Joshua was a typical firstborn child.

He approached life cautiously, didn’t stray far from mommy, and was ever observing. His young parents (my wife and I) reinforced these tendencies. Despite our fears of the hazards he may encounter, we chose his name because we wanted him to be a courageous leader, like the Joshua who led the Israelites into the Promised Land.

Names tend to significantly shape those who possess them.

Joshua grew, and as we spoke words of courage over him, he began to believe that he was indeed courageous. Spoken words hold great power.

There are other words we flippantly speak (or yell) to our children. Many of us hide deep wounds from harmful utterances said intentionally or unintentionally during formative times. As author John Eldridge suggests, we begin to “make agreements” with these labels. We accept thoughts like I’ll never be good enough, I’m not a creative person, or math just isn’t my thing...

Condemnation

Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck suggests that the most successful leaders (and learners) possess what she calls a “Growth Mindset.” In contrast to those with a “Fixed Mindset,” these individuals don’t accept defeat, but rather press through obstacles. They change their language from “I cannot,” to “I will keep trying.” They assume that “the only way out is through.”

To cultivate creativity and innovation, one must embrace a growth mindset. Consider these suggestions for alternate language in your pursuit of growth:

Fixed                                            Growth

I’ll never be good at this           I can learn to do better

I give up                                       I’ll keep trying

I fear other’s feedback              I learn from feedback

It’s good enough                         Is this my best work?

I keep failing                               Failure is an opportunity for growth

Today, our son Joshua is 13. He seems to excel at any task he sets out to do. We suspect he became convinced that he indeed was both courageous and capable. Only God knows the remarkable things he may accomplish!

What fixed mindset agreements have you made, or been wounded by? In what ways might you reclaim ownership of these in pursuit of a growth mindset?

Daniel Gluck serves as Lead Faculty for Jessup’s B.A. in Christian Leadership program.