Families, communities, and nations are stronger when parents foster growth mindset instead of fixed mindset. If this is the first time that you have heard these terms, you are far from being alone. Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. is a world-renowned psychologist at Stanford University, and she discovered the power of mindset after doing decades of research. She is the author of a book titled Mindset – The New Psychology of Success and has an updated edition on the market. The ideas and quotes in this post are from her book.
Mindset is what a person
believes about themselves, and it greatly influences personality and every part
of life. Studying about mindset helps in understanding successful and
unsuccessful people as well as oneself, one’ spouse, children, and friends.
Fixed mindset is believing
that you have all the intelligence, all the skills, and all the abilities that
you will ever have. People with fixed mindsets are always trying to prove
themselves but unwilling to risk looking like a failure.
Growth mindset “is based on the belief that your basic
qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies,
and help from others. Although people may differ in every which way – in their
initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments – everyone can change
and grow through application and experience” (Mindset, 7). This mindset says
that a person’s potential is unknown and unknowable and therefore should not be
me, this idea about mindset is much the same as attitude. We speak of people
having a positive attitude or a negative attitude. A positive attitude – or growth
mindset -- is shown in lots of common sayings, such as “Nothing ventured,
nothing gained” and “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” or “Rome
wasn’t built in a day.” People with negative attitudes or fixed mindsets would
not agree with the above statements because they are not willing to risk failure.
may be a little different than attitude because mindset controls our
willingness to risk failure and work to overcome obstacles.
… It’s not just
that some people happen to recognize the value of challenging themselves and
the importance of effort. Our research has shown that this comes directly from the growth
mindset. When we teach people the growth mindset, with its focus on
development, these ideas about challenge and effort follow. Similarly, it’s not
just that some people happen to dislike challenge and effort. When we
(temporarily) put people in a fixed mindset, with its focus on permanent
traits, they quickly fear challenge and devalue effort (Mindset, p. 10).
interesting thing to me about this mindset idea is that we can put ourselves into
a fixed mindset or into a growth mindset by our thoughts or the words that we
say to others. We can choose which mindset that we want because mindsets “are
just beliefs. They’re powerful beliefs, but they’re just something in your
mind, and you can change your mind” (Mindset, p. 16). Mindset changes how we approach life. “People in a growth
mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they
stretch” (Mindset, p. 21).
had an experience about five years ago when I decided to go to college. I took
one look at the list of assignments that were required the first week, and I
was nearly in tears. I just knew that there was no way that I could do all of
them in one week. Then a thought came into my mind, “Focus on one assignment at
a time, and you can do it.” That simple thought changed my mindset, and I went
to work. I follow the same counsel when I began each new semester and question
my ability to do the work. Do one at a time.
information about mindset is important for individuals to know, but it is essential
for parents, teachers, and coaches to understand. Every single word that we say
and every action that we take sends a message to other people, and these
messages affect mindset. Even words of praise can put someone into a fixed
mindset. “Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation, and it harms
their performance” (Mindset, p. 178). The same is true about praising talent. It is mind-boggling to
me that praising someone can be wrong, but I can see how can be.
intelligence or talent gives a temporary boost, but it does not help a person when
they hit a snag. Why? “If success means
they’re smart, then failure means they’re dumb. That’s a fixed mindset” (Mindset, p. 178).
they can hand children permanent confidence – like a gift – by praising their
brains and talent. It doesn’t work, and in fact has the opposite effect. It
makes children doubt themselves as soon as anything is hard or anything goes
wrong. If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can
do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes,
enjoy effort, seek new strategies, and keep on learning. That way, their
children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to
build and repair their own confidence (Mindset,
of praising intelligence or talent, parents can praise “the growth-oriented
process – what they accomplished through practice, study, persistence, and good
strategies. And we can ask them about their work in a way that recognizes and
shows interest in their efforts and choices” (Mindset,
p. 180). This can be difficult when what we really
want to say is, “You are brilliant” or “You have such great talent!”
parents, teachers, or coaches put the emphasis on intelligence, talent, or
skills, children and youth will question if the love and admiration is about
them or about the intelligence, talent, or skill. Will my parents still be
proud of me if I do not get into Harvard? Will they still love me if I cannot
do the work and flunk out? Will they still love me if I mess up in my next game,
meet, or recital?
the star soccer or hockey player, parents can praise the passing or teamwork rather
than the number of goals. To the student who aced a test, parents can praise
the hard work and hours of study that went into the accomplishment rather than
saying, “You are brilliant” or even worse, “I love you because you are so
brilliant!” What if the student works hard and studies for long hours but still
does not do well? The parent praises the hard work and effort and then offers
to help the student discover what they do not understand. What if the gymnast
does not work hard enough to earn the ribbon that she desires? The parent must
be honest and tell her that the other gymnasts worked harder and longer and
deserved to win -- and then offer to help the gymnast analyze what she needs to
teens, and adults are much happier when they develop a love for challenges and
learning new things. Parents, teachers, and coaches will see more progress when
they face the challenge of sending messages that inspire growth. Families, communities,
and nations are stronger when children, youth, and adults develop “can do”
attitudes and growth mindset.