- Stress is a fact of life – but how you view and approach stress can empower you to harness it for good.
- Growth mindset is a term coined by psychologist Carol Dweck, PhD, referring to an optimistic belief that you’re capable of change and growth.
- By believing that your skills and abilities can develop with effort, you can learn to use stress to your advantage.
In today’s world, stress has become a fact of life. But the way in which you view and approach stress can make a huge difference in how it impacts you, both mentally and physically.
Understanding the concept of a growth mindset can help you cultivate more of a “glass half full” mentality. Developing a growth mindset can empower you to thrive in the face of certain types of stress, instead of retreating or surrendering to a challenge.
Of course, you can’t change or eliminate the stressful events you face in life. Plus, not all types of stress can be harnessed for good — read more about acute and chronic stress here.
However, you can change your approach to certain stressful events and challenges in life. And according to research, that can lead to surprising benefits for your holistic health.
What is a Growth Mindset?
Growth mindset is a term coined by Stanford psychologist and professor Carol Dweck, PhD. It’s the belief that your abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort, dedication, and learning. A growth mindset stands in contrast with a fixed mindset, which is the believe your abilities and intelligence are inherent and unchangeable.
When you have a growth mindset, you view stress and effort as a rewarding act in itself. In other words, when you focus on the effort, rather than the outcome, you’re better able to maintain a positive outlook and can help foster resilience and determination.
A growth mindset enables individuals to see experiences as valuable learning lessons rather than a sign of failure. It also inspires people to be less concerned with the judgment of others, as they’re more focused on their own personal development and improvement.
Imagine a university student struggling with a chemistry class. With a fixed mindset, they’d assume they’re simply not good at the subject, and perhaps drop out of the class. With a growth mindset, they might see a poor grade on a test as a lesson to study more and/or seek extra help from a tutor or teacher. Rather than see it as a sign of their intelligence, they’d view a poor grade as a challenge and opportunity to succeed.
5 Benefits of a Growth Mindset
1. It can increase neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to adapt and reorganize itself in response to new experiences or information. It peaks during childhood, which is why children are often called a “sponge” for new information – their brains are ready to absorb this information and learn.
Children are a great example of a growth mindset: When they learn to ride a bike, they’re often not put off by setbacks or mistakes. Their persistence and resilience are what allow them to learn necessary life skills.
Adults have this same capacity for neuroplasticity – it’s what happens in your brain when you learn a new language. But adults – having learned to walk and talk already – find themselves in fewer situations that require learning a new skill, diminishing the rate of neuroplasticity. Fortunately, your brain is adaptable. By putting yourself in new situations, you can increase neuroplasticity.
2. It can help you perform better.
A growth mindset can make you feel like anything is possible. Instead of having a “fixed mindset”, in which traits like intelligence are perceived as predetermined, a growth mindset gives you the power to improve and progress, without restraints.
For instance, the process of learning how to code may not be enjoyable, but if relevant to your career, it may be beneficial. When you have a growth mindset, you embrace the process of learning new skills, making it less daunting and results-oriented. This can lead to increased motivation and adherence, and as a result, better performance.
3. It can boost your self-esteem.
A study found that people with a growth mindset display better self-esteem than those with a fixed mindset. Plus, they experience less psychological distress when they do experience failure. Instead of letting failure define you, a growth mindset helps you view setbacks as an opportunity for growth. Studies have found that this approach correlates with confidence and high self-esteem.
4. It builds resilience.
According to stress researcher and Oura advisor, Elissa Epel, PhD, “Humans are built to handle stress. Stress prepares our mind and body for what we need to do, giving us a surge of energy and clarity and the mental and physical resources we need to meet a challenge.”
This mindset shift allows you to channel the heightened energy and focus that stress brings into productive actions and problem-solving. Knowing that you can overcome stress is a precursor of resilience — the capacity to withstand or recover from challenges, essentially helping you “bounce back” more quickly.
LEARN MORE: Master Mindfulness for Resilience at Work
5. It helps you accept and integrate feedback.
According to Dweck, people with a fixed mindset may struggle to accept feedback, perceiving it as an attack on their abilities. This was shown in a study that looked at the mindset tendencies of participants who sought out feedback versus those who were assigned feedback. People who seek feedback tend to have a growth mindset, and in return, tend to perform better.
Learn to embrace feedback, even if it’s critical. Feedback is an opportunity to gain insights, and that can only ever make you more capable.
How to Cultivate a Growth Mindset
- Pick up a new hobby. Learning something like a new language or new instrument can be particularly helpful in rewiring your brain. In particular, playing an instrument activates and engages all regions of the brain and nervous system, making it one of the most effective ways to increase neuroplasticity.
- Say yes to new opportunities (even if it’s uncomfortable!). When you’re in new, sometimes daunting, environments, you come face to face with new stimuli and learn to adapt quickly.
- Seek feedback from people you look up to. The more feedback you get, the more comfortable you get with hearing it. Plus, it gives you access to advice that can help you better yourself.
- Try something you think you’re inherently bad at. Question your foundational self-beliefs – you might surprise yourself and be better than you think.
- Celebrate the success of others. And know that others’ success does not diminish your own ability to achieve. When you actively choose to embrace another’s success, you’re indirectly reminding yourself that it’s possible for you too.
- Change your wording. Saying “I can’t do that” or “I’m bad at that” are characteristics of a fixed mindset. Instead, opt for more optimistic verbiage such a “I’m working on building this skill.”
Using Oura to Monitor Your Response to Stress
Oura now tracks your daily stress levels with a new feature, Daytime Stress. You can see when your physiological stress spikes and when it comes down. This can help you modulate stress in real-time to help you harness its power. Remember: stress isn’t bad – it’s how you perceive it and what you do with it.
Use a growth mindset when interpreting your Daytime Stress graph, knowing that stress is not always negative – it’s simply an opportunity for growth. You’ve got this!