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wellbeing 8 min read

4 powerful mindsets to unlock your utmost potential

By USQ 24 Jan 2021

4 powerful mindsets to unlock your utmost potential

Becoming a successful student and achieving your study goals takes a little more than putting your sweat, blood and tears into your work at the last minute. It takes the right mindset, or in this case, the right four mindsets, to be the best you can be and unlock all that potential bursting at the seams within you. Try combining the powers of grit, resilience, motivation, and wellbeing to become the most successful student you can be.

Grit: Your personal compass

What is grit and why do we need it?

Angela Lee Duckworth, author of Grit: The power of passion and perseverance, professor, and founder and CEO of Character Lab said it first, folks: grit is a ‘trait-level perseverance and passion for long-term goals’ (Duckworth et al., 2007).

To possess grit, you must have the capacity to sustain both effort and interest in a project over a long period of time (Duckworth & Quinn, 2009)

The grit mindset isn’t easily reached as it requires you to be invested in your own aspirations, and involves the power of determination to persist consistently towards your goal. In other words, you need to want your goal enough to work hard for it, whatever is thrown in your path.

The concept of grit started trending after recent studies found that people who possessed the grit characteristic outperformed those who didn’t, despite any disadvantages placed on them (Duckworth, 2013). This is because those with grit who prioritised their goal were able to dedicate their resources to working harder and longer and stayed on course even after experiencing failure (Moles, Auerbach & Petrie, 2017). In terms of your studies, if your goal is to complete your degree and you possess a grit mindset, you will be determined to keep working towards your goal, despite any obstacles you might face, because completing your degree is a top priority. Without grit, you might not see your goal as a top priority and it will be easier for you to let distractions and challenges steer you off course.

‘If one has “grit”, one succeeds, if one does not, he or she does not.’ (Tierney & Almeida, 2015)

The idea of grit is appealing because it gives us as individuals a sense of accountability and responsibility to ensure we achieve success. This is why having grit can be viewed as the fix-all cure to achieving your dreams.

Why the power of grit needs to be combined with other mindsets

While some might think grit is all you need to succeed, solely relying on this mindset can actually just be like bringing a compass and no supplies on an adventure. Unfortunately, when we focus solely on grit, we fail to account for the complexity of the environment, social situations and constraints around the goals we set (Wilson-Strydom, 2017). Grit by itself will make you work consistently towards a goal, but can blind you to the changes that happen around you (Vinothkumar & Prasad, 2016). 

Having this tunnel vision can also mean you’re less able to adapt appropriately to challenges or to be flexible in pathways you take to reach your goal. You are also more likely to work longer and harder than needed, or even work towards a goal that is unrealistic. 

This is why grit needs to be practiced in collaboration with other mindsets. Grit will work as your sense of direction and navigational compass to success – but grit only knows one course to take (straight ahead!) and doesn’t account for all the twists and turns or shortcuts you may encounter along the way. 

Resilience: Your sturdy shield 

What is resilience and why do we need it?

Resilience is often assumed to be a quality someone has to possess, rather than a process that can be developed, driven by a sense of agency and responsibility combined with desires and aspirations (Dass-Brailsford, 2005).

While grit can be considered a trait that enables someone to work diligently along the journey towards a set goal, resilience is not limited to any particular destination.
Instead, resilience is the bounce-back capability demonstrated by the behaviours, thinking patterns and actions you adopt as a result of challenges and barriers you might face when working towards your goals (Vinothkumar & Prasad, 2016).

Why the power of resilience needs to be combined with other mindsets

Interestingly, a study found that students who demonstrated resilience had a strong sense of agency and self-belief (Wilson-Strydom, 2017). By maintaining control of their own envisioned goals and the path they took to achieve them, students were able to combine the perseverance of grit and the adaptability of resilience to help shield them on their study journey to beat the odds.

It can be said that the downside of relying on resilience alone is that, without a goal or direction to focus on, this mindset can act almost like a mental punching bag. If you rely on resilience alone, you’ll be able to bounce back from challenges but won’t necessarily know how to move forward productively or how to apply what you’ve learnt from experiencing setbacks to your future goals. However, by incorporating a resilience mindset with the other three mindsets discussed in this article, resilience can act as a mental shield that helps you work confidently towards achieving your goals.

Motivation: Your weapon of choice

What is motivation and why do we need it?

Motivation as a concept is versatile as it connects to both resilience and grit by feeding into the purpose behind these mindsets and moves you swiftly towards your goal. However, it’s important you nurture the right type of motivation throughout your study journey, in combination with resilience and grit, in order to create a productive environment conducive to growth.

There are two types of ‘motivational climates’ that inhabit our mind: mastery and ego (Ames, 1992)

These motivational climates are created through the feedback we receive from others and the feedback we take in ourselves, for example, by observing how people interact with us. This feedback can define our views on what success looks like, how we approach achieving this success and how we measure our performance along the way.

