"Yeah. I did."

Two weeks ago, I led a hike and some outdoor programming for our local multi-level Girl Scout troop. The girls were divided into three groups: Trailblazers, Plant Detectives, and Bug/Animal Detectives. And the adults generally hung to the back (good job!). The animal detectives were super pumped to find a deer skeleton: "what is it?! I don't know... A dinosaur?!" The trailblazers learned quickly that "when you walk in the front, you get covered in all the cobwebs across the trail. But that means your teammates don't." They also led us through some pretty intense terrain: steep, rocky, muddy, and wet/slippery.  

 Photo credit: Amanda H., Troop 5103

Photo credit: Amanda H., Troop 5103

A couple hours later, as I passed by two moms walking and talking in the parking lot, I overheard the one mom say to the other, "We were just walking along and it was nice, and then we got to that stream! And then it started going uphill, and I was encouraging the girls...and then we got to the first BIG uphill, and I was like 'I don't think I can do this...'" 

Now, I could've just kept walking at this point, and continued to carry on to wherever I was going after the parking lot. But I stopped and spun around and said, "But you did it, didn't you?!" 

She stopped, looked at me, stood up a little straighter, smiled, and said... 

"Yeah. I did."  

And THAT'S how you foster growth mindset, ladies and gentlemen.   

Let me introduce you to the youth development catchphrase of the moment: GROWTH MINDSET! It's pretty good stuff.

If an individual has a growth mindset, they believe that they can grow, learn, and improve. They see failures as opportunities to learn and try again. They are resilient. 

I first learned about growth mindset while listening to the audiobook version of Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. (I listened to several similar books around the same time, so it might've also been covered in Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success and/or How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character - I seriously recommend all three!)

While I was recently attending the Girl Scouts' Girl Experience conference, our national staff presented a session on Growth Mindset and how it relates to our work in Girl Scouting and the Three Processes, which we already use to foster this kind of trial-and-error thinking and resiliency. This isn't a new concept, by any means, but Dweck's work and the term "growth mindset" has packaged it neatly for us to explore, discuss, and engage in. 

Once you start reading, listening, or talking about it, you can't stop thinking about it and seeing examples all around you. Just like my interaction with the mom in the parking lot. It's like a really catchy song stuck in your head (probably Carly Rae Jepsen, if your head is anything like mine). 

Once your become aware of these concepts, you start to spot the fixed mindset everywhere. Look at the way we praise our children: ‘You’re so smart!’ ‘You are so good at basketball!’ That’s fuel for the fixed mindset. A growth mindset compliment praises effort rather than natural skill: ‘I’m so proud of how hard you worked on that project!’ ‘I could tell you listened to your coach’s comments - you really had your elbow under those jump shots today.’
— Switch, pg 165

Here's how you can incorporate growth mindset language into how you interact with kids or colleagues:

1. Focus on Hard Work. Add the six little words "you must've worked hard on that" to almost any compliment you give. Even the pros who bring a natural ease to their craft worked hard to get to where they are. A colleague once told me that I was a "natural facilitator." I said thank you, but should've told her that it was probably the 100th training I've led, and the first one wasn't nearly this good. 

2. Praise the Process. Whenever you can, focus less on the outcome and more on the process to get there. It sounds like this: "I like how you considered all the possibilities before making a decision," "I noticed that you asked for help when you needed it," "I love that when it didn't work, you made a new plan and tried again."

3. Notice Improvements. Even a little bit of progress can be a big success. Take notice and make a comment or give a compliment when a project is going in the right direction. That little boost of confidence will help her to keep going.

4. Ask about Next Time. Whether the project, task, or challenge was a success or not, ask about what she'll do different next time. This gives the opportunity to reflect on the entire process and start to be proactive for when a similar challenge presents itself in the future.


How can you inspire growth mindset within your family, your community, or where you work? What other ways can you ask questions or give compliments to spark growth mindset in others?