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10 Best Growth Mindset Activities for Employees and Students

A growth mindset can be cultivated at any age with simple and fun team building activities or individual exercises.

The ability to see opportunity over challenge can sometimes be difficult.  Beginning to cultivate the concept of a growth mindset with employees as well as students can be a great way to introduce different perspective, encourage personal development and foster new skills.

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

A growth mindset is when an individual has the belief or perspective that they can develop or improve their abilities, intelligence, or talents.  People with a growth mindset will seek out opportunities for continuous learning and believe that the actions of hard work and effort can lead to acquiring new skills or enhancing existing abilities.

The opposite perspective, or a fixed mindset, is when an individual believes that their abilities, intelligence, and talents are preset and unchangeable.  People with a fixed mindset tend to avoid challenge and give up easily due to the belief that there’s no point in trying or doing new things because there is no opportunity for success.

The science behind a growth mindset

Psychologist Carol Dweck, a Stanford University professor best known for her research on motivation and mindset, is credited with coining the terms “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset.” 

Dr. Dweck’s work helped recognize mindset as something that can be developed over time, no matter someone’s age.  Similarly, the brain is also a muscle that can be developed over time.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of your nervous system to adapt in response to internal or external stimuli by making structural or functional changes within your brain.

In simpler terms, neuroplasticity describes how your brain can structurally change over time as a result of being exposed to new things or experiences.

And while this reorganization or restructuring can sometimes be the response to injury or disease, it’s important to recognize that it is also your brain’s response when you adopt a growth mindset. 

No matter your age, a growth mindset helps to develop and strengthen new neural pathways promoting an open mind, a love of learning and a diminished fear of failure.

Benefits of a growth mindset

  • Embrace change with more ease

Some of the most challenging times are felt during periods of transition or change.  Having a growth mindset allows you to view potentially new challenges or future changes as opportunities to learn and grow.

  • Increased levels of confidence and self-esteem

Being open to learning new things and expanding your skill set can be a great way to help boost self-esteem and a driving force towards higher levels of confidence.

  • Experience less stress

Carrying a fixed mindset or striving for perfection can be exhausting, limiting and stressful.  A growth mindset focuses on progress, realistic outcomes and is more accepting of trial and error as a part of the ongoing process on personal development.

  • Develop new skills

Some basic qualities of a growth mindset, including embracing challenge and becoming comfortable with failure, encourage you to look beyond your comfort zone and embrace new learning opportunities.  

  • Better health

The stress of daily life can affect your physical and mental health in many different ways.  And the long-term effects of the stress hormone, cortisol, can lead to increased issues with anxiety, depression, cardiovascular diseases, and other medical issues as well.  When your brain is wired to seek out the solutions over focusing on the problems, a positive attitude prevails, stress levels become more manageable and overall wellbeing increases.

  • Increased productivity

When your mindset is focused on being adaptable and eager you give yourself, and your team members, the chance to accomplish more.

How to promote a growth mindset culture

Creating intentional opportunities for learning within your organization or classroom is key to developing a growth mindset culture.  Those intentional opportunities become the foundation of your learning culture and serve as an expectation of sorts for ongoing personal development.

From staff members to high school students, individuals to an entire team, hands-on growth mindset activities are a great starting point to begin introducing the concept of a growth mindset and building a culture of learning and development.  

The below list of growth mindset activities can be adapted for any environment including the workplace, classroom, or at home.

Keep in mind that along with any new learning comes a learning process – one that brings failure as well as success!  It’s crucial for a growth mindset to embrace failure, as mistakes are an important part of any learning opportunity and can be a driving force for greater success.

10 Growth Mindset Activities for Employees and Students  

Employees

1. Try a 30-day challenge

A great way to try and establish a new habit, or learn something new, is to participate in a 30-day challenge. This is a fun way to promote participation and a great activity to establish accountability partners in small groups.  Get creative with 30-day challenge ideas and ask staff members to add in their own suggestions too.  Some relevant 30-day challenges for the workplace include:

  • Daily 5:1 feedback challenge

Staff members are challenged to deliver 5 pieces of positive feedback for every 1 piece of constructive feedback per day.

  • Clean office challenge

Staff members are challenged to keep their office or workspace free of clutter.

  • Professional reading challenge

Each group member is challenged daily to read one article relating to professional development and then post a link to it in a shared group drive.

  • Watch a daily TED Talk challenge

Each group member is challenged daily to watch one TED Talk and then post a link to it in a shared group drive.

