You may feel that learning how to have a growth mindset after an illness or injury sounds like a hippy fad, or a luxury reserved for people who don’t have challenging health issues, or it’s just not a priority as you’re trying to figure out how to live in a changed body, sort out the impact on family dynamics, return to work etc. etc.

Yet, what if I said that learning how to have a growth mindset is a key part of learning how to live well with the impact of a challenging health issue? It is. You didn’t seek to have a challenging health issue, whether you or a loved one has/had it. It’s been an unwelcome intrusion in your life, which can bring up all sorts of unpleasant emotions and feelings. And that is on top of dealing with the health issue itself.

So I want to share some tools to help you learn how to have a growth mindset. To equip you with the knowledge and skills you need on this journey to help you get through it with more ease.

There's a woman standing and holding a map of her rehabilitation plan and the various routes she needs to take to meet her goals. On the map is written open mind, adapting, flexibility, persistence, self-compassion and learning. She is saying, 'I need to revisit what I know and need to learn to help me on my journey.' The caption reads 'developing a growth mindset will help you on your journey'.

But first, a recap of what a growth mindset is and it’s opposite, a fixed mindset

Last week I wrote about what a growth mindset is and why it’s important so here’s a quick recap.

A person has a growth mindset when they believe they can learn and change things for themselves through effort, strategies and help from others. Even in tough situations like dealing with a challenging health issue. They believe that their intelligence and abilities are not fixed.

When a person believes they cannot learn or change things or that one’s intelligence and abilities are fixed, that is known as a fixed mindset. Some common examples of this are when you hear people say, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’ Or ‘I cannot possibly learn that!’ Or ‘I couldn’t possibly be creative.’ Or they give up quickly because of the challenges, obstacles and difficult people getting in the way of what they want for themselves.

However, we all experienced growth and fixed mindsets. It can depend on the situation, the people we are with, how we are feeling and more. They are not static. Which is good. Because it means you can learn and change if you choose to.

This is a pic detailing the characteristics of growth and fixed mindsets. A growth mindset believes that intelligence can be developed. It leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism, and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. As a result they achieve more and it gives people a sense of greater free will. A fixed mindset believes that intelligence is static. It leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to avoid challenges, give up easily, see effort as fruitless or worse, ignore useful negative feedback and feel threatened by the success of others. As a result, they may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential. A fixed mindset confirms a deterministic view of the world. This demonstrates why believing your intelligence is not fixed and you can learn is so important in learning how to have a growth mindset after illness or injury.
Concept of Growth & Fixed Mindsets by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. Image by Nigel Holmes.

Let’s move on to learning how to have a growth mindset

First, you can do a mindset assessment here to learn about your current mindset. You do have to give them your name and email to get the results.

My results said I had a good foundation but may feel uncomfortable with criticism even if it’s well intended and I can be hard on myself when I make mistakes. Yep! I am a work-in-progress!

Your results can give you a good starting point on where to look when you’re in fixed mindset mode. With that increased self-awareness, you then have more choices. So on to the next stage.

The 7 signs that you are in fixed mindset mode

I’ve come up with seven signs, but there could be more. The signs could be different for each of us. What I share are common ones I’ve seen in my work with clients and even myself.

For each sign that you may be in a fixed mindset mode, I offer what you can do instead.

A fixed mindset won’t help you live well with the impact of a challenging #health issue. Read about the seven signs you are in fixed mindset mode and what you can do instead #growthmindset Click To Tweet

You know you are in a fixed mindset when you

Have a case of ‘comparisonitis’

You compare yourself to others, you look at what they have and you don’t and feel envious and bad as a result. Your mood takes a nosedive.

It is so hard to look at what other people have which you value and wish you had too.

I could write a lot on this and will some day.

How to have a growth mindset when dealing with ‘comparisonitis’

Keep in mind that everyone is on a different journey. Their journey is not your journey.

Focus on your journey. Where you are now, where you want to get to and what you need to do, think, feel and be to get to your desired destination.

Also, only compare yourself to the you of yesterday and your goals. Adjust your goals to keep them realistic and achievable too if that is needed.

There are two versions of the same woman standing. One is the woman of yesterday. One is the woman of today. The woman of yesterday is saying, 'I didn't do so great on my physiotherapy today.' The woman of today is saying, 'Today's physio went well. And we need to adjust our goals.' The caption reads: Manage 'comparison-itis' by only comparing you to the you of yesterday. That is key in learning how to have a growth mindset after illness or injury.

You are working so very hard to your pre-illness/injury standards and not getting anywhere

The level of frustration you are feeling is through the roof! Sometimes this persistence can actually help your rehabilitation. But if you feel like you are fighting and not getting anywhere, that is the sign you need to do something different.

