The Trick to Develop a Growth Mindset - Never Say Die!

May 6, 2022

Just like The Goonies, I will never say die! 

The Goonies is one of my absolute all-time favorite movies! It’s got pirates, secret treasure, and adventure-- what is there not to love? It was everything 10-year old Will could ask for, circa 1985. As an adult, though, I love this movie even more because of the big life lesson it provides about developing a growth mindset. 

If you haven’t seen it (first, get out of my life right now), the movie starts with a family about to lose their house until the kids and their friends take matters into their own hands. They follow a treasure map to One-Eyed Willy’s lost treasure, navigating through “booty traps” and narrowly escaping the clutches of the Fratelli family. All the while, one of the kids Chunk is making a new best friend in Sloth, who teaches the viewer the importance of not judging a book by its cover.

What makes this movie such a classic is that as kids, we all believe in the impossible. We believe in the treasure map, the pirates, the gold. We whole-heartedly think that if we set goals and put our minds to it, we can do ANYTHING, even after the adults have given up. When we’re kids, life hasn’t beaten us down, and we’re not victims yet. Our little minds and hearts are primed to learn, explore, grow, and take on the world.

And oh boy do I see that in my toddler, Wyatt. He’s anything but a victim to this world. He’s naturally developed a growth-owner mindset in his life, and is 100% geared toward experiencing as much joy and excitement that he can squeeze out of each day. He sets toddler-sized goals without even thinking about it, and squeals with excitement when he accomplishes them (a few examples include jumping over puddles, building tall lego towers, or running as fast as he can). He doesn’t sit and ponder, what if I can’t? He just leaps.

So, what happens to that childhood growth mindset? How do we go from being The Goonies, aka growth owners, one day – exploring, adventuring and believing in ourselves – to victims of self-doubt and sabotage the next?

Every day, we are influenced by so many people. Parents, teachers, peers, bosses, siblings – the list goes on and on. Most mean well, but they’ve lost their Goonie spirit. They’ve stopped seeing the world as theirs to conquer, and have started seeing it as something to guard and protect themselves from. They begin to project that self-doubt and fear onto their kids, and the vicious cycle continues with the next generation.

Remember the toddler goals and accomplishments I said Wyatt squeals with excitement about? What if what he heard in response was:

“Don’t you dare try to jump over that puddle. You’ll never make it.”

“That’s high enough with those legos. When they crash, they are going to make a mess!”

“No running! You could trip and fall.”

It’s not that far-fetched, is it? These are things that have been said to us hundreds of times in our lives, and things we may have even said to our own kids. If I say those things, next time Wyatt will think twice, won’t he? And if he does fall, instead of getting up and trying again because he’s got his eye on the prize, he’ll blame himself.

What if I encouraged him to develop a growth mindset instead? Or if I had to intervene, said:

“Today is not a day for puddles. Let’s walk around them.”

“You’ve got 30 seconds to build your legos as high as you can and then it’s time to clean up so you can build even higher ones next time!”

“Skipping only today! We’ll run later.”

These differences are subtle, right? But Wyatt no longer hears “You can’t. You’re not good enough. You’re clumsy.”

For you and I though, we’ve already heard these things so many times we believe them. So, what can we do to re-develop our growth mindset? Well, the first thing is to realize that it’s up to us to determine how this movie ends. It all starts with shifting away from what I call our lower-self, driven by that fixed-victim mindset, and letting our higher-self, driven by our inner Goonie aka growth-owner, take control.

For this week’s action tip, think of three things that you LOVED doing as a kid. Bonus points if they give you even the smallest sense of accomplishment! Building success habits in your mindset can start as small as building a house of cards. Over time, you’ll remember that these little goals and actions bring you so much joy. And that will help lead you to the higher-self you were meant to be, and develop your growth mindset.

Will Moore is a gamification, habits and happiness expert.

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