2. Feedback partners

Being open to self-improvement is essential to progress in any aspect of life.  Feedback, one of the best practices for self-improvement, helps provide fresh insights and an opportunity for greater development. 

  • Pair up employees or ask them to partner up with a feedback partner.
  • Ask each employee to think about what it is they are looking to further develop (i.e., active listening skills, presentation presence, responding vs. reacting, etc.). 
  • Each employee then explains to their feedback partner what they are focused on improving and what they would like feedback on.
  • Discuss specific opportunities for observation (i.e., upcoming meetings, etc.).
  • Set a time to give/receive feedback.
  • Reflect and evaluate the feedback. Plan for ways to take ownership and act on what was shared.

While there are many different ways to structure a feedback activity, the key is to make sure all parties remain open-minded and accept any observations provided.

3. Read every day

Start the workday with a brief industry-related article.  Rotate asking team members to share what they read at the beginning of a meeting or by summarizing key bullet points and publishing to a shared drive.

4. Debrief on goals that were not achieved

Promote a culture of learning and development by debriefing on things that didn’t go as planned.  Identify what didn’t work and what was learned as a result.

5. Brainstorm an organizational goal

Design an opportunity for the entire team to be creative without the fear of failure. 

  • Gather the entire team together, away from their desks (i.e., outdoor setting, conference room or even retreat style). 
  • Break up the team into smaller groups and, if possible, try to have representation from different departments on each team. 
  • Invite each group to brainstorm actions to help achieve the overall goal and encourage out-of-the-box thinking. 
  • Have each team present their brainstorm session notes to the larger group.

Students

6. Growth mindset poster

Start the school year off with a vision board exercise. 

  • Ask each student to think about their goals for the upcoming school year as well as the into the future. 
  • Give each student a poster sized board and have them cut out images from magazines, gather favorite quotes and even create their own drawings that help envision or support those goals. 
  • Display the vision boards in the classroom so each student has a visual reminder of their goals throughout the school year.

7. Positive affirmation book

Practicing positive self-talk is key in developing a growth mindset.  How you speak to yourself has a direct impact on your thoughts, beliefs and ultimately, what you believe you are capable of. 

  • Have students gather multiple sheets of paper and fold them in half to make the shape of a book. 
  • Ask students to design a positive affirmation book by writing one positive affirmation down on each half page.  Encourage them to get creative with fonts, design, colors, etc. 
  • Allow students 5 minutes at the beginning of each class to refer to their positive affirmation book and reflect on it quietly.

8. Research project on famous failures

This is a great activity to help students understand the value of mistakes, the importance of perseverance and the learning opportunity that failure brings when you stay open-minded. 

  • Assign each student to research a different famous failure that turned successful and present the story to the class.  
  • Encourage them to get creative and use video clips, direct quotes, static images, etc.

Some powerful examples include Michael Jordan being cut from his high school basketball team, Jerry Seinfeld being booed off the stage in his first stand-up comedy appearance, Walt Disney being fired from a newspaper for a lack of imagination, and Steven Spielberg being rejected from film school multiple times.

9. Failing forward reflective activity

Being comfortable with failure and recognizing that it is a natural part of the learning process is one of the best ways to help young people cultivate a growth mindset.

  • Ask students to reflect on a time when they failed at something and have them write out the specifics to the following questions:
  • What was the situation?
  • How do I define failure or poor performance?
  • What did I learn from the situation? 
  • What are some good strategies that I can use to change course for next time?

10. Set SMART goals

Goal setting is an integral part of helping you get clear on what you want to achieve.  The SMART goal format allows students an opportunity to structure their goals in a way that realistically leverages their strengths and resources while keeping focus on outcomes.  Introduce students on how to create a plan to follow through on what they want using the SMART goal setting structure:

Specific – What do I want to accomplish?

Measurable – How will I define and measure my success?

Attainable – How can the goal be accomplished?  What resources do I need? How will I leverage my strengths?

Relevant – How does this goal align with my values and what is important to me?

Timely – When can I accomplish this goal? Are there smaller, sub-goals, that I can set along the way?

Getting started on a growth mindset

It is never too late, or too early, to work on developing a growth mindset.  Whether you are a part of upper management trying to improve company culture or a classroom teacher who is inspiring students through thoughtful lesson plans, incorporating growth mindset interventions and activities into your environment will help build an open-minded, productive team with innovative ideas and great accomplishments!

Download your FREE SMART goals worksheet here!

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