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How Having Learning Difficulties Impacted My Life

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

and how it can help you have a growth mindset.

When you look at a challenging situation what perspective and mindset do you have?

A growth mindset vs fixed mindset

Growth Mindset – To believe you can learn new skills, when you fail you don’t give up.

When you find something challenging, you explore ways to overcome it. You persist when it gets hard and believe that through hard work you will achieve a new skill.

Fixed Mindset – To believe that you cannot learn new skills. Failing is a sign to give up.

An example of this is, I’m terrible at using computers and I will probably never understand how they work”.

We all go through stages of this, it’s just matter of thinking about how we are approaching a situation and changing our mindset around it. Failing is not a sign to give up on your ideas,

it’s a sign to get help or change your approach.

The next time you say,

“I can’t do that….”

“I am terrible at….”

“I’m not creative…”

Think about how you can change that.

I have had learning difficulties growing up and I didn’t discover how severer it was this until I was around 25 yrs old. That's not all, I am also hard working, resilient and determined to carry out my goals. So, what did this mean for me growing up? Well, this meant a torturous education. I remember people commenting that high school should be the best years of your life, and I would think to myself, ‘that is definitely not what I experienced.’ I was never happy to step into class. I loved sports and outdoor education, but reading and writing, I hated with a passion. I relied on feeling a sense of belonging around the ‘bad kids’. We all hated school, so there was no pressure to be smart. My belief at the time was that I was not smart enough and only the smart kids get good marks. I wondered why I was different to the smartest student in our class and I would ask questions such as, ‘why do you understand that concept and I don’t?’.

Teachers would call me lazy. They could also see that I had aligned myself with other rebellious kids, so I was just placed in the, we don’t care category. I also take complete responsibility for being a douche in class. I would be asked to read out loud and I would be terrified. I hated every minute of being in a class room. I didn’t understand why teachers would be so cruel to students like me who were absolutely hopeless at reading out loud. Students would be laughing in our faces when we would read a sentence with strained and slow speed and need help with difficult words.

I was told by the school principle that my work was disgraceful, not worthy of being marked and a fail. This was in front of the entire class. I couldn’t understand concepts, or imagine stories like other students. When we had creative writing, I would draw a blank. I hadn’t experienced much as a kid because my parents worked so much. My general knowledge on the world was minimal. Even if I had any, I couldn’t spell the words or articulate it in writing. It was a huge effort to write a sentence or paragraph. The students that were “gifted” would have created an elaborate story with flow and intention to capture your imagination. By the end of class I would be stuck at ‘When I …’

The beliefs I formed were, ‘I can’t read or write well because I am not academic. I can only have a career that’s hands on and practical. I don’t need school to make money. I am only good at sports.’

Fast forward to my life today. I have completed a Bachelor degree with first class honours. I have had many jobs, despite the fact that I had a university lecturer tell me that I would never get a job in this field with the quality of my assignments.

My point isn’t that going to university is the not the be all and end all. It’s that I accomplished the unthinkable and I seemed to defy all odds. I have learnt how my past has influenced my thoughts and feelings throughout my life. Now, I look into the future with an attitude that I am capable of learning new skills (growth mindset) and information like anyone else in this world. If I continued to believe the naysayers in my life I would not be working for myself today. I would not have the confidence to try new things and learn new skills. The belief I have in myself has enabled me to follow what it is I love doing and as a result I no longer hate Mondays. I love the work I do.

How can you go from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?

Think about ways you can improve a specific skill. Having a fixed mindset is a habit, it’s just a matter of acknowledging the thoughts you have. Write them down, how are they holding you back? Then write down ways you can challenge that thought. Turn it into a growth mindset.

1. Fixed mindset - "I have never been academic"

Growth mindset- "I always found school challenging but I believe I can learn how to write an essay through practice, getting help from a friend or hiring a tutor."

2. Fixed mindset - "I am stuck in a job I hate"

Growth mindset- "I made the choice to work here and I can also choose to find another career path."

  • I can become clear about what career I want

  • I can move away from my current position into something that suits me better.

  • I can do this through research, help from friends, a mentor or coach.

Our brain is malleable, which means we are capable of learning new skills, including changing our thought processes. In adults this is called Neurogenesis, which means, the creation of new neurons in the adult brain. This means our brain is awesome! It's constantly rewiring new paths when we are learning new skills.

Which is fantastic news for those of you who want to start a new career, learn a new skill or eliminate a bad habit.

No more excuses.

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