Do you delight in heaping praise on your kids for how smart they are? Or how talented?
If you solve a puzzle, do you look for a tougher challenge, a more difficult puzzle?
Do you believe your, or someone else’s, personality is what you, or they, were born with? This was our topic a couple of weeks ago.
Have you noticed athletes whose mistakes crush them? Who can’t get “back in the game” quickly?
Recently I was introduced to the book, Mindset – The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck.
Dweck’s premise is that some people have “fixed” mindsets. Others have “growth” mindsets. Which are you? In reality, most people have a mix, but lean mostly one way or the other. We’re likely to have one mindset sometimes, and the other one other times.
As a primary school teacher, and a tireless researcher, Dweck has studied these differences most of her life.
When you hear statements like:
- I’m no good with technology
- I can’t learn French, or Spanish
- I can’t drive a car with a manual transmission
You’re hearing the result of a fixed mindset, one that believes they have, or don’t have, a certain talent.
When you hear:
- With some research, and maybe a class, I’ll figure out technology to the extent that I need it.
- I’m anxious to dig into a language that will be useful, or interesting, to me.
- Can you help me learn to drive a car with a clutch?
You’re hearing someone with a growth mindset.
The good news is, you’re not “stuck” with one or the other. Dweck reports that her own mindset has evolved from fixed in her childhood to growth as she matured. And of course as she studied mindsets.
In grasping these ideas it’s important to first understand the basics. You’ll need a solid understanding of some terms she uses, and her fundamental concept. After you’ve accomplished that, a couple of chapters stand out for me. These chapters highlight situations where the concepts are easy to see in action.
- In chapter 3 she discusses the importance of a growth mindset in parents and teachers of young children. Kids, with their young absorptive minds, take signals from what adults say to them. If they’re scolded when they make a mistake, they learn quickly not to make mistakes. Of course this means, “don’t take on anything too difficult”. What if they’re praised for their talents – how easily they did something? They learn that quick performance is better than working hard to learn something difficult.
- In chapter 7, we learn the results of the two mindsets in coaches of sports teams. She describes three well-known college basketball coaches, All had moments of success.
- Bobby Knight of the Indiana Hoosiers won a lot of championships. His success was sporadic.
- John Wooden led the UCLA Bruins from a 3rd-rate status to 10 championships in 12 years. He was arguably the “winningest” NCAA coach ever.
- Pat Summitt coached the Tennessee Lady Vols. She started with a Bobby Knight (explosive, inconsistent) style. She evolved into recognizing losses as learning opportunities.
- I’m sure you can see, even without reading more detail, where the fixed and growth mindsets were.
- In chapter 7 she also discusses “false” growth mindsets. She covers a couple of misunderstandings about what is a growth mindset.
I leave you with that much introduction and summary of Carol Dweck’s great work. For me it’s a unique examination of the ingredients of real success. I hope you find it equally compelling.