Fear of failure, known as atychiphobia, can stop us in our tracks. Spooky, we know. Imagine being possessed by some external source that commands your every move. Failure sucks, but for some people that fear can stand between them and the life they secretly yearn for, blocking their dreams. Halloween is a great opportunity to unpack your fear of failure and exorcise it for good. A growing body of evidence suggests that a fixed mindset can literally prevent us from learning and developing skills. But how do you flip that switch to growth mindset? Grab your garlic and wooden stake, here’s what you can learn about growth mindset from Halloween.
A Fixed mindset Creates Fear Of Change
Fear doesn’t feel great, we’ll admit that. Most of us will feel fear at some point in our lives, it’s a natural response. It’s what we do with that fear that makes the difference. When fear of failure prevents us from moving forward it becomes a problem. It affects of motivation, our will to power, shaping our lives in a way that can feel like fright night. The good news is that you can conquer that fear with some smarts from positive psychology. Here’s what Halloween can teach us about growth mindset
Your Brain on Fear
Research in neuroscience and positive psychology has shown that when a fixed mindset is adopted something surprising takes place in the brain.
Psychologist, Carol Dweck, a world leader in growth mindset theory, conducted a study examining brain activity and mindsets with her team at Columbia University. Participants with either a generally fixed mindset or a generally growth mindset were asked a number of difficult questions.
Feedback was then given to participants whilst Dweck’s team measured each person’s brain activity. In this fascinating study researchers found that both the fixed mindset and growth mindset subjects showed a great deal of interest and brain activity whilst being told whether they had answered each question correctly.
Any similarity ended here. The growth mindset individuals continued to show a significant amount of brain activity and interest when they had answered a question incorrectly. Growth mindset participants were just as interested in learning the correct answer as they were in finding out whether they were right or wrong. Yes, they felt that same fear of failure, but they were doing something else with it, they were using that feedback as a learning opportunity.
Here’s what halloween can teach us about growth mindset and fear. The fixed mindset group were quite different. Their brain activity was high when being told whether they had answered the question correctly. When told their answer was wrong, fixed mindset individuals lost interest. Their fear of failure kicked in, if they felt they were ‘losing’ in the game of life, they gave up. They were possessed by the spectre of fear and that fear was shutting their learning down. The level of brain activity literally dialled down when being told the correct answer and explanation. No interest in learning the new information was shown. Think of this response to failure as the graveyard of dreams as well as a missed opportunity.
Both groups were also given a surprise retest. The fixed mindset group showed significantly less performance improvement than the growth mindset group on the retest.
What Halloween Can Teach Us About Growth Mindset: Your Protective Amulet this Halloween
This research perfectly demonstrates how limiting a fixed mindset can be in new learning situations. How fear of failure and what might go bump in the night can stop us in our tracks. It’s a very real example of what halloween can teach us about growth mindset and conquering fear. Here are our top tips to protect you from fixed mindset ghouls this Halloween.
Avoiding the fixed mindset trap
1) Commit. Make the commitment to have faith in your own ability to learn new things and change. Guard against being sidetracked or demotivated by the negative comments of others. Learn to trust yourself and develop confidence in your own abilities. Whereas constructive criticism is always helpful, it’s important to develop and listen to your own voice. Filter and decide whether criticism comes from a place of growth or fixed mindset. Not all feedback or ‘helpful’ advice is useful.
2) Team You. When taking on a new challenge, be your own cheerleader. Develop the habit of encouraging yourself by using positive self-talk. Create a list of all the times that you have overcome failure and succeeded before. We recommend a ‘Positivity’ box where you keep notes, moments and anything else that reminds you of what you’ve achieved, however small – it’s all proof that you can do it. Focus on how good you will feel when you have mastered your new skill or subject. Think about how you would encourage a friend or colleague if they were embarking on a new learning experience and coach yourself in the same way.
3) Words Have Power. Ask yourself, what impact do your words have on those around you? When you’re detecting an onslaught of creepy, no can do narrative, cut it dead. Instead, monitor your self talk, pay attention to who you’re spending time with and their impact on your energy levels. Teach them about growth mindset, model it and if you can’t? Limit the amount of time that you spend with those energy sucking vampires.
Do you adopt a growth mindset and encourage others to learn, develop and grow? If not, take some time to think of ways in which you can improve the way you interact with others at work and home to encourage a growth mindset culture.
Here at Positive Change Guru we love to talk about all things growth mindset. We work with thousands of people and Fortune 200 companies using positive psychology to help them achieve their goals. We offer positive psychology coaching, growth mindset coaching along with growth mindset training courses and positive psychology at work courses. Get in touch to find out more about how we can help you.
Take a look at our 100% free Growth Mindset Toolkit here.