What Is a Growth Mindset?

A growth mindset is a belief that someone’s intelligence and talents can be actively developed. By applying an approach that combines hard work, thoughtful strategies, and input from others, an individual can expand their capabilities and find greater success. When someone encounters a challenge, a growth mindset provides confidence that they’ll be able to gain the knowledge and skills they need to achieve their goals.

The growth mindset can be further understood by comparing it with its opposite: a fixed mindset. This view relies on the belief that a person’s intelligence and talents are innate gifts rather than something that can be developed with effort. It’s the idea of “you either have it or you don’t.” When someone with a fixed mindset encounters a challenge that’s not suited to their existing skills or knowledge, they see it as an insurmountable roadblock rather than an opportunity to learn more.

The idea of a growth mindset vs. fixed mindset was coined by psychologist Carol Dweck and her colleagues. The concept was developed as they researched student achievement. The children with a growth mindset performed better than those with a fixed mindset. However, they also noted that effort alone wasn’t always enough to learn new things. It was also important to integrate input from others and try new strategies in order to overcome obstacles along the way.

How ADHD Impacts Your Mindset

When you have ADHD, it’s easy to fall into a fixed mindset. You may have struggled in certain areas your whole life due to your ADHD symptoms, which makes it hard to see any other possibility. For example, maybe your lack of organization has been a recurring issue. You always seem to misplace things and have a cluttered living space, and despite the frustration, it doesn’t seem to change.

Compounding this problem can be the negative feedback you’ve received from others. You may feel judged or criticized for your disorganization. It’s also natural to compare yourself to those who seem to be effortlessly tidy, which can contribute to feeling like you’re destined to fail in this particular area. 

How to Develop a Growth Mindset

Overcoming a fixed mindset is important for learning new things and improving yourself. When it comes to ADHD, it can also help you to deal with setbacks caused by your symptoms. Try some of the following strategies to cultivate a growth mindset in regards to your ADHD.

Change your internal monologue

The narratives we tell ourselves can impact whether we have a growth mindset or fixed mindset. People with ADHD are prone to negative self-talk. If you have thoughts like “I can’t do that,” “I’m a failure,” or “I’ll never get it right,” you’re getting caught in all-or-nothing thinking that will prevent you from growing and learning.

Instead, try to practice self-compassion. Work on changing your inner voice to one that is more positive and encouraging, like how you would talk to a loved one. Thoughts like “I can do this” and “I can improve if I work hard” can help to shift your mindset and instill the confidence to take on new challenges.

Accept the struggle

Some individuals with ADHD struggle with perfectionism and a fear of failure. This can play into a fixed mindset and cause someone to stay within their comfort zone. In order to adopt a growth mindset, you’ll have to become accepting of the struggles and failures that can happen when you push past your comfort zone.

When you shift your point of view to see struggle as a sign of growth, it helps you to keep trying new things and working to improve your knowledge and skills. This can apply to situations where you want to manage your ADHD symptoms more effectively. You won’t get it right every time, but the more you work toward it, the more results you’ll see and the more resilient you’ll become.

Ask for (and accept) feedback

A growth mindset doesn’t guarantee that you’ll find success right away. It may take some time to improve in certain areas. It can help to get feedback from others in order to see what you can do to continue growing and learning. If you receive criticism along the way, try to avoid getting defensive. Instead, ask yourself what you can take from that feedback to work toward your goals.