When you are looking to achieve lasting results in any area of your life – you must turn your attention to your mindset. I learned this lesson while in the act of teaching it to students, and mindset – specifically a growth mindset – has proved to be an essential part of finding success and overcoming obstacles.

At the fresh age of 21 I started teaching high school math. It was my first year teaching, I was living cross country from my home state, and I was given the most challenging students to teach – the seniors who failed the state proficiency test and were in danger of not graduating until they passed the exam.

The ‘powers that be’ thought it a good idea to give a first year teacher these students and to put 55 of them in one classroom. That was not a typo – I had FIFTY-FIVE seniors who were in desperate need of passing their tenth grade proficiency test in one classroom for 90 minutes every-other day (we had a rotating A/B day block schedule at the time). And my performance as a teacher was based on how successful these kids were going to be – talk about pressure…

This was my first adventure into harnessing the power of mindset and leveraging it to get amazing results.

When I began working with the students, I did not start with a math lesson – I started with me. I told them who I was. I even told them how old I was (risky as many of them were only 3-4 years younger than me!). 

I shared parts of my story – that my mom had tragically died when I was in Kindergarten, that I was the first person in my family to go to college, that I had overcome some significant hurdles in life and most importantly – that I chose to become their teacher because I see them and believe in them. This is the first essential skill in teaching – building positive relationships.

I also told them how I wouldn’t be their teacher for very long – their first opportunity to retake the proficiency test and earn graduation status was coming up in November and WHEN they passed, they would be removed from my class. This is how I began developing a culture of positivity and growth in my classroom.

After telling them all of this, I asked them – who is ready to graduate high school and get started? All 55 of them raised their hand. (At least that’s the way I remember it…it may have actually been only 50 of them – hard to keep track of that many people in one tiny space.)

So we got to work.

I taught them the math skills that they needed to pass the test – but I knew that wouldn’t be enough. So I coached them on test taking strategies– how to read each problem, eliminate answers, get a good night’s sleep the night before and have breakfast the morning of (I even fed them the morning of the test and gave each of them a ‘lucky’ pencil to have my support along the way).

But most importantly – I taught them the power of self-talk and belief in themselves. This is mindset

They weren’t capable of believing in themselves at first. Too many years of being taught NOT to believe in themselves had left them full of doubt and believing they were stupid. 

So I believed in them. I became more than their teacher – I was their cheerleader and coach.

I reminded them every minute of every class how amazing they are and that they can do anything if they just believe. Eventually I turned that into my own catch phrase of ‘you have to believe to achieve,’ which was way more successful than ‘you have to burn to learn,’ which the stoners in class seemed to interpret the wrong way…

The result was that 41 of my 55 seniors passed their proficiency test. This was a 75% pass rate and was recognized as the highest in Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada – the 5th largest school district in the nation. 

I received many accolades and opportunities as a result of these incredible results, but the best reward came from being the one who got to deliver the news to each of my students. Even the 14 that did not pass the test had made significant growth and recognized their own success and strength. 

They had shifted from deficit mindsets to growth mindsets.

It is your perception that creates reality. So if your mindset is negative – providing yourself with negative self talk, your reality will become negative. 

You have to believe to achieve. 

This means that when you are working towards developing a new skill or achieving a goal, you need to create mantras of positive affirmations to shift into a mindset of belief and growth. A mantra is simply a statement or slogan used frequently (like my mantra of ‘you have to believe to achieve’). And affirmations are slogans or statements that confirm something to be true.

For example, when working towards better health and wellness, an excellent affirmation to make your mantra is “I am healthy”.

The more opportunities that you get to repeat and apply this mantra, the more your mind shifts into believing it. Once you believe something to be true – your natural next step is to achieve it.

Because this mindset work takes a lot of practice, it is best done with the support of others. For most of us this means calling in support to help us shift our mindset and beliefs. Coaches, teachers, support groups – are all designed to support you as you develop your mindset into one of positivity and growth.

Mindset matters because mindset creates the resilience to keep going even when things get tough. The attitudes that you hold (beliefs) when you face a challenge is what will determine whether you are on the path toward achieving your goals.

So remember – you have to believe to achieve.