The term “growth mindset” was first employed by Psychologist Carol Dweck to assert that intelligence and other abilities and talents can be developed. It is the opposite of a fixed mindset, which espouses that ability is a fixed trait that cannot be changed. Research has shown that in countries like the US, where 70% of students demonstrate a growth mindset, students achieve significantly higher points in subjects like reading, science, math, and more subjects. A growth mindset sees failures, mistakes, and obstacles as nothing more than opportunities for growth. Indeed, many celebrities with special needs explain how believing in themselves and embracing their differences and challenges, made them what they are today. Below you will find just a few of their inspirational stories.

What Celebrities Facing Challenges Can Teach Us About a Growth Mindset

Richard Branson and Creative Entrepreneurship

It is estimated that up to 15% of Americans have dyslexia—a learning ability that makes it hard to read, write, and spell, regardless of a person’s intelligence. According to Richard Branson, his dyslexia was no less than a gift. He points to greats like Henry Ford and Steve Jobs. Both had dyslexia but they were also highly imaginative and led visionary companies. Branson states that thanks to his dyslexia, he is able to filter out minutiae and focus on the creative, innovative, groundbreaking ideas that have made his company such a success.

Michael J. Fox – No Time Like the Future

Michael J. Fox has been fighting Parkinson’s disease for 30 years now, but he is the epitome of positivity and energy – still every inch the enigmatic man we recall from blockbusters like Back to the Future. He calls his disease a gift, “albeit one that keeps taking,” often telling the media how he adapts to new challenges. He accepts that medicine probably won’t find a cure for his condition, but reveals a resilience we can all learn from. In his new memoir, No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality, Fox espouses the idea that you don’t have to “put on a happy face” all the time when you have big challenges in your life. It is okay for your optimism to run out but it is not okay to sit at home and pity yourself. Fox has done anything but, taking on a host of roles that many deem his best—including that of the cunning lawyer, Louis Canning, in The Good Wife. Fox tells the press that if, in the past, he used to rush through his lines, now, he takes his time, savoring every moment and literally battling his disease through carefully crafted words and actions.

Christy Brown and Artistic Achievement

Christy Brown is one of Ireland’s most famous painters, poets, and authors and his autobiography, My Left Foot, was turned into an award-winning film starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Christy’s mother received her son’s cerebral palsy diagnosis when he was just a tot. She learned that cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect a person’s balance, posture, and ability to move. For years, Christy was unable to move or speak. However, everything changed when he first became capable of controlling his left foot. Thanks to his mother’s growth mindset, Christy learned that nothing is impossible, not even when your challenges seem insurmountable. Christy learned to speak, read, and write, and his autobiographical work, Down All the Days, became an international bestseller.

Richard Branson, M.J. Fox, and Christy Brown may have had vastly different challenges but one thing they all had in common was a growth mindset. This way of seeing the world requires you to see challenges as opportunities for growth. It also involves actively seeking opportunities to learn, grow, and develop new abilities and talents.

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