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In a fast-changing world, handling challenges with the right mindset is paramount! We may feel that we have equipped ourselves with all we need to control what life may throw at us. But what about your mentee? Young people may have never accurately learned how to develop the right attitude to help them navigate through school and beyond. So how can you help your mentee develop a growth mindset, and why is this important? A young person can benefit from developing a growth mindset as much as you or I can, if not more! Especially now because of the recent difficulties that young people are facing regarding school work and lockdown. These added pressures have left young people feeling frustrated, and they are looking to you as a mentor to help them get into the right mindset. Now is the opportune time to show your mentee how developing a growth mindset will benefit them now and in any future endeavours. Before we take an in-depth look at how to help your mentee develop a growth mindset, have a look at this article.
Let’s recap Fixed mindset vs. Growth mindset
A growth mindset is the understanding that personal qualities and abilities can change utilizing an input-output mechanism. If we put in the effort to develop our intelligence, we will likely see good results. Our formal schooling built our knowledge and understanding, but the learning process did not stop there. Developing a growth mindset is a never-ending process of learning-implementing-repeat. It is the belief that we can continue to develop our intelligence and abilities beyond our formal years and into our working careers. A fixed mindset is an idea that our intelligence and abilities are fixed at one point and can’t develop or grow. If we hesitate to accept that a growth mindset exists and need development, we jeopardize our ability to change the more important things in life. This means that when we face changing circumstances or a challenge, we tell ourselves: I can’t do this! In reality, we are closing ourselves to the ability to develop and empower ourselves. We should be asking ourselves: what can I do to make this happen? Once a growth mindset starts to advance within us, we can now use it to empower, motivate and change others. A growth mindset is a valuable tool that your mentee needs to develop for success! Your mentoring sessions are a good opportunity for you to instill these concepts. During your sessions, you can focus on specific problems that a mentee has and show them how to apply a growth mindset to each situation.
Start with yourself
Your mindset will strongly influence your quality of life! It’s a crucial element to living with the right mental attitude to be happy and gain a sense of fulfillment in all that you do. To acquire the growth mindset for yourself, focus on strategies that will help shift your mind toward the belief system that anything can be accomplished, helping you reach your full potential. Apply the same approach that you have encouraged your mentee to follow. That may require a good honest look at your mindset. As you come face to face with your weaknesses, you will find ways to acknowledge and embrace your imperfections. Turn those into learning opportunities. As we all are different, you may need to explore various strategies to find the one that works for you. Do your research. If you share your progress and ideas with others, you will be welcoming the opportunity for growth. Take time to reflect on the positive changes that you have made in your mindset and build your confidence in the process of change. As you notice the changes taking effect, set new achievable goals. Never stop growing! Realise that your goals need to be realistic. You are not going to master the process in one go. Now that you are developing a growth mindset, own it! It’ll help you become a great mentor as you look for ways to help others improve. Your mentoring sessions will become more about really helping your mentee grow and develop. You are now ready to impart that growth mindset to your mentee.
Introducing a growth mindset to your mentee
It is vital to introduce the idea of a growth mindset to your mentee because if they can understand it, they can easily learn how to apply it. It may seem like this is a concept that young people may not necessarily understand. Rather, explaining the theory to them and helping them understand the science behind a mindset, will help them approach every challenge with a growth mindset. You may even want to sit down and discuss some of the research with them so that they can understand the process. You may find that they are fascinated to learn more about the science behind all this and what we have learned about the human brain’s potential. Once you have helped your mentee understand how amazing our brains are programmed, connect the science to specific behaviour patterns that help them learn. Perhaps you can now ask them: ‘how will thinking like this help you work through a challenge? How can you use the growth mindset to complete your homework or prepare yourself for exams?’ Helping the mentee understand a growth mindset is a great way to counteract some of the negative self-talk and focus on positive ‘I can’ outcomes. Don’t feel frustrated if they don’t get this process right on the first attempt. Having realistic expectations from the outset will prevent you from feeling disappointed. Some mentees may grasp the concept quicker than others. Here are some great ideas that can help you conduct effective mentoring sessions.
