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The Significance of a Growth Mindset in ADHD

The Significance of a Growth Mindset

Our mindset is the established set of attitudes that we hold on to. When we have a Growth Mindset, we believe that we can learn, get smarter and succeed through our hard work and use of good strategies. When we have a Fixed Mindset, we believe that our basic qualities like talent and intelligence are fixed traits - We either have it or we don't and there is nothing we can really do about it.

This distinction has been on my mind lately. I'm running into so many kids with ADHD who struggle with a Fixed Mindset because they believe they are "broken" and can never be "fixed". They hear the talk of well meaning adults but more than that, they have tried their best to manage their challenges with little understanding about ADHD or their own brain wiring. Without the right strategies, they experience failure from their efforts over and over, leading to the mindset that "I can't do it:" and "It is never going to work."

Resilience - the willingness to try again, to work hard, to make mistakes and learn from them, to persist when faced with a challenge - is the hallmark of the Growth Mindset. Resilience comes from knowing that "Success and failures are events not people" (martial arts wisdom) and that we need to "Fall seven and rise eight" (more martial arts wisdom). As Edison famously put it, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

My priority in coaching has become developing a Growth Mindset in these children because without that, they put themselves in a self fulfilling prophecy of failure: Really, if you don't believe your effort makes a difference, why bother to try?

And yet, children with ADHD have tremendous strengths and talents, and with effort, the right strategies and good supports, can learn to leverage these strengths and thrive. Thanks to the brain's plasticity, they have the ability to take skills that do not come naturally to them yet, learn those skills (with adaptations as needed) and form new pathways in the brain. They use these skills consciously at first. However, with enough practice, the skills become more automatic.

This process takes a willingness to take on their challenges, try, fail, try again, try differently, improve, plateau, try again, improve further and so on. Underlying this incredible personal growth and transformation is the Growth Mindset. Fortunately, by its very definition, this is something we can all develop:-)

(The terms Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset are coined by Dr Carol Dweck, psychologist)

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