Promoting Growth Mindset

Promoting Growth Mindset Cultures Can Help Kids Find Their Inner Hero

By Lisa King: School Counselor, Speaker, and Author of “Be Your Own Hero.”


When I first heard Carol Dweck’s TED Talk, I felt like she came out of the screen and grabbed me. Not literally, but go with me here. Her words about the ‘power of yet’ and teaching kids about neuroscience inspired my thinking, “Why aren’t we teaching this in schools?” The theory that Dweck pioneered shows that when we know more about how our brain works, and when we realize that our attitude about learning truly affects our achievement… we have better outcomes. Current studies support the benefits of teaching a growth mindset and it is exciting to see this concept grow in schools across the world.

Those who know me, know that growth mindset has become my thing, my theoretical basis from which I work, and my passion. I believe wholeheartedly that when we reinforce a growth mindset common language in an organization (like a school), it becomes the culture of our organization. And when the culture of an organization is one in which mistakes are accepted as part of the learning process, hard work is expected, and risk-taking is embraced, it breeds psychological safety for all members of the team.  And this psychological safety in classrooms (for students) and in working teams (for staff members) can lead to positive outcomes in both achievement and school climate.


One of the key concepts of growth mindset is showing perseverance and grit even when things are difficult. It seems that kids have become increasingly intolerant over the years of being accountable for their mistakes; perhaps in part due to what is now known as Lawnmower Parenting. This is the idea that parents mow down any obstacle in their child’s way as to not have them deal with undesired adversity. The reality though, is that instead of preparing the path for the child, we need to prepare the child for the path and teach them the concepts of perseverance, learning from feedback, and understanding that it’s ok if you don’t understand something yet. We need to praise effort, even when the goal is not attained. In fact, failure is a crucial part of the learning process. Now here is the tricky part for educators. Not only do we need to model the language that Carol Dweck so eloquently teaches us in her growth mindset theory, Mindset: The Psychology of Success (2007), but we need to show students, through our actions, that we are growing our brains, too, by continuing to learn new things, overcome failures, and see possibility in everything.

The need for role models who operate from a place of “yet” is more crucial now than ever. Throughout history, we see everyday heroes who have worked for the greater good, while demonstrating tenacity, and a “never give up” attitude.  Recognizing grit and growth mindset in our schools and showcasing examples of heroes. Both past and present, in our community and around the world, can reinforce to students how ultimately, they can be their own hero by modeling these same behaviors.  Carol Dweck says “We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.” We need to teach kids that we all have the potential to impact other lives and be the heroes in our own story.


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Books by Lisa King