What makes people different from each other? Why are some people successful and some aren’t? That is the question that intrigued Dr. Dweck, a renowned Stanford University psychologist, and it soon became her obsession that culminated in her outstanding book, Mindset.
Broadly, Dr. Dweck believes that people can be categorized between those who have a ‘fixed’ mindset and those who have a ‘growth’ mindset. Fixed-mindset people tend to pass out a chance to learn. They tend to feel labeled by a failure, and get discouraged when something requires significant effort. On the other hand, growth-mindset people make sure they take on challenges and learn from failures. The growth-mindset is based on the belief that talent can be cultivated through efforts.
So how are people with growth-mindset more likely to be successful? Growth-mindset people define success stretching one self to learn something new. It is about becoming smarter and not about being smarter. It is about doing your best, constantly improving and learning. Success is when you work hardest to become your best. That way, success does not come to you, you go to it. Dr. Illustrating with many examples in the world of education, sports and business, Dweck argues that mindset can profoundly affects the way you lead your life and your ability to achieve your goals.
We have all observed these two extremes mindsets in our homes (and our workplace) and many greys in between. Being aware of which mindset are we working with, be it with our children or teams—eventually both a parent and a supervisor plays a role of an ‘educator’—will help us be more effective in supporting people to achieve their goals. Here are some great takeaways for parents (and managers) to bring a growth mindset at home (and at the workplace).
Focus your teaching on what it takes to be successful. There are four principles to be successful: Effort, focus, belief and training. Dr Dweck shares that no matter what is your level of present ability, effort ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment. All extraordinary “achievements require a clear focus, all-out effort and a bottomless trunk full of strategies”. To achieve your goals, you need to learn techniques, practice them with effort and dedication and make the right choices that help you raise your own bar.
Don’t label. Positive and negative labels can mess with your mind. Being a topper in your batch, being a high potential, being the smartest, the sharpest OR being a low performer, being lazy, being slow are labels that can create limiting thoughts and stops people from taking steps to achieve their goals. Positive labels can stop people taking risks because they fear failure and they want to be consistent with their positive label. Negative labels are another way of encouraging ‘fixed’ mindsets as they discourage people to put effort and take charge of their own success.
Help people converting setbacks into future successes. In a growth-mindset content, setbacks are motivating, informative and a wake-up call. They don’t just seek a challenge; they thrive on challenge. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch. Dr. Dweck, of course, agrees that failures are painful for everybody, but failure does not define you. It is a problem to be faced, to be dealt with and to learnt from. Jhon Wooden, former UCLA basketball coach, said, “You are not a failure until you start to blame”, failure and responsibility go hand-in-hand. You can be still in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny them.
Make learners welcome criticism. If you are oriented towards learning, you need accurate information about your current abilities in order to learn effectively so in the growth-mindset context, criticism is not openly welcome it is sought after. Once you internalize that you are a ‘learner’, your teacher is a resource for learning and hence a source for improvement. Mistakes are an occasion for suggestions and teaching.
Change the conversation. It is not about being ‘fast’, ‘perfect’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’, these are fixed-mindset conversations and reinforces the wrong learning context. Instead educators should focus on the process of learning. Find a growth-mindset way to compliment achievement: Praise about the process, about what has been accomplished through practice, study, persistence and good strategy. Talk about efforts and choices and reinforce the learning journey.
Benjamin Barber, political theorist and author categorized the world between ‘learners’ and ‘non learners’, and it has been this distinction what determines success. As an educator (parent or manager), don’t judge, teach. After all, it is a learning process.
Learning extracts from Dr. Dweck’s book, Mindset – Psychology of Success