In 2019 my New Year’s resolution is to share my micro growth mindset goals with you.
If you’ve followed my answers on Quora, you know that this is one topic I am passionate about. For the past three years I’ve been developing and incorporating a growth mindset into the way I think about my personal goals, professional life, challenges and obstacles, like-minded people I want to keep in my inner circle, and my future.
Practicing a growth mindset has become my daily practice. It’s what I apply to every aspect of my day-to-day life, from maximizing my long commute each morning to how I take detailed notes on the books I read.
It’s shaped the way I do deep work. This is a concept I adopted from professor and author Cal Newport. I make sure that I tackle the most difficult cognitive tasks of the day first thing in the morning, so that I make the most of my finite sources of willpower.
And it’s become the foundation of my practice of self-discipline. I strongly believe in a quote by philosopher Will Durant when he summarized a few concepts from Aristotle — “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I see habits as a way to exercise and excel in self-discipline, and having a growth mindset provides me with the energy to be consistent at it.
Why do I believe in micro growth mindset goals?
I’m not a big fan of just talking, or of just keeping it theoretical. There’s a time to talk, and there’s a time to act. If you’re serious about adopting a growth mindset way of thinking, there’s no time to say, “I should” or “I can’t do it this year” or “I’m too busy for this!” Remember: time is your most valuable asset. Make it work for you. Start something new today that has the potential to improve your life. And most important — start small, with micro goals. Why? Because instead of making goals huge and probably unattainable, by making your goals micro you set yourself up for success.
Here are 7 micro growth mindset goals I want to share with you to start the New Year in the right direction.
And if you enjoy reading them, take a minute to answer one question located at the end of this answer.
Micro growth mindset goal #1. Train your brain to start each day with GOAL #1.
Perhaps you have several different goals that you’re juggling on any given day. Or maybe you’re not sure which goal to focus on, or which goal to identify for each week as you’re planning the month or year ahead. To simplify things, I recommend you start each morning with this question: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today? It’s a habit that only takes a few minutes to practice, yet it sets the tone to your entire day. It also encourages you to think strategically about your life, keeps you focused on your goals, forces you to prioritize, and serves as a personal promise to yourself. It took me about a month to incorporate it into my day and now it feels like a natural first step each morning.
How do you make the change? Write it down— take a large sheet of paper and write the question in big bold letters with a thick marker. Put it somewhere where you’re most likely to look at it—on your bedroom or the bathroom wall, for example. Look at the question and ask it out loud as you’re brushing your teeth or getting dressed. Take a minute to think what’s on your agenda for the day, then pick one thing that has top priority for you and give an answer out loud to yourself. Then, start working on your one thing early. Why? Your brain is more capable of tackling analytical and complex problem-solving tasks in the first few hours of the day.
Micro growth mindset goal #2. Learn one new thing each day.
What does learning mean to you? I don’t think learning should be limited to what your professor has assigned as your homework for this week, what’s listed on your current course syllabus, or what your university has designated as the curriculum for the academic year. Learning doesn’t have to be limited by your job description either, or a particular interest or hobby you’re pursuing on weekends. You can learn something new in many different ways. The key is in finding all the possible avenues where you can go in pursuit of knowledge.
How do you make the change? Instead of watching TV, you can choose to watch a documentary about everything there is to know on the history of pharaohs ruling ancient Egypt, the roadways that created an unparalleled infrastructure in the Roman Empire, or the specific leadership qualities of Alexander the Great. Or, you can research something practical and useful to your daily life, such as which foods can give you energy to train for a marathon or just get you through an interval training session at the gym. Regardless of what your topic of interest may be, it’s important to stay curious and willing to learn something you don’t have a firm grasp of right now.
Micro growth mindset goal #3. Use the morning to give your day more focus.
Make a promise to yourself that for the next month you won’t begin your day by reaching over for your phone, then spend the first waking hour scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It may sound like a bit of harmless fun, but a lot of it has to do with procrastination. I’ve often felt it, haven’t you? Do you ever wonder where that feeling comes from? In many cases, we tend to procrastinate because we feel overwhelmed with the amount of things we need to do, so we end up postponing all those tasks for later. And that, right there, is a missed opportunity because we all have a finite amount of willpower that takes us through the day.
How do you make the change? Put away your phone for the first few hours each morning. Switch it to Airplane mode, turn the volume off, put it face down on a shelf or chair farther away from you. Next, take full advantage of the early hours by working on your most difficult tasks cognitive tasks that require your full concentration. For example, tackle that tough assignment you’ve been putting off all week—reading through a long chapter in your textbook or going to the library to gather material you need for researching a project— before lunchtime. If it’s Monday and you have homework due Friday, finish it today so it doesn’t creep up on you Thursday night when you get an invitation to see a movie with friends. Use a timer to divide your important tasks into 45-minute chunks, followed by a 15-minute break.
Micro growth mindset goal #4. Exercise some mind control.
