Ever wonder why some people just keep going no matter what? There are some people who fail and they just dust themselves off and just keep on going. There are others who fail and choose not to try again. And then there are even some who won’t try to begin with because they fear they will fail. What is it about those people who just keep trying? Do they know something we don’t?
Carol Dweck, a professor of Psychology and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, explains that it is often our mindset that dictates our success, not our natural abilities.
Dweck’s research reveals that people have views about themselves that change the way they interact with others, respond to failure, and deal with challenges. These views about themselves are labeled mindsets: the view you adopt for yourself.
- Fixed. If you have a fixed mindset, you believe that your qualities are carved in stone. You believe that you have a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character. This creates an urge to prove yourself over and over again.
- Growth. The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things that can cultivate through your efforts. This mindset is founded on the idea that you can change and grow through application and experience. This means your true potential is unknown and therefore anything can be accomplished through hard work and passion.
Yet or Now?
This idea of a growth mindset can also be called the “power of yet.” In other words, you are not there yet, but you can get there. Dweck argues that the power of yet is in direct contrast to the “tyranny of now.” If you believe that you can grow and learn, you have the power of yet on your side. In contrast, if you feel that your intelligence is fixed and cannot be changed, you are stuck in the “now,” with no possibility of a “yet.” There is a high school in Chicago that lists students failing grades as “not yet,” rather than “fail,” indicating to students that they can succeed, they just are not there yet.
These mindsets (the growth mindset and the power of yet vs. the fixed mindset and the tyranny of now) contribute on a daily basis to how we live our lives. When confronted with difficulty those with growth mindsets are engaged in the problem. Scans of their brains indicate heavy activity. In contrast, scans of those with fixed mindsets see almost no activity at all. In other words, with a growth mindset, you tackle the problem. With a fixed mindset, you run from the problem.
Are we raising our children for now or yet?
We all want our children to dream big dream. We want them to believe in the power of yet. We want them to see problems as challenges, not as crises. Research has shown that our mindsets are not set in stone. In other words, you can move from having a fixed mindset to having a growth mindset. But, how can we do this?
- Praise wisely. Instead of praising intelligence or talent, praise the process that children engage in. Praise for effort. Praise for improvement. This will help children gain resilience and strength. If they understand that the process is important and not just the product, they will be more likely to engage in difficult activities in the future.
- Reward the “yet.” As parents and teachers, we tend to reward the finished product. “You finished your project. You got an A.” “You cleaned up your whole room. You get a sticker on your chart.” Instead, reward for effort, strategy and process. Give rewards for thinking about how to tackle problems and for the work that is done. This will eventually create more engagement for long periods of time, and generally more persistence in difficult tasks.
- Teach children that they can change. Show them how the brain works and how new connections are made everyday (if you need some help understanding neurons and their connections, don’t shy away from a challenge!). Teach them that they have the ability to gain skills and intelligence.
- Use the words “yet” and “not yet.” Instead of saying “you didn’t do it,” say “you didn’t do it yet.” This allows children to understand that they can accomplish what they hope to do; they just aren’t there yet.
Educators and parents who create growth mindsets make things happen. The meaning of effort and difficulty are transformed. Rather than difficulty making children run, it makes them think. If we all work on cultivating a growth attitude, we can grow and thrive. Now, that’s a challenge I’m willing to accept!