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3 Ways to “Fix” a Fixed Mindset

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

“I’m just bad at math.”

Growing up, this was my go-to phrase.

Math was never an easy subject for me. In fact, it was the subject I most struggled with year after year.

With my aspirations in the music field, I was excited to realize that I would no longer need to study math after high school, but disillusioned to find that it was still a part of the curriculum at my liberal arts university.

I told myself over and over that I was “just bad” at math. I always have been, and I always will be. 

Here is where I had already lost the fight. 

I grew up with a fixed mindset, a “fact” that has and will stay the same over time. This fixed mindset was created by prior experiences, often consecutive.

By using the “I’m just bad at math” reason every time I would do poorly in a math class, I enforced the ideology that this is simply fact and that there is no opportunity for change.

By saying “I’m just bad at math,” I not only enforced something negative about myself, but I also gave myself no room for improvement.

However, this will prove to be damaging to my learning process and my self esteem as I moved up to a higher leveled math course in college. 

Understand that a fixed mindset is not an excuse. It is a comfort habit, in the same way biting your nails or cracking your knuckles would be.

A fixed mindset is your own safety net—something to fall back on in case you were to ever fail.

In my case, “I’m just bad at math” was what I said whenever I would get a C on an exam or have a harder time understanding a concept while my peers were miles ahead.

However, what I didn’t realize was that by “fixing” this ideology into my head, I was damaging my own learning process and self esteem.

By saying “I’m just bad at math,” I not only enforced something negative about myself, but I also gave myself no room for improvement.

By changing my fixed mindset from “I’m just bad at math” to “I just need to work harder than others to improve my math skills,” I was able to encourage myself into improving, and I was also able to give myself the confidence to do so. 

Fixed ideologies can be improved by turning your fixed mindset into a growth mindset.

3 Tips to Fixing Your Own “Fixed” Mindset

Become Aware

Fixed mindsets are dangerous in the learning space, as they are detrimental not only to the pace you will learn at, but to your self esteem as well.

Fixed mindsets love to come out whenever you experience failure, so give the extra effort to recognize whenever you fail. Diagnose your error, and create a plan for the next time you have the opportunity to complete the task you failed in at first. If this was a one chance opportunity, still make the effort to create a plan on what you would have done differently. 

By doing this, you can self regulate, and create strategies on how to handle future situations.

Change Your Perspective

Easier said than done!

Changing your perspective on your fixed ideologies may be easier than eradicating them completely.

For example, if your fixed mindset tells you “I’m dumb, I always have been,” tell yourself “I can improve if I study extra.”

Or if it says “I’m just physically out of shape,” tell yourself “I can improve my stamina and health if I exercise more.”

To clarify, this is not lying to yourself.

Perhaps, one can confuse improving a mindset of “I’m just a slow reader” by saying “No, I’m a fast reader.” This is not improving your fixed mindset, and can be just as damaging as a negative mindset, since you now hold yourself to a higher and perhaps unrealistic standard.

The “fake it until you make it” strategy may work for some, but in general, it may give more pressure to people who already feel the pressure of failure.

Part of improving a fixed mindset is accepting the fact that you need to work hard for improvement.

If your fixed mindset is “I’m just a slow reader,” then acknowledge the experience that made you feel so, such as doing poorly on an English exam.

Next, brainstorm ideas on how you will improve (“I will read for 30 minutes a day,” “I will study 10 vocabulary cards every time I ride the bus in the morning”).

Finally, give yourself potential new growth ideologies. Instead of saying “I’m just a slow reader,” tell yourself “I just have to improve my vocabulary to be a faster reader.”

This is the hardest step to improving your fixed mindset, as it requires an incredible amount of time, effort and confidence.

Take the time to acknowledge how difficult it is, as is the same as breaking a bad habit.

However, with consecutive practice, you will see improvement in your self confidence and in your performance.

Be Prepared for Failure

Failure is not a limit to your abilities, it is an opportunity to learn and grow. 

Like anything, there will always be bumps in the road. You will fail at some point in your self improvement, whether it be getting a bad grade on a test you studied for, or forgetting the words to that song you had to sing, even though you had practiced it for weeks prior.

No matter how big or small your failure is, the key is to accept it as part of your self improvement. Mistakes are learning opportunities, so make sure there is a take away to every experience. 

Accept any feedback given to you. Often, feedback is confused for negative criticism, and some may even take it as a personal blow.

Since fixed mindsets do not give you room for change, you will already be close minded, and subconsciously believe that your potential is limited and predetermined. However, potential is always limitless!

Final Words to Live By

When you set out to unstick yourself from a negative and limiting frame of mind. Remember this: Do not fall into your old fixed mindset.

Remind yourself that there is always room for improvement, no matter how low you feel. 

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