If you start the day worrying about what lies ahead, and then turn to checking emails and social media, you’ll soon find yourself exhausted, distracted, and even anxious. The situation won’t improve as you go about your day, and the information will start to pile up. You’ll over-analyze, worry, stress out, and not be able to focus on the task in front of you. By the time evening comes, you will realize you’ve dabbled in multiple tasks, not finishing a single one, which will make you feel like you accomplished virtually nothing that day. Your mind will keep buzzing with negative thoughts and the feelings you’ll experience will follow suit—frustration, anger, disappointment, weakness, negativity.
How do you make the change? Start exercising some mind control. You are the sole owner of your mind, and it makes sense to impose control over it so it can serve you better. This pertains to thoughts you have and feelings you allow yourself to experience. Why is this important? You want to feel like you’re in power, like you’re in active mode instead of feeling like your negative thoughts and feelings are taking over your life. To make this happen, you need to clean up your mind. Start a short 10-minute meditation practice to calm your thoughts. Feed your brain the right kind of food instead of junk: watch science documentaries instead of endless sitcoms on TV, listen to podcasts, read books. Use positive phrases and words to improve the messages you give yourself, such as I am capable of solving this problem or I can learn how to improve this skill with daily practice.
Micro growth mindset goal #5. Ask the right questions.
Maybe you’ve heard of the phrase knowledge is power, and it’s true. Knowledge is your most powerful tool because it will help you understand the world around you, boost your communication skills with people in your environment, improve your grades in school or your productivity at work, and help you achieve the goals you set for yourself both professionally and personally. But there’s one small caveat—knowledge is power if you know how to use it. It won’t help you one bit if you just sit on it, keep it to yourself, ignore it completely or remain passive when it’s time to act. How can you gain knowledge and work on using it? By asking a lot of questions. Because that is the fastest way to finding out more about the world.
How do you make the change? Whatever you do, don’t just stay quiet and passively look on as someone is talking or explaining a new concept. There is no shame in not knowing everything right from the beginning. If you’re learning about a new process or tool at work that is unfamiliar to you, break it down into smaller chunks, then examine each one individually and ask the relevant questions. What are the components, where are the dependencies, what’s the end goal? If you don’t understand the vocabulary a professor is using in class, or if your textbook is full of words you’re not familiar with, make a list and then take out your dictionary and look up each word. And don’t stop there—ask yourself a few questions too. What have I learned from this? What have I created? How much progress have I made, and what will I do next to improve even more?
Micro growth mindset goal #6. Create your own growth mindset tribe.
Have you heard of the phrase that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with? You probably don’t give much thought to the company you keep, whether it’s people you live with or the ones you interact with on a regular basis. You could be part of a group of friends who have been hanging out together since high school. Or, you prefer going out for a beer or two with co-workers after you step out of the office. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s important to be aware how much those closest to you—family members, close friends, coworkers and classmates—can impact your mood, your attitude, your beliefs, and even what you see as your strengths or weaknesses.
How do you make the change? Don’t hang out with the same people by default or indefinitely. Ask yourself, Are my closest friends doing their best when it comes to improving their life circumstances, or are they mostly complaining about things that have happened to them and that they don’t deserve? You can keep your current friendships, but that’s not to say you cannot expand your inner circle. How to pick more growth mindset people to hang out with? Look for people who share your interests, either at the gym or at a library. Make friends with those who show a can-do attitude when they’re working through a problem, who take on a positive and optimistic tone when they’re talking about the future, and who make their best effort to work hard every day at something, whether it’s improving their skills or getting stronger in a physical, mental, or intellectual way. Ask them what’s helped them to move ahead. Encourage them in their pursuits. Build a relationship of trust and create your own growth mindset tribe.
Micro growth mindset goal #7. Commit to crushing your weaknesses.
Everyone has weaknesses, whether they care to admit it or not. For some, their weakness is sugar—they can’t say no to the box of cookies someone brings to the office. For others, it’s a constant need for attention—they want friends or partners to always be around, praise them, listen to them. And for some people, it’s feeling like a failure every time they walk into a math class—they feel miserable every second they’re going through the exercises and dread being asked to answer a question in front of the class. All of us—you, me, the person sitting next to you on the bus or at work—we all have weaknesses. But we don’t have to live by them or be defined by them.
How do you make the change? Start by shifting your mindset when you look at a particular weakness you possess. Ask yourself, Where is the opportunity in this? It’s clear I am missing knowledge or a skill set in order to do this better. What can I learn in this situation? Perhaps there are additional resources to look up, from finding a book to watching a YouTube video explaining how to develop a skill, or asking someone who’s been working on the same skill for a long time. Don’t stop there—ask yourself some tough questions to get you on the right track. Is this gap in knowledge—this weakness—something I want in my life? How will it affect me if things stay the same next year, ten years from now, or for the rest of my life? Do I accept that version of myself, or do I want to improve? What will I do to make the change?
A final note:
I am compiling my best growth mindset tips and would love to hear your opinion. If you want to incorporate a growth mindset way of thinking, which format would be most helpful to you to guide you through the process? It can be an online course, an e-book, a journal to track your progress, a printable version of this answer (or any other answers I’ve written on Quora), or something else. Please add a comment and tell me why you think that format would help you. Thanks for reading!