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  • Writer's pictureHelen English Artist


This was a word which seems to have popped up everywhere in my life this week! But what is mindset, and how does it affect us? I have always thought of it as simply being the way which you think about life; in either a mostly positive or negative way. For instance, I know some people who always seem to speak negatively about their actions or potential to achieve, and yet others always seem to have a really positive outlook. However, this basic understanding is only the start and I have been learning a lot more about mindset.

So, mindset apparently determines how you think about yourself. For instance, I am a former intermediate teacher and a practising artist, so I use those experiences to teach art skills. These days, I do feel confident enough to make mistakes and also learn from my students but I wasn’t always this way. When I started teaching, I believed that I needed to look like I knew everything. That was quite a strain! I slowly developed as a person, and as a teacher, and finally reached a stage where I could admit when I needed to check information or acknowledge when a student presented another valid way of thinking about a problem. For goodness sake, we are all human and no one knows everything!

I know that there have been other times in my student life, or at work, when I have become more confident as I’ve realised that I can grasp a new concept. Each time this gets easier because I know that I’ve done it before. Developing confidence can definitely change your mindset and enable you to realise that you are capable of taking on new challenges

In Carol Dweck’s book ‘Mindset,’ she uses this term to determine two basic states of mind.

You either have a mostly ‘fixed’ or ‘growth’ mindset. Most people are a mixture of the two but tend to land more heavily on one side or the other. She talks about a fixed mindset as a belief that you are largely born with an ingrown limit to how far you can go or how great you can become. So, for instance, a person with a fixed mindset will believe that if they don’t appear to have any talent at a skill then they are unlikely to ever become really good. She contends, that it is possible and, although a few people may seem to have a ridiculous amount of natural talent, all skill is learnable. I agree. My art class mantra is that with practice, developing skill with various tools, and learning how to look at what you want to draw or paint are all a part of what will make you a very good artist. I also believe the same about maths skills, and anything else. What determines who is faster at picking up skills is their prior experience and the amount they practice – that is, motivation to practice. Dweck also contends that with a growth mindset, challenge is seen as an opportunity rather than something to avoid and that this helps individuals to not fear the unknown and forge a life which increases levels of happiness.

So, don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Challenge yourself and let yourself


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