An ego-driven motivational climate puts value on your competence, natural ability and on achieving an end outcome (McArdle & Duda, 2002). A mastery approach to motivation puts value on the effort, self-improvement and learning you master in the process of working towards an end outcome (Ames, 1992). Research has found that students who were praised in feedback regarding their mastery of the work they completed were more likely to be task-focused and enjoy the work, while students given ego-involving feedback were more end-goal oriented and found more enjoyment in completing their work (Muller & Dweck, 1998).

Why the power of motivation needs to be combined with other mindsets

There is no one right way to foster the motivational climate to your success. However, it is important to ensure your motivational type suits your end goal. Although it is said that these motivational attitudes are created by the social influences and feedback given to us, we can choose the motivational climate we foster in ourselves based on the goal we are pursuing.

For example, if your goal is to achieve a degree in the shortest amount of time possible, adopting an ego-driven motivational climate can be used to drive you as fast as possible towards the end-goal. However, if your goal is to achieve the highest GPA possible, you might be better off adopting a mastery-driven motivational climate to absorb the learnings and perfect your skills.

That’s why motivation is your weapon of choice – sometimes your goal may require an agile approach that allows you to focus on your skills and master your craft. Other times, it may be more appropriate for you to utilise a swifter motivational weapon and focus on simply achieving the outcome in the most effective way possible to reach your goal.

Wellbeing: Your energising elixir

elixr

What is wellbeing and why do we need it?

Charging ahead on a journey towards your goals can be an exciting adventure, but without practicing self-care and having a focus on wellbeing, you risk running out of stamina along the way.

Students can have grit, and be resilient and motivated, but these characteristics alone may still not be enough to counter the effects of toxic environments that drain your mental health (Wilson-Strydom, 2017)

In such environments, it is crucial for students to have a supportive learning environment to be able to maintain their stamina throughout their study journey (Turner, 2015).

Studies undertaken by higher education and development researcher Merridy Wilson‑Strydom found that students who had a supportive figure in their learning journey increased their ability to persevere throughout their studies and steadily move forward (2017). It was also discovered that this supportive figure was often a member of the institution, such as a teacher or universitycounsellor.

This is why it is incredibly important to acquire a wellbeing-focused mindset and be proactive in taking advantage of the support services available to you at USQ. By having even one figure within the university playing a supportive role throughout your journey, you are more likely to reach out to have conversations around managing your workload or how to approach difficult challenges, and to receive encouragement that will top-up your self-belief along the way.

Why the power of wellbeing needs to be combined with other mindsets

Your support network and focus on wellbeing is the sweet elixir you can count on when you’re starting to feel the effects of stress on your study journey. The key to ensuring you achieve your goals without burning out is to reach for this elixir early on, and whenever you start to feel run down. It’s easier to maintain your health than it is to hope this elixir can bring you back to life, so it’s never too early to reach out for support.

Alone, each of these mindsets are admirable and useful, but by combining the full force of grit, resilience, motivation and wellbeing, you’ll be fully equipped to handle anything and everything your study journey throws your way.

References

Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 261–271. doi: 10.1037//0022-0663.84.3.261

Dass-Brailsford, P. (2005). Exploring resiliency: Academic achievement among disadvantaged black youth in South Africa. South African Journal of Psychology, 35(3), 574–591. doi: 10.1177/008124630503500311

Duckworth, A. (2013). Angela Duckworth: The key to success? Grit [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit?language=en

Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of personality and social psychology, 92(6), 1087–1101. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.92.6.1087

Duckworth, A. L., & Quinn, P. D. (2009). Development and validation of the short grit scale (Grit–S). Journal of Personality Assessment, 91(2), 166–174. doi: 10.1080/00223890802634290

McArdle, S., & Duda, J. K. (2002). Implications of the motivational climate in youth sports. Children and Youth in Sport: A Biopsychosocial Perspective, 2, 409–434

Moles, T. A., Auerbach, A. D., & Petrie T. A. (2017). Grit happens: Moderating effects on motivational feedback and sport performance. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology29(4), 418–433. doi: 10.1080/10413200.2017.1306729

Mueller, C. M., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Praise for intelligence can undermine children's motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 33–52. doi: 10.1037//0022‑3514.75.1.33

Tierney, W. G., &  Almeida, D. J. (2015). Academic responsibility: Toward a cultural politics of integrity. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 1–12. doi: 10.1080/01596306.2015.1104855

Turner, C. S. (2015). Lessons from the field: Cultivating nurturing environments in higher education. The Review of Higher Education, 36(3), 333–358. doi: 10.1353/rhe.2015.0023

Vinothkumar, M., & Prasad, N. (2016). Moderating role of resilience in the relationship between grit and psychological well-being. International Journal of Psychology and Psychiatry, 4(2). doi: 10.5958/2320-6233.2016.00009.2

Wilson-Strydom, M. (2017). Disrupting structural inequalities of higher education opportunity: “Grit”, resilience and capabilities at a South African university. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 18(3)384–398. doi: 10.1080/19452829.2016.1270919