Activity: Strategy box

One simple tool that you can use to get started embracing your growth mindset journey is a “strategies box” that helps you learn from your past accomplishments and reflect on how you achieved them. Simply draw a box comprised of 4 squares (there is a template for this that you can also use with your mentee in the Mindset Kit Resource Library). In three of the squares, list things that you are good at or have achieved (try to include things that you perhaps struggled with at first). In the fourth, list the things you identified as not being good at or wanting to change. For example:

Can play the piano Know how to cook
Have a good career Not organized financially

Next, list the most important strategies, steps, or beliefs that helped you be successful in those first three areas. What were your successes factors? How did you progress through the challenges? What actions did you take? How did you think about the challenge? List as many as you can:

Can play the piano
  1. Took lessons every week
  2. Bought books on learning to read music
  3. Reminded myself to practice by giving myself rewards
  4. Parents made sure I put in the work
  5. Always had a passion for music
Know how to cook
  1. Mom taught me at an early age
  2. Tried many bad recipes and burned a lot of meals
  3. Took cooking classes in 2005
  4. Found website and message board and learned from other cooks
  5. Not afraid of salt
Have a good career
  1. Researched nursing careers online
  2. Talked to friends of older sister who were thinking about medical careers
  3. Selected good nursing school
  4. My mentor, Sheila at the Med Center
  5. Keep up to date on research and trends in field
Not organized financially

The last step is to see if any of those strategies or factors could be applied to your fourth box:

Not organized financially
  1. Buy books on personal finance (from piano example)
  2. Look into classes I could take on money management/investing (from cooking example)
  3. Look for reputable online message boards with advice (cooking)
  4. Ask friends about their strategies (career example)
  5. Set a goal around savings (career)
  6. Also set a reward if I make my goal! (piano)

Everyone’s goals and strategies will look different and may even shift over time. But hopefully this activity has provided you with some strategies and ideas for how you might approach your new challenge. This can make a daunting task seem easier or identify steps you can take to make progress. It also reframes your challenge from a growth mindset perspective and reminds you that you’ve been down similar paths before.

Your mentee can benefit from these kinds of strategy boxes, as well. They can be a great way of coming up with new approaches to a problem and emphasizing that the mentee has successfully solved problems in the past (and has the skills to do so again).

If you do use the Strategy Box idea with your mentee, be prepared to help them think through the steps they used on prior problems or to learn something in the past. Depending on their age and stage of development, they may have a hard time recalling the things they tried and what ultimately worked for them. You may need to offer examples or help “fill in the blanks” in some spots.

You may also need to help them see the links between formally successful strategies and their current problem. They may not easily see how a strategy they applied to something at home or with their friends can now translate to a challenge at school or another context. Be sure to emphasize how prior strategies involved increased effort, gathering new information, seeking support from others, or trying something they didn’t think would work. These types of strategy characteristics are likely to be transferable across different situations and scenarios.

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