Growth Mindset Part 4: The Learning Zone

This is the final installment of my four-part series on growth mindsets. You can catch up by following these links:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV covers “The Learning Zone.” All those who are excellent performers in their field have spent and consistently spend plenty of time in the learning zone. Those with a fixed mindset are always in the performance zone. They do not take time to learn and to grow. We need to spend time in both zones. Sadly, many of us neglect the learning zone.

The Environment of the Learning Zone

To be in the learning zone, you need a low-stakes environment. This is a place where you can make mistakes with little to no consequences. This is a time for learning and growth. The emphasis is not on performance. This is what schools are supposed to be. Unfortunately, most, if not all, schools are performance zones. Students would learn more and would perform better on standardized tests if schools became more focused on creating learning zones in their classrooms. There is too much pressure in our classrooms. The learning zone is a pressure-free, safe space where growth and learning occur.

What Happens in the Learning Zone?

The obvious answer to the above question is: Learning occurs in the learning zone. But, how does that learning occur? What strategies are employed? There are several strategies involved in the learning zone.

Setting Goals

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Goal setting might be a tad intimidating for us ADHDers, but as with all big tasks, this can be broken down into small, manageable pieces. The learning zone is all about growth, so start by making a tiny, easily obtainable goal. This will give you the momentum to keep growing. Take baby steps in your growth journey. Grow little by little. Achieving a series of tiny goals will help you achieve something that could be seen as a large goal.

Observing Top Performers

Take note of others who do well in the area in which you want to improve. What do they do differently? How have they achieved their success? How do they stay at the top of their game? What can you do to emulate them? By watching others perform well, you can know what you need to do to perform well in that same area.

Experimenting

Get out there and just try some stuff. See if that crazy idea works. Try something you have always wanted to try. This is the learning zone. It is a low-stakes environment; messing up will not cause major problems. Messing up in the learning zone helps you learn.

Examine and Discuss Mistakes

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Look at your mistakes in both the performances and learning zones. What went wrong? What could you have done differently? Discuss those mistakes with others. What insights can you gain from the experience of those mistakes? This will help you reframe what you might think are failures as learning opportunities.

Reflecting

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Similarly, you can reflect on your past performances and see what you liked and did not like about them. Examine whether or not it is worth it to spend this much time in this area. If it is, reflect on your use of time in this area. Are you using the time you spend on this as best as possible? What other aspects of this task or skill are you not considering? There is no end to those things on which you could reflect in the learning zone.

Consult with Others

Another good thing to do in the learning zone (and one that will help you escape the potential danger of getting trapped in reflection) is to consult with others. Talk with people you trust or experts about your performance in the area you wish to improve. What have they noticed? What insight can they give you? What advice do they have?

Soliciting, Giving, and Receiving Feedback

When consulting with others, ask for feedback on your performance and learning strategies. Ask how they are working or not working. Then, accept whatever feedback is given in response. Do not shove it aside. If it is a person you trust, respect their opinion and receive that feedback. Additionally, giving feedback to others on their performance can help you know what you should do better. They say the best way to learn something is to teach it.

Consider Being Wrong

If you are anything like me, you like being right, and you do not want to be wrong. However, there is nothing wrong with being wrong. In fact, being wrong allows you to learn. So, while reflecting and consulting with others, consider the possibility that some beliefs you previously held in the area you wish to improve might be holding you back. Find those beliefs you hold that are wrong, and find the truth.

Research

Take a deep dive into what you want to improve. Research all aspects of it. What does it take to succeed in this area? How have others succeeded in the past? How can you emulate their success? How have others failed in the past? How can you avoid their mistakes? What books are available on the subject? What YouTube videos are out there on this subject? Learn all you can.

Deliberate Practice

Focus on one thing at a time. For example, if you want to become a better tennis player, focus on one part of your game at a time. Start with your serve. Then, move to your backhand. And so on and so forth. This deliberate practice will allow you to more systematically improve. Instead slowly getting better in a lot of areas. You can rapidly improve one area and then move on to the next.

The Learning Zone’s Relationship to the Performance Zone

We need to spend time in both zones. The learning zone prepares us for the performance zone. The performance zone helps us get stuff done, know what to improve in the learning zone, and motivates us.The best performers move back and forth between both zones, and that is something to emulate.

To Learn More about the Growth Mindset:

Here are some TED talks to further your learning on this subject:

Today’s Reset ADHD Challenge:

Start cultivating a growth mindset in your life.