GROW - The Growth Mindset & Discipleship

Man holding a plant in his hand

The Growth Mindset was developed by psychologist Carol Dweck.

It has large implications for learning, and in turn, i believe, discipleship.

The growth mindset posits that people have two mindsets with regards to their growth: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset (it is important to note that this a spectrum rather than a dichotomy).

Fixed mindset
This is when someone believes that ability lies in talent. You are either born able to do it, or you are not. You either have the genetic disposition for it, or you don't. Failure is bad as it shows you cant do it. Looking intelligent is paramount.

Growth mindset
This is where a person believes that, whilst there may be some genetic factors involved, ultimately they can grow as a person and develop their intelligence / skills to better than they are now.

Give me an example?
Lets take math. Lots of people have the belief that they are just bad at math. There are people in the world who are good at math, and there are people in the world who are bad at math. This becomes a self fulfilling prophecy; they believe they are bad at math, they are not interested in math, it is harder to learn something that we are not interested in. However, math is an abstract subject, this inherently makes it difficult to learn - for everyone. If you believe that math is difficult, but that you can grow and master it, you approach the subject very differently, you view setbacks and failures as great learning opportunities rather than confirmation that you aren't good at something.

Are you saying that i can be the next Einstein?
Well no not exactly. A growth mindset doesn't mean that we can do anything. It does mean that we can always grow more than we are now.

Well what about the IQ test?
The IQ test was actually developed to help french children understand which areas they needed to develop in and to establish a better curriculum; not to tell someone how intelligent they are.

So how do i begin to develop a growth mindset?
It starts with the belief that you can grow, that your skills and talents are not fixed, that you can get better at things.

Next you need to embrace failure as a key part of growth and begin to take risks that could make you look stupid to other people, but actually help you to grow.

So what does this have to do with discipleship?
Paul's letter to the Romans Says that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.

If as disciples we have a fixed mindset then this renewing becomes very difficult.

If we believe that we are the way that we are and that will never change then it has detrimental effects for our discipleship walk.

If, however we have a growth mindset, then we believe that Christ can work in us and through us and transform us more into his likeness.

If we have a growth mindset then we are willing to take risks for God even though we know that they may backfire and make us look silly.

It also has implications for how we approach theology. If we just look at a concept or idea and think 'I don't get that' and move on, then a fixed mindset is affecting how we understand the bible and theology.

By comparison a growth mindset says that if I work at this then i can begin to understand the concept.

Interestingly, there is no such thing as someone with a growth mindset and someone with a fixed mindset, we fluctuate between the two on a spectrum depending on the context and hopefully we can begin to see where the patterns are, what our triggers are for falling into fixed mindsets, and change our thinking.

So may we learn to identify those fixed mindsets that we have, may we move towards a belief that growth is possible, and may we be constantly transformed by the renewing of our mind.

If you would like to learn more about the growth mindset here are some great links:

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