Overcoming Obstacles with Growth Mindset

It happens to all of us, we are working away, in a groove and BAM we are hit with an obstacle. Something comes into our life experience that knocks us off course and shakes us to the core. What do we do? Fall apart, or overcome the obstacle in our way with everything we’ve got? The answer is clear, and can be tackled easily if we are practicing a “Growth Mindset.”

What is Growth Mindset?

Discussion of Growth Mindset in educational circles is gaining momentum as it relates to students and learning and achievement based on Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck and her idea that mindset and ability are connected.  In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2000), Dweck developed her ideas of where ability comes from. For some people, success (and failure) is based on innate ability or the lack of this ability. Dweck describes this as a fixed theory of intelligence, and argues that this gives rise to a ‘fixed mindset’.  At the other end of the spectrum are those people who believe success is based on a growth mindset. These individuals argue that success is based on learning, persistence, effort and hard work.

In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it (Morehead 2012).[1]

How Can We Encourage Growth Mindset in Ourselves and Others?

So what can we do to encourage this Growth Mindset with our students, children and even ourselves? We must continue to provide challenging work where students will need to apply effort to overcome challenges and setbacks. They will receive feedback along the way that encourages them to keep going. Just like a young person playing a video game that gets more difficult as the levels get higher, these video enthusiasts don’t give up and say “Oh I will never be able to do this” they keep persisting until the level up to new heights. Parents around the dinner table and teachers in the classroom should ask, ‘Who had a fabulous struggle today? (Morehead 2012)[2] This will ensure that students are encouraged to put in effort and be rewarded for overcoming the struggles and challenges that they will face.

mindset5 Steps to Stay on Track with Growth Mindset

What about our own mindset? How does it come into play as a teacher or parent? How can we “strengthen our own mindset?”[3] when faced with a challenge that makes us question whether we really do have what it takes, or are we stuck? Most of us are not perfect, living with growth mindset every second of our lives. Even the best can get knocked off course with an obstacle from many different directions and suddenly we question ourselves and our abilities. It happens, the ones who wallow in the depths of despair for the shortest amount of time, will emerge as the winners.  If you want to strengthen your growth mindset, try the following steps:

  1. Practice Growth Mindset and Add Affirmations: When something challenges us, there is always a solution, but the solution usually involves hard work. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and put in the effort required for your breakthrough.
  • You want to learn how to create engaging videos, but all of the video creation and editing software is driving you up the wall. How can you ever learn something like this? You could go with a fixed mindset and never ever try, or you could watch a how-to video course on YouTube, Lynda.com or Udemy on how to get started creating engaging videos using Camtasia to enhance your classroom instruction and blast through this mindset.
  • Create your own Growth Mindset affirmations to help you stay on track.


  • I am so thankful that with hard work, and persistence, I will find a solution to my problem.
  • I embrace learning new things, and love the challenge that comes with plowing a new pathway to solve a problem.
  • I am responsible for my own growth and am willing to put in the effort I need to achieve my goal.
  1. Have a Fixed Mindset Plan of Attack: Notice when you turn to blaming others, or feeling defensive and set yourself back on track. Remember to take responsibility for all of our actions and this will earn respect from others, and keep you moving forward towards your goals.


  • Responsible people never blame others for their results
  • Resentment is a wasted emotion that can only hurt you
  • You must take responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and actions
  1. Find a Mentor: who has already accomplished what you would like to do. Following a proven path is much easier when you have someone to guide you towards success, and give you tips along the way to reduce pitfalls and obstacles.
  2. Challenge Your Paradigms and Beliefs: Culture is known to have been founded on habits, attitudes, beliefs and expectations.  These beliefs are called paradigms and are formed over time (from your parents and their parents) as well as environmentally. Where we live also determines many of the beliefs we will form. If we want to experience new things, we must be ready to challenge some of the limiting beliefs that we have formed over time that hold us back, even without our permission, as they can be subconscious beliefs that keep us stuck without our permission. When we begin to challenge our beliefs, things will start to become uncomfortable and we can either move forward into growth, or safely back to our fixed mindset.
  1. Act as if you have already accomplished your goal. Since the brain cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined, or visualized, you might as well practice priming your brain for success.


[1] http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/developing-growth-mindset-teachers-and-staff “Developing a Growth Mindset in Teachers and Staff” Keith Heggert Posted Feb 3, 2015.

[2] http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/developing-growth-mindset-teachers-and-staff “Developing a Growth Mindset in Teachers and Staff” Keith Heggert Posted Feb 3, 2015.

[3] http://everydaypowerblog.com/2016/02/13/5-ways-to-develop-growth-mindset/ by Joanna Jast

Learn how to use the most current brain research to optimize the results in your own life, and then teach these skills to your students or children.  https://achieveit360.com/stress-learning-and-the-brain/


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