

The most important concept that I learnt about my experiences was that failure is only an attempt. FAIL can stand for First Attempt In Learning, and there’s no limit as to how many attempts there are. Every failed experience can have some form of learning within it as hard as it can be to accept failure sometimes. 

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