Your mentee already has a mindset
A mentee needs to see that they are already displaying a mindset, either fixed or growth, in their reactions to certain situations. Specific examples will help them feel good about what they are doing to develop and highlight areas where they may need improvement. Perhaps your mentee has a role model, such as a teacher or coach, that they look up to. Being interested in others’ work shows a growth mindset as they are aspiring to be like someone instead of being jealous of their accomplishments. Or if they have perhaps done poorly in an exam and feel like a failure, this would be displaying a fixed mindset. They are closing off their minds to the idea that with a little more effort, they can get better marks. Next would be to show them how mindset affects the effort they put in. An effort is needed to do well with school work, sport, or hobbies. A mindset affects not only the output but also what effort they put in. Any effort put in to do better or show greater interest would be displaying a growth mindset. Not showing an interest in hobbies, not doing homework, and not preparing for exams displays a fixed mindset. A young person may have an ideal career in mind. They realise that while in school they can’t achieve that goal just yet. But, through diligent study and the correct choice of subjects, they are reaching out for that goal. Having a fixed mindset, they would believe that there is nothing they can do to influence their future. Setting time aside to have the mentoring session would be a positive way for a mentee to see that they are developing a growth mindset.
When challenges come along
New challenges will arise for your mentee that they may not know how to handle. Discuss various approaches that they can take to apply a growth mindset to each challenge. From the outset, show your mentee that challenges are healthy. Even if that challenge distorts the way they see themselves, there is always a silver lining to each problem they overcome. For example, if their exam results are poor, they could think: “I thought I was smart; I am not.” Here you can help your mentee see that perhaps this is not his strength. Show them how to approach the exam, test, or group work from a different perspective. Let them understand that this is not a weakness, but just an aspect that needs a little more work. Understanding that a growth mindset values effort will help them receive setbacks with grace and turn stress and thoughts of giving in; toward positive endeavours and achievement. Continual praise for their persistence at a challenge is necessary. If one way of doing something didn’t work, try a different way. And if that didn’t work, keep repeating the process till it becomes a natural process for your mentee. A growth mindset shows them that challenges should be transformed into opportunities, instead of rigidly becoming stuck in the thought rut of ‘I am a failure.’ Give them practical steps that can help them. For example, help them set out a detailed plan of how to overcome the problem. If the problem is facing a challenging exam, they would need a detailed study schedule. Write these down as a detailed plan that shows times, topic, and the goal for that period of study. Accepting this as a temporary challenge will help them let go of stress, anxiety, and fear.
It’s harder for some
Not everybody embraces change quite the same way. Our thoughts and actions may have gotten stuck in a little bit of a fixed mindset over time without us even knowing. Our backgrounds, work environments, and other external factors play a big part in how we perceive ourselves and the future. Not everyone can look at life through rose coloured glasses. Some also struggle with negative thoughts or perhaps take criticism harshly. We all then face an environment where developing a growth mindset can be difficult. But remember, negative ideas and how we perceive the world around us are just mindsets! With some effort, a fixed mindset can be changed into a growth mindset. We all can adopt the attitude that we choose! We must start somewhere, right? Knowing that a change is possible at any stage is a good start. We can now outline the goals that are going to get us there. Granted, we are not going to get everything right the first time, but practice makes perfect. Don’t get upset or feel like a failure if you don’t win the fight against a fixed mindset the first time. There is no harm in trying and failing! That is part of the development process. Thomas Edison even understood that failure was part of the process when he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. So ask yourself: “What can I change? How can I change it?” Then begin to write down the steps you need to take. Follow them closely and review them often. Gradually this process will become easier as you see the change in your mindset. To conclude, there are real-world implications where having a growth mindset approach is advantageous, whether you are the mentor or the mentee. The key is to focus on changing one small thing in a mindset, this habit of mindset change will then cascade into other areas of life. If you want to live more productively and purposefully, re-examine your own and your mentee’s mindset to see if it’s serving its purpose well!
Developing a growth mindset in your mentee is crucial now! It is not a complicated process but easy to accomplish if you take one step at a time. Start with yourself and see how effective change can be. Then show your mentee how they can begin changing their mindset. Use practical examples of challenges that they are facing now as an opportunity to teach how to apply a growth mindset. Remember that it will be harder for some. With effort, anyone can change their fixed mindset to a growth mindset. By volunteering with GT Scholars, you will be part of a team of like-minded people wanting to see change! Volunteer with us and help us develop a growth mindset in young people. Click here to apply now.