So, what are the two mindsets and why should I care?

“The views you adopt for yourself, profoundly affect the way your lead your life.” (Pg. 6)

Dweck tells us that Darwin and Tolstoy were non-exceptional students and considered very ordinary. Would you believe that one of the great golfers of all time, Ben Hogan, was uncoordinated as a child? Artist Cindy Sherman failed her first art course. Michael Jordan was cut from the JV basketball team. Actress Geraldine Page was told to quit for lack of talent. So, what makes them different from others?

According to Carol Dweck it is the mindset that you possess and develop. “Believing your qualities are carved in stone – the fixed mindset – creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over again (pg. 6).” I see this all the time in students. An assignment is a test of who they are. A conclusion. A final judgment. What happens if I try something hard and cannot do it? What does this mean?

But there is another kind of mindset. The “growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things that you cultivate through effort (pg. 7).” An assignment is a gauge of what I need to learn. A suggested path. A marker of where I am today. If I try something hard and can’t do it, what happens if I back up rethink and try again? It means I haven’t yet figured a way through this problem?

To illustrate the point, Dweck give us this scenario that she used in a study. She asked people to imagine a bad day. Speaking to young adults she asked them to imagine getting a C+ on an important paper, getting a parking ticket and also calling a friend for sympathy and getting brushed off. None of these are earth-shattering events. But what when asked if all three of these things happened on the same day, how would young people respond? She had identified people she felt were of each respective mindsets and asked them about their day. What would you think? What would you feel? What would you do? (Pg. 8-9). Consider the differences in their responses.

Those identified as having a fixed mindset:

“I’m a total failure.” I’m a loser.” “The world is out to get me.” I have no life. “I’d feel worthless and dumb – everyone’s better than me.” “Life stinks. I’m stupid. Nothing good ever happens to me.” (Ever heard one of those from your children?)

Coping for the fixed mindset:

“I wouldn’t bother to put so much time and effort into doing well in anything.” “Stay in bed.” “Yell at someone if I had the chance to.” “Listen to music and pout.” “Cry.” “Break something.” (Again, maybe you have heard something like this.)

So, how were the responses different from those with a perceived growth mindset?

“I need to try harder in class, be more careful when parking the car, and wonder if my friend had a bad day.” “The C+ would tell me that I’d have to work a lot harder in the class, but I have the rest of the semester to pull the grade up.”

Coping for those with a growth mindset?

“I’d think about studying harder (or…in a different way) for the next class, I’d pay the ticket and I’d work things out with my friend the next time we speak.” “Work hard on my next paper, speak to the teacher, be more careful where I park or contest the ticket, and find out what’s wrong with my friend.”

Here is a chart that might reflect the two mindsets (adapted from pages 9-10)

Growth Mindset Fixed Mindset
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Nothing ventured, nothing lost.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. If at first you don’t succeed, you probably didn’t have the ability.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. If Rome wasn’t built in a day, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.

Dweck points out “most people’s ideas about risk and effort grow out of the most basic mindset (pg. 10).” There is pessimism in the fixed mindset that leads them to draw conclusions about their ability and in doing so places a cap in their ability to achieve new things.

I know, this is pricking some of us badly. Some have even stopped reading. Don’t quit. We ALL experience the fixed mindset at some point. Is this what you want for your children?

Dweck raises an interesting question. So, if people have a growth mindset, this probably means that they have an over-inflated sense of what they can accomplish, right? Well, this may be true to an extent, how else can we explain someone testing a light bulb for over a thousand times before it worked (A. G. Bell)? But really, Dweck say no, this is not the case.

She studied to see how good the two mindsets were at gauging their abilities. Results: People do not estimate their ability very well, but the fixed mindset subset accounted for almost all of the inaccuracy (Pg. 11).

Perhaps the greatest talent (and benefit) of the growth mindset is that it allows people to turn the greatest “setbacks into future success” (pg 11). Last month I left you with why should you care about the mindset of your child. What do you want for your child? The love of challenge? Belief in effort? Perseverance in the face of setbacks? (Pg. 12)

You may want to get Mindset and follow along for the next few months. This will make a difference for you and your child. If you are still reading, congratulations! You have passed the first test of holding, mastering or at least considering a growth mindset for yourself and your child.

Next time: Is success about learning, or proving you’re smart?


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