How to have a growth mindset regarding your personal standards

You need to reset your personal standards so they are realistic to what you can do now and work to those. They may get you to your pre-illness or injury standards. But they may not and being open to that will make the journey much less stressful. You can read more about that here.

You’re aiming for perfection

This relates to the point above. It often comes out when a client says, ‘I have high standards.’ High standards are not bad, but you need to have a flexible approach towards them. You need to adjust them. Particularly as your body has changed and it is working double time. Your body may not have the energy levels to cope.

How to have a growth mindset regarding perfectionist tendencies

If you reread the results of my mindset assessment above, my ‘watch out for’ areas on how I respond to certain kinds of feedback and making mistakes point to my perfectionist tendencies. Yes, I have them and they are a great sign to me when I need to demonstrate flexibility and do something different. When I do that, that’s when I shift from a fixed to a growth mindset.

Reminding myself the following helps.

  • Me giving 75% effort towards something is most likely someone else’s 110% helps.
  • The world will most certainly not end if things aren’t perfect.
  • Mistakes are learning opportunities.

You’re trying not to ‘give in’ to the illness/injury

But you feel tired, you feel like your illness or injury is ‘winning’. I hear this language being used a lot, particularly in the context of acceptance of an illness or injury. It is indicative of a fight, but one that is very negative.

A typical sign of this fight is not resting when your body is screaming for it. Because resting would be ‘giving in’. And you can’t do that because the illness or injury would be in control.

But this kind of fight doesn’t help you. It’s also not you taking control. Your energy is so focused on fighting, it’s not freed up to look after yourself. Resting would be you recognising what you need and taking control. That’s the paradox.

How to have a growth mindset regarding ‘giving in’ to your illness/injury

If you notice yourself ‘fighting’ your illness or injury in this way, have a go at doing the opposite of what you’re doing. Chances are it is what you need to be doing.

Are you trying not to ‘give in’ to your #seriousillness #seriousinjury? If yes and you are feeling like you aren’t getting anywhere, then read this blog. It will help you to help yourself. #growthmindset Click To Tweet

You don’t ask for help

This is so common when people are dealing with the impact of an illness or injury. I have written a lot about it and recommend a read.

How to have a growth mindset regarding help

What you can do is practice asking for help. Try it with small things first to notice your internal response to asking for help. People have often said to me their worst fears don’t come to pass.

Also make sure to ask people who are willing and capable of helping you.

Your inner critic gets in the driving seat when you struggle or make a mistake

This can be a sign of a perfectionist tendency. Remember, you are the CEO of you so you can take charge of the inner critic.

How to have a growth mindset regarding your ‘inner critic’

You do that by taking a large dose of self-compassion and asking yourself the following questions:

  • What did I struggle with in particular?
  • And what does that tell me about me, my skills, my knowledge?
  • What am I learning from that? Is there a skill I need to learn? New knowledge to seek out?
  • What part of this did I actually do ok even well?

Asking yourself these questions turns the mistake into a learning opportunity. It works really well.

A woman is holding a very large glass of a large dose of self-compassion and learning. Behind her on a table stand two bottles and one has self-compassion written on it and the other has my learning written on it. The woman is saying, 'This is a large dose. I hope it tastes ok.'' Near the glass it says ' a large does of self-compassion and learning is tasty'. The caption reads 'doses of self-compassion and learning help you to have a growth mindset'.

You’re trying to convince others you’re ok when you’re not

We could do this for all sorts of reasons and it’s a complex one. So today I’m only going to focus on it from one angle.

You may fear about ‘burdening’ the other person. And this could be an assumption on your part. That will depend on the person you are trying to convince and your relationship with them.

Or we may not want to deal with the kind of response we know we may get from that person. Understandable.

Be discerning on who you try the following out with. If it’s the type of person who doesn’t do well with other people’s difficulties, don’t try it with them. If it’s someone who is empathetic, chances are it is safe to be honest with them.

How to have a growth mindset regarding being authentic regarding the issues you have with your illness or injury

If the person is close to you and it’s a good relationship, have a go at saying how you really feel. You don’t have to say everything. Just a little bit. They may respond in a way which shatters your assumption about burdening them. Their response may be just what you need.

Learning how to have a growth mindset requires these three qualities

What I have suggested you do differently for each sign above requires you to open your mind to new possibilities, flexibility and adaptability. They help you to learn how to have a growth mindset and will enable you to go far.

A woman is standing and holding 'open mind'. In front of her is a table and on it are 'flexibility', 'adaptability' and a growth mindset bag. The woman is saying, 'I have to pack my growth mindset bag for my journey.' She is going to put open mind, flexibility and adaptability in her bag. The caption reads: An open mind, adaptability and flexibility help you learn how to have a growth mindset.

What’s it like for you?

In which situations do you notice you’re in a fixed mindset? What have you done in those situations to switch to a growth mindset? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

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