How to Improve Learning & Performance by Developing a Growth Mindset

March 6, 2024

Thank you for joining the Huberman Lab Neural Network — a once-a-month newsletter with science and science-related tools for everyday life. This newsletter aims to provide you with actionable information in a condensed form.

In the episode "How to Enhance Performance & Learning by Applying a Growth Mindset," I discuss how to develop and apply a growth mindset — the process of rewarding effort, not results, as a means to improve learning and performance. Data show the positive consequences of a growth mindset are far-reaching. Many myths exist about a growth mindset. This newsletter teaches you how to use a growth mindset correctly.

What Is a Growth Mindset?

​Dr. Carol Dweck coined the term growth mindset to describe research on how to improve learning that is anchored in the belief that our abilities are malleable — and indeed they are (!) because our brains can continually learn and change throughout our lifespan (neuroplasticity).

Our understanding of our abilities and our narratives of why we are “good” and “bad” at certain things often arises out of the unconscious (or conscious) understanding of the types of feedback we receive early in life. There are two basic kinds of feedback; one is better for improving learning than the other.

  • Intelligence/Performance-based feedback is associated with identity labels. Praise involves telling a child (or adult) they’re smart and talented, learn things easily, or are really good at a particular skill. Identity-label feedback actually undermines effort and results in the long run! Most people don't realize this, and intelligence feedback is problematic because when we inevitably fail to perform well, we then assume it’s due to something central to our identity. For that and many other reasons, it’s generally good to avoid intelligence/performance-based feedback.
  • Effort-based feedback, on the other hand, is performance-enhancing and is always associated with “verb” (action) states. This type of praise focuses on persistence, effort, dedication or how a person kept working through an error or challenge. For example, saying, “That was a solid effort,” or “You’re pushing really hard to learn, which is so good!” or “It’s great the way you kept trying when you had a setback,” etc. is ideal for enhancing performance as it leads to more of what’s required to improve, and it generalizes to other scenarios.
  • Effort-based feedback is especially important when someone (or you) performs well, not just when someone falls short of a goal.

Enhance Results by Combining Growth Mindset with Stress-Is-Enhancing Mindset

The benefits of a growth mindset are greatly enhanced when combined with the "stress-is-enhancing" mindset, which was developed by Dr. Alia Crum and colleagues and is based on how we think about the effects of stress. When people are educated about the negative effects of stress, their performance declines. However, when people are educated about the positive effects of stress, they show improved performance on difficult cognitive tasks.

How Does Stress Enhance Performance?

Stress signals the body and brain to mobilize more resources to better meet challenges. Stress may feel uncomfortable, but it also:

  1. Increases adrenaline and dopamine release in the brain and body, leading to heightened alertness, increased energy, and elevated focus.
  2. Improves cognition (thinking) and causes release of neurotrophins (neural growth factors) that improve learning and memory by assisting neuroplasticity (brain rewiring).
  3. Quick bouts of stress (1-2 hours or less) boost the immune system to protect against illness. Longer bouts can be problematic, especially if they alter sleep. See the episode on mastering stress for more information.

Takeaways & Tools

  • Even though stress will not always feel good in the moment, adjust your mindset to remind yourself that stress puts you in an action-oriented state to enhance performance.
  • You can change (and lower) your own stress response by remembering the positive benefits of stress.
  • With practice, you will feel more comfortable under stress and build up your stress tolerance.

As covered in the full-length Huberman Lab episode on growth mindset, when a stress-is-enhancing mindset is combined with a growth mindset, the results are synergistic (greater than the sum of each), long-lasting and in many cases generalize to many useful scenarios: relationships, athletics, academics, and more. In short, we can all do well to adopt these mindsets through cognitive feedback and praise, reframing “failures” and action.

Stay Connected

New Huberman Lab episodes are out each Monday on YouTube and all major podcast platforms. Please subscribe to those channels. I post additional science and science-based tools on Instagram, X/Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Thank you for your interest in science!

Best wishes,
Andrew

Join 500,000+ subscribers to get regular emails on neuroscience, health, and science-related tools from Dr. Andrew Huberman.

You'll also get Andrew's exclusive Daily Blueprint. In it, Andrew shares his daily routine. He also shares practical tools and protocols that you can use to stay productive and maximize your health.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

By submitting your email to subscribe, you agree to Scicomm Media's Privacy Policy

Thank you for your interest in science

In the world’s #1 health podcast, Dr. Andrew Huberman explores science and science-based tools to help listeners live a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Dr. Huberman and his guests have been so enlightening to my health and fitness. I have implemented many of the protocols presented to include photo-therapy, cold exposure and many of the workout strategies and nutrition. He is well spoken and easy to listen to as well.

54

"Thank you for your newsletter. I recently found your network & podcast. I wish I had found it sooner. What an amazing wealth of information you share!"

Lora D.

"Excited to receive these newsletters. Thanks for such great content! You're doing great work."

Amy C.

We will come to appreciate the work of Dr. Huberman in ways we can’t even imagine. Thank you for your dedication to helping us understand ourselves

Colten V

This podcast is one of the best out there. I’m learning so much about my body and brain and how to improve my overall health and wellbeing.

Lo421

Incredible content rooted in science with actionable steps to improve one’s life. Thank you Dr. Huberman!

Adam K 82

Super informative with the perfect mix of science and practicality. I learn something new every episode

H Kotala

Brilliant and approachable neuroscience for the general population. Huberman is a gifted teacher.

randomconformity

The best teaching podcast ever, thank you for making science easy to understand.

bhuuii

Incredibly informative with the best of the latest research. Andrew makes the information digestible and usable for everyone. Thank you!

mjovt

Andrew deserves a Nobel Prize for this podcast. It has changed the way I think about health and well-being.

GracieO666

Dr. Huberman is a force. Brilliant, relatable and clearly loves what he does. The content is so rich and accessible.

Shonuff36

I'd like to address my gratitude for all the amazing content you are providing to me/us in this world. So a huge thank you, I'm staying tuned to your work, it provides me tremendous knowledge and help.

Julien

Dr. Huberman and his guests have been so enlightening to my health and fitness. I have implemented many of the protocols presented to include photo-therapy, cold exposure and many of the workout strategies and nutrition. He is well spoken and easy to listen to as well.

54

"Thank you for your newsletter. I recently found your network & podcast. I wish I had found it sooner. What an amazing wealth of information you share!"

Lora D.

"Excited to receive these newsletters. Thanks for such great content! You're doing great work."

Amy C.

We will come to appreciate the work of Dr. Huberman in ways we can’t even imagine. Thank you for your dedication to helping us understand ourselves

Colten V

This podcast is one of the best out there. I’m learning so much about my body and brain and how to improve my overall health and wellbeing.

Lo421

Incredible content rooted in science with actionable steps to improve one’s life. Thank you Dr. Huberman!

Adam K 82

Super informative with the perfect mix of science and practicality. I learn something new every episode

H Kotala

Brilliant and approachable neuroscience for the general population. Huberman is a gifted teacher.

randomconformity

The best teaching podcast ever, thank you for making science easy to understand.

bhuuii

Incredibly informative with the best of the latest research. Andrew makes the information digestible and usable for everyone. Thank you!

mjovt

Andrew deserves a Nobel Prize for this podcast. It has changed the way I think about health and well-being.

GracieO666

Dr. Huberman is a force. Brilliant, relatable and clearly loves what he does. The content is so rich and accessible.

Shonuff36

I'd like to address my gratitude for all the amazing content you are providing to me/us in this world. So a huge thank you, I'm staying tuned to your work, it provides me tremendous knowledge and help.

Julien