Our outlook and attitude towards life and its challenges are very important to being successful day to day, including managing health conditions like diabetes.  When it comes to successful diabetes self-management, an exciting concept to learn about is the incredible power our mindset can have on how we approach things and the outcomes that result.  A growth mindset, in particular, can make all the difference in achieving goals and managing setbacks.


Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset


So, what is mindset exactly and how does a growth mindset differ from a fixed one?  Generally speaking, a mindset is described as our attitude and beliefs that shape how we view the world around us, along with our perception of ourselves.  Our mindset strongly influences how we think, feel and act.  Over 30 years ago educational researchers, namely Dr. Carol Dweck, began to look into the differences between students’ attitudes towards failure and mistakes and their impact on achievements.  This led to a greater understanding of fixed mindsets vs. growth mindsets and their effects on the learning process as well as overall outcomes.


Those with a fixed mindset believe that their basic qualities, such as intelligence and talent are set and cannot be changed or developed. People with this type of mindset may be less apt to take on challenges due to a greater fear of failure and are not as motivated to try to set and achieve goals.  They believe that people are born with certain talents and are not confident that practicing can develop them.  In contrast, those with a growth mindset feel that intelligence and talent can be improved and developed over time, namely with learning and practice. They see flaws and mistakes as opportunities for growth, like to try new things and are more empowered to set and reach goals.


Can a Mindset Be Changed?


Luckily having a negative, fixed mindset is not something that has to be permanent, it can actually be changed and evolve into a more positive growth mindset. 

The field of neuroscience has led to discoveries about how connections between the brain cells can actually change and grow with experience and practice, a phenomenon called neuroplasticity.  Understanding that our talents and intelligence are adaptable and can improve with learning, practice, and experience is the first step to adopting a better mindset to improve our outlook and manage challenges, namely when it comes to health.


Applying A Growth Mindset to Diabetes Management


So, it’s pretty obvious that a growth mindset brings more positivity to life, but how exactly can it be applied to managing diabetes?  Mindset affects how we perceive our health, including conditions such as diabetes.  Research has shown that those with growth mindsets actually have better control of blood sugars.   This type of mindset can help build resilience for successful overall management of diabetes for many reasons.   Maintaining a growth mindset enables you to better identify mistakes, modify to correct them and then, ultimately, improve. For example, instead of letting a high blood sugar overwhelm you with feelings of failure, try to look at the causes and use the information to help you understand better and get back on track. Involve your health care team or seek more education if needed.  Being more open to learning from struggles, practicing problem solving, and carrying on in a positive way after setbacks will greatly benefit you in the long term. The theme of the growth mindset, which focuses on growing and improving, along with placing emphasis on acceptance, helps builds better a self-esteem, too. The more you learn and practice self management skills and making lifestyle changes, the more confident and successful you can become.   


How to create a growth mindset


Changing your mindset take times, but can be done by taking it step by step


  • Reflect on yourself as a whole, taking into consideration your strong and weak areas.
  • Acknowledge the positive and negatives with more self-acceptance.
  • Decide what your goals are with self-management, namely what areas you need to change and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone a bit to begin working on them.
  • Start learning more about what you need to change and use your support network and resources to begin taking on challenges.
  • Accept valuable feedback from those that support you and your healthcare team.
  • Continue to focus on your goals, being realistic in your timeframe and reflecting on successes and challenges.
  • Practice, practice, practice self-management, learn from mistakes, and try to embrace the process as much as the end result.