Why do some students and athletes give up when faced with an obstacle while others seem to just work harder. Why do some avoid challenges and others embrace those same challenges? Why do some cower when criticism is given and others learn from it?
Over the years, these were questions that I had asked myself as I observed the kids I taught and coached. It was easy enough to say they were quitters or lazy, but over time I came to believe they all truly wanted success.
So what was it?
A few years ago, I read a book by Carol Dweck entitled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. It explained that there are essentially two mindsets in people: a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. This book answered many of the questions that I had about how the students I taught and coached performed. Dweck explained that it was a learned behaviour and that a growth mindset could be taught.
So in most classes I teach, I like to start off the term discussing the two mindsets and the importance of having a growth mindset living in the 21st Century. Below is an excerpt from the book and graphic describing the mindsets.
(from Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, page 22)
“When do you feel smart?”
We asked people, ranging from grade schoolers to young adults. The results were striking.
People with a growth mindset said:
“When it’s really hard, and I try really hard, and I can do something I couldn’t do before.”
“When I work on something for a long time and start to figure it out.”
For people with a growth mindset it’s not about immediate perfection. It’s about learning something over time – confronting a challenge and making progress. People with a growth mindset thrive when they’re stretching themselves.
People with a fixed mindset said:
“It’s when I don’t make any mistakes.”
“When I finish something fast and it’s perfect.”
“When something is easy for me but other people can’t do it.”
It’s about being perfect right now. In the fixed mindset, it’s not enough just to succeed. It’s not enough just to look smart or talented. You have to be pretty much flawless. And you have to be flawless right away. When do people with a fixed mindset thrive? When things are safely within their grasp. If things get too challenging, when they’re not feeling smart or talented, they lose interest.
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