Growth Mindset

Believing you can improve your abilities

Strength of mind

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”

—Louisa May Alcott

Why does growth mindset matter?

Having a growth mindset helps you focus on developing your abilities rather than proving how smart or talented you are. Compared to a fixed mindset, a growth mindset encourages you to embrace challenges, sustain effort, and try new strategies—and that’s true for both children and adults. Of course, no one embodies only a growth or fixed mindset; we are all a mixture of the two, and we can learn to recognize what triggers a fixed versus growth mindset. Shown evidence that the brain is like a muscle—something you can strengthen—students adopt more of a growth mindset about intelligence and earn higher grades. Finally, the concept of growth mindset doesn’t only apply to intelligence: If there are qualities you don’t like about yourself or others, keep in mind that people can change.

Pulse Check

Right now, how true are the following statements for you?

  • After I make a mistake, I always look for ways to learn from it.
  • I love challenges because they make me smarter.
  • I truly believe that people can change.
  • I can always change how intelligent I am.

How do I encourage growth mindset in others?

Much remains to be discovered about how teachers and parents can encourage a growth mindset in young people, but here are some preliminary suggestions.

Model it. Share stories of when you fell short of your expectations but nevertheless learned an important lesson: “I made the wrong decision that day. At first, I avoided thinking about it, but eventually I realized I needed to learn from the mistake. What I realized was…”

Celebrate it. Avoid praising young people for being “gifted,” “talented,” or “a natural.” Instead, praise the process of learning: “I’m so proud of you—when you got stuck on the problem, you tried a different way to solve it and didn’t give up!”

Enable it. Create authentic opportunities for learning. Give students meaningful challenges, consistent support, and timely, constructive feedback. To calibrate your efforts, ask them directly: “Let’s set a stretch goal together—what’s something you want to accomplish but can’t do yet? What can I do to help?”

About the Authors

Kyla Haimovitz is a learning engineer at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. She studies how to use beliefs to influence motivation and achievement, and how these beliefs are shaped by parents and teachers. She has a BA from Reed College and a PhD in psychology from Stanford University.

David Yeager is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and a former middle school teacher.  He co-founded the Mindset Scholars Network and the College Transition Collaborative, which use the science of mindsets to improve student outcomes.


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Videos about Growth Mindset

How Teachers Can Encourage Growth Mindset

Highlights from David Yeager’s talk at the 2019 Educator Summit.

Character is more than just growth mindset.

There are many other strengths of heart, mind, and will.

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