Everyone falls into self-limiting beliefs sometimes. But with self-awareness and maybe a little nudging from a mentor or teacher, we can re-train our brains and create a Growth Mindset.
With a Growth Mindset, you believe your capabilities are a baseline and improvement can occur with intentional effort, persistence, and practice. You understand abilities can be developed. And a good coach can help us spot our self-limiting beliefs before we spot them on our own.
It’s upsetting to hear a student say “I can’t do fractions” or “I’m not good at long division.” It’s sad that they feel they lack a given skill, but more than that, they seem to have given up on every learning it. They seem to feel that they are doomed to failure.
This kind of self-limiting belief pops up many times throughout the day in school.
Our brains pay attention to our beliefs, thoughts, and words, and prompt us to act in accordance with them.
When a student says, “I can’t do fractions,” their brain responds with, “You’re right! You can’t do fractions! In fact, don’t even bother trying because you can’t do fractions.”
But knowing that, there is a “secret key” that allows us as educators to help turn this self-talk around. That secret key is simply the word “Yet.”
Imagine that the student who has trouble with fractions says, “I can’t do fractions…yet.”
The brain responds with. “No, you don’t have that skill right now, but you can learn it!” The student sees a fractions problem and thinks, “I don’t know how to do this right now, but I can learn it!” Just add the word “yet” to any negative statement about skills and you’ve turned it around. You’ve acknowledged that it is possible to learn it.
So the next time a student makes a negative statement about any subject that she has not mastered, try prompting her to add one little word to the end of her sentence.
“I don’t know my multiplication table…yet.”
“I don’t understand adverbs. . . yet.”
“I don’t know how to start this report. . . yet.”
Now she knows that with a little focus and perseverance, she can get it, whatever “it” is. And that changes everything, from her attitude to her relationship with you!