Is the year really almost half-done already?! While our unconventional 2021 continues – at this time of year, we prioritize time to consider one of the most important parts of our academic work: where we’re at with our personal learning. This is based on a philosophy central to our values: we never arrive. A doctorate, masters degree, nor any number of entries on your CV is insufficient to and for the mastery of academic work. These past months have brought for us a hive of activity as our respective roles change—with new opportunities outside of our current University beckoning for each of us. Committing to learning not only conceptually but also very concretely feels more important then ever, ensuring we continue to prioritize time to learn, not just despite all the challenges but because of these. Whenever we face demanding schedules or situations, it’s tempting to lose sight of what got us here. To forget about the need to prioritize time ideally daily—and most definitely weekly—to learn. Our remarkable resource this month details learning’s best kept secret: that learning with a growth mindset actually changes your brain! This learning influences not only your thoughts and behaviours, but the objective structures of your brain. This means that over time it gets easier—like a strengthening muscle—to learn in ways that are courageously candid, sometimes chillingly specific, and the deepest you can imagine. As we all head into the challenges of the last half of 2021, what are your main learning priorities? Which most scare you? Chances are, these are exactly the areas you need to prioritize. Here’s to the beauty and benefits of never-arriving!

The neuroscience of growth mindset and intrinsic motivation.

Ng, B., 2018. The neuroscience of growth mindset and intrinsic motivation. Brain sciences, 8(2), p.20

A commitment to learning can be framed via the notion of holding and nurturing our individual growth mindset: an influential sense that our personal abilities, talents, and skills can be improved over time.

Based on the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, this Remarkable Resource reviews current research that explains why people holding growth mindsets tend to sustain higher success, performance, and motivation over time. It is not only that their ways-of-thinking or behaviours change to focus on self-improvement but that functioning from a growth mindset over time actually modifies structures of the brain—rendering the brains of those with more dominant growth mindsets to be more amenable to learning quicker and better over time.

Key Messages

Positive Changes

Growth mindsets are associated with positive changes in the structures of the brain linked to higher awareness and attention, better error-monitoring and adaptation, and less defensiveness around behavioural change.


These changes may also increase motivation to learn, making learning more enjoyable and engaging, fostering a greater sense of control, and a higher sense of the intrinsic importance of improvement.


Growth mindsets offer a transformative means to not only perform better over time, but also feel more motivated and less anxious about challenging work and life situations that require us to learn.

Key Applications

  • How can you better prioritize daily and or weekly learning on your own or with others? What simple things could you do with the rest of your work to prioritize more regular time for your own learning?
  • Differences in mindsets between people in our workplaces contribute to differences in how the “same” situation is perceived, how feedback is given and received, and emotional reactions to challenges. Think of situations in which you have seen different mindsets played out in different people. What do these difference say about the power and influence of our mindsets?
  • In relation to your learning in 2021, what single key element of your life or work will you prioritize to learn more around? Set up a plan to make sure you engage in that learning for the rest of the year.