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Improve Your Mindset Instantly: Change Your Thinking for Academic Success

Achieving academic excellence is all in your head or so it’s been said.

Forgive the Dr. Seuss-like rhyme, but the truth is, when it comes to academic success, the mind is an undeniably powerful player.

In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, psychologist Carol S. Dweck points out that a student’s mindset originates in messages that are either judgmental or developmentally based. This simply means that we learn (through messages from our parents, teachers, coaches and even ourselves) to either love or hate challenges, embrace or fear mistakes, and appreciate or despise effort and learning.

Further, Dr. Dweck says that each of us chooses one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. Those with a fixed mindset, she says, do not believe they can improve on their given talents and skills, viewing challenges not as positive, rather as negative.

Those with a growth mindset, she says, believe in improvement through hard work and perseverance. As a result, challenges and new opportunities are viewed through the lens of openly pushing towards achievement.

All that to say, you can achieve academic success as an adult learner or non-traditional student who is returning to college simply by adopting the right mindset.

Here’s how:

  • Decide to adopt a growth mindset. Dweck says mindset is a choice. Which means at any time—even right now, instantly—you can choose to move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Her advice is to listen to your self-talk and counter with the growth mindset voice. For example, instead of saying, “I’ll never be good at taking tests,” (fixed-mindset) say, “Taking tests isn’t easy for a lot of people, but I can learn to be a better test-taker” (growth mindset).
  • Set an academic goal. How can you achieve something if you don’t know what it is? Like any goal setting, be specific, whether you're reaching for a particular grade or a percentage of improvement. Remember, the person with the growth mindset sees possibility, defines it and then goes for it.
  • Keep your goal front and center. Remind yourself of your goal through positive self-talk, visualization or even something tangible like a sticky note that says something like, “I am a champion test taker.”
  • Recognize and reward your achievements appropriately. In her research, Dr. Dweck found that certain kinds of praise, such as “good job, you’re very smart,” can actually contribute to a fixed mindset; whereas praising through encouragement, such as “good job, you worked very hard,” can help develop a growth mindset. In other words, celebrate your achievements but don’t rest on them too long—you have much more you can accomplish if you try.

Do you have any tips of your own for getting into a good mindset? Please comment below and tell us about them!

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