One powerful word for growth mindset

While remembering to offer the right type of praise to your mentee is a good starting point for promoting growth mindset, there are several other specific approaches that you can use with your mentee. This Lesson covers two simple-yet-powerful strategies you can use to further promote a growth mindset in a variety of situations.

One powerful word

There is one simple word that you should consider incorporating into conversations with your mentee, especially as they relate to aspects of school or life where they are trying to improve.

Before we reveal this powerful word, take a minute to think about three things that you cannot do. These can be work-related, health-related, or even related to how you interact with others and build relationships. Write these three things down on a sheet of paper.

Now let’s think about the kinds of things many kids commonly think are not possible for them. Think about some of the statements you might hear from your mentee:

  • I don’t know how to do this assignment.
  • I am not good at math.
  • I don’t have the grades to get into college.
  • I can’t kick the soccer ball from the corner.
  • I don’t know how to get a date for prom.
  • I can’t eat only one cookie.
  • I can’t go to sleep without smoking pot.
  • I can’t learn to solve problems with words instead of fighting.
  • I can’t get organized.

So here is that powerful word: YET. Take a look at those mentee statements again. They all sound much better and less intimidating with the simple addition of the word “yet” at the end. Yet implies that something is achievable. Yet puts a person back in charge of their destiny. Yet hints that there is work to be done in order to get to the desired place.

This may sound like a bit of a trick of the mind, but reminding your mentee that they haven’t accomplished something “yet” really can make them feel better about where they are at currently and makes the pursuit of their goals, even the very lofty ones, seem less daunting. “Yet” can make things sound less fatalistic and more optimistic. Yet equals possibility - without it, those statements, and the person who believes them, are set in stone.

Moving beyond “yet”

Now this doesn’t mean that your mentee won’t have some anxiety about the journey implied by that “yet.” They may be worried about how they can get from point A to point B and feel like they will be overwhelmed somewhere along the way, especially if they are already upset, frustrated, or panicked about a recent struggle that reinforced their fixed mindset. Yet can ring pretty hollow if it’s not backed up with strategies to get better. So always follow up a “yet” statement with a phrase like this: “Let’s figure out what we need to do to get there.” This lets your mentee know that there are steps to be taken and ideas that can be tried, while also letting them know that they have your support for the journey.

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