Failure or Smarter?
This is an intriguing book by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. entitled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (and yes, I am leery of anything which proclaims to be New as well, but in her case I think it was probably the Marketing Dept. rather than her steadfast insistence) published by Random House, 2006, ISBN 1400062756. She begins her book with a confession of when she was a young researcher she had a LifeRevelation (obviously my interpretation). she wanted to know how people coped with failures, so she decided to watch how young students (10 -12 year olds) wrestled with difficult problems. Most students grunted, groaned, wrestled and literally sweated their way through (this is where I would have been). Others, however, displayed a completely different response. They got excited. They looked forward to the difficulty in solving the problems. They actually relished in the experience of trying to find the answer. The concept of failure never entered their minds.They perceived the challenge as being a learning experience. This wasn’t success or failure…it was learning. They were getting smarter.
Dr Dweck argues (quite convincingly I believe) that everyone holds one of two mindsets. One is that what she calls the fixed mindset. Those who hold this belief think your abilities and talents are etched in stone. In other words, you either have them or you don’t . You are either a great write or you or not…and there is no sense in trying to alter fate. You either can get up and speak to room full of strangers or you can’t and no amount of thinking they ae all sitting there in their underwear will change your fear. The other is referred to as the growth mindset. This is the conviction that your talents and abilities can be increased over time. So while you may not be able to write well or speak in front of an audience, you can with the right instruction and training develop the skills and confidence necessary to accomplish both.
Dr Dweck goes on to say these mindsets are created early in our childhood and then continue on throughout out lives. She portrays the subtle destructiveness of the fixed mindset as a lie, with the ability to dampen our lives in extraordinary ways. More importantly she demonstrates how applying the growth mindset can not only alter our current lives, but lay the foundation for success early in children’s lives.
As I have worked to adopt her teachings I have discovered I hold onto some rather unique thought patterns. For instance, as a cyclist I believe I can get incrementally better with the right type of training. However, I feel completely incapable of learning to speak a foreign language. I believe I speak well before large audiences and can continually improve and hone my speaking craft. But trying to learn the ins and outs of working my laptop is frustrating and feels more akin to bashing my forehead on the desk in front of me. So I have both fixed and growth mindsets. I have learned this is not nearly as unique as I first believed. In fact, most of us fall into this category. There are things in life which come as natural as drawing our next breath. Meanwhile we also have those issues which cause us to wonder why we were ever been born.
Buy the book. Read the book. Learn how to change your mindset. Better yet, learn how to develop the growth mindset in your children or grandchildren.