At One Trusted Adult, March is Mindset Month! We put this topic on our calendar because talking with young people about mindset can help them open up to growth and change, get comfortable with taking healthy risks, and recover from setbacks.
Mindset is a collection of our basic assumptions and beliefs about the world. These beliefs have a lot of influence over our behavior—some researchers even think that your mindset dictates your personality! Mindset is often broken down into two types: fixed and growth.
- A fixed mindset is the belief that intelligence is something you are born with and therefore cannot be changed.
- A growth mindset is the belief that intelligence can be developed over time through learning and practice.
Young people benefit when they internalize the idea that they will get smarter, more competent, and more skilled as they work hard and try new things. Simply believing this helps make it come true. Like all of us, young people can fall into the trap of the fixed mindset, believing that they are not good enough or smart enough to succeed.
When young people get stuck in fixed mindset patterns, we at One Trusted Adult teach them about the wild mind. The wild mind jumps to conclusions, including many negative ones associated with a fixed mindset, but with practice it can be tamed. Here are some of the wild mind’s favorite tricks:
- Storytelling: You assume you know what someone else is feeling, and you tell yourself a story about their thoughts based on your own.
- Criticizing: You think you’re not good enough, smart enough, or capable enough.
- Blaming: You hold other people responsible for your mistakes or problems, or you put all the blame on yourself.
- Exaggerating: You treat even the smallest problems or obstacles like giant disasters.
Once you have explored these wild mind reactions, share with the young person a time when your wild mind has fallen into a fixed mindset trap. Sharing your experiences helps the young people you are talking with understand that everyone has wild mind reactions sometimes. Taming the wild mind takes time and practice. Developing a script to use when a fixed mindset shows up can help you and the young people you spend time with create a shared language for talking about this phenomenon.
- “Easy, wild mind, we aren’t storytelling today.”
- “Hold on, wild mind, I see what you are doing . . . we are not doing any blaming here!”
- “Shhh, wild mind, we aren’t criticizing right now.”
Practice this strategy aloud with the youth in your life and help them develop their own scripts. Learning about a fixed mindset and the wild mind is the first step toward increased self awareness. Once you can identify and name your patterns, you can change your behavior so your thoughts and actions work for you instead of trapping you in limiting beliefs. Young people find it empowering to learn that they can be healthier and more successful just by changing the way they think.
Another way to show young people the impact of mindset is to ask them to teach you something you do not know how to do. Buckle your seatbelts, trusted adults, this one puts you on the spot! Here are a few things they might teach you:
- How to play their favorite video game
- Who the top artists in their favorite music genre are
- How to do a popular TikTok dance
- How an app works
Challenge the young person to pay attention to fixed mindset and wild mind reactions that show up as you struggle to learn your new skill. Ask them to notice how you cope and what messages you send yourself as you work through the problem. As you, the adult, struggle to master a low-stakes activity, you can model how a fixed mindset creeps in and how you reframe it.
Remember, this information is powerful for young people—but it’s not as powerful as their relationship to you. Teaching them about mindset is important but modeling a growth mindset is truly transformative!