Do you have a fixed or growth mindset?
Fixed mindsets assumes that our character, intelligence and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change, and success is an outcome of our inherent skill sets. With this mindset striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.
A “growth mindset,” perceives challenge as a given and seeks out ways to grow and change. It assumes an ability to learn from mistakes and views failure as a springboard for growth and for stretching existing abilities.
The existence of both mindsets is an outcome of the research of Dr. Carol Dweck, who summaries her findings in her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.”
Most of us were raised in an environment of fixed mindsets. How can we forget the humiliation and shame when we received a failing grade in school?
To quote Dr. Dweck,
“I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves–in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will a feel like a winner or a loser?…
There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way–in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperments–everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything,that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.”
The core benefit of a growth mindset is that people who see themselves through this prism are not discouraged by failure, and actually do not see themselves as failing–they see themselves as in a continual process of learning.
Why it’s important to cultivate a growth mindset in your child?
While all people can benefit from a growth mindset, children and teens with unique learning styles have the capacity to benefit most from a mindset that empowers them to see their brain as always learning vs engaged in a process of trying to succeed in the face of potential failure.
Dr. Dweck again, “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them?…The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”
How to support your child in developing a growth mindset
- Focus on effort, not outcomes. When your child expresses frustration or anxiety about an academic or social challenge, discuss their efforts by saying things like:
“Do your best and let’s see what happens.”
“You’re up for the challenge.”
“If you get stuck, it just means you have more to learn.”
I often say to my own son, “If everyone knew everything, then no one would have to go to school.”
- Model embracing challenges. When faced with a challenge in your own life or work, share with your child how to tried to solve the problem, did some research to learn more, or asked for help. Be aware of your own growth vs fixed mindset tendencies.
- Support “productive struggle.” RAther than enable your anxious child to get upset when they don’t understand something, share with them that working on things is normal and expected. Set a time limit for the work and then praise their efforts before moving on to something else.
- Encourage problem solving, not getting the “right” answer. In the world of the internet, Google and a minicomputer in everyone’s hand, accessing information is easy and seamless. What our children need to develop is a well developed sense of HOW to learn and develop a self-image of themselves as life-long learners. When they ask a question, encourage them to use the tools at their disposal to answer it on their own. When they express concerns about a struggle, rather than “rescue” them or try to offer black and white advice or feedback, say “Let’s think together on how you might be able to address this problem.”
Developing a growth mindset will serve your child well throughout their life. Success after the school years isn’t defined by grades or testing scores. Success is developed and defined by be able to problem solve in the face of challenges and believing one can learn more and “figure it out.” This mindset will support your child as they look for a job,develop a career, make decisions about living independently, and even in their relationships.
To learn more about growth mindset, I recommend the following articles: