Since we drove to South Carolina and had 17 hours each way to kill, we decided to try an audio book.
I have to admit it took us a long time to finish the audio book as I kept falling asleep ( I can’t help it…the lull of the car) so Rob would turn to me every so often and realize I was asleep so he’d turn it off, and then we would have replay what I missed when we started it back up again. But, it also took us a long time as there was just so much to digest and to talk about. It wasn’t one of those books you could just whip through. We needed to ponder and discuss.
We listened to “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Dr. Carol Dweck.
I was already quite familiar with Dr. Dweck and her work. I had watched several Ted talks, and there has been growing buzz in the media, as well as even in my children’s schools and their sports teams about “growth mindset”, “fixed mindset”, and “grit”. We had already spent quite a bit of time talking about this kind of thing with the kids in FHE over the past several years. So I figured this book would just help solidify my understanding and be an interesting read (listen).
But after listening to it in its entirety, learning about it in terms of various contexts (home, school, work, sports), and considering the different impact it has on different personalities and value systems, I have a whole new understanding and appreciation. In fact, on the way home, I went on amazon and I ordered a hard copy for each of our kids (which of course they are excited to read and I know they will read it in full). I recommended it to a bunch of people and really hope they read it too. We came home and had a whole FHE dedicated to it – where we watched several videos about it too (a bit of repetition that the kids complained about, but repetition is a key way we learn important concepts). And even though we had discussed the main concepts before, the lightbulb that went off for me (and I think Rob too) when we listened to the book, we feel we were able to share with the kids and they see things in a bit of a different perspective too.
So what did I get now that was different than before?
Just a recap: the main concept is that “fixed mindset” tends to make people think in terms of absolutes, developing the belief that individual traits are innate and cannot be changed or developed. These traits can be positive traits, like intelligence, or negative traits, like clumsiness. Whereas in the “growth mindset”, intelligence, creativity, and artistic ability can be developed over time with practice, hard work, endurance, and a willingness to learn and to adapt.
So in my mind, there was a bit of a nature vs nurture debate; which to some degree there is. Fixed is more nature, and growth is more nurture. I am a firm believer in both nature and nurture – but since you can’t change nature, then you work with nurture as best you can. Coming from the faith background that I have, I also truly believe in the divine – unlimited – potential that we all have, so a growth mindset fits very nicely with my overall value and belief system. We have spent a lot of time trying to help our kids understand their divine unlimited potential, the need and reward of hard work, the importance of grit and most importantly, the help they can count on from above. We have also taught about talents that we all have, as well as the the core of who we all are.
All that made sense to me. But it really is only one aspect of the difference between fixed and growth mindsets. It’s the other aspects that really made me have an “aha moment.” The aspects such as learning that whether you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset impacts your self esteem, your personal development, your risk taking, your anxiety and your fear, and your relationships. Learning about these aspects helped me understand myself a bit more, Rob a bit more, and then each of my kids a bit more. Why does XYZ want to quit that activity? Why did XYZ not study so hard? Why is XYZ so afraid to do that activity? Why did XYZ miss the deadline? Why is XYZ always walking away? Why does XZY not care about that grade? Why does XYZ care so much about that grade? Why does XYZ react that way when I point something out but XYZ has a totally different reaction?
Of course understanding growth vs fixed mindset doesn’t solve everything! But it really has helped me understand things from a different light. The other important piece to understand is how it is not all black and white. You aren’t a fixed mindset person in everything, nor are you growth mindset person in everything. We each struggle in different areas. But, we may have a tendency in one direction or another.
Other gems (just in random points to not make this post so long…)
- With a fixed mindset, one tends to think that qualities and abilities should come naturally. When they don’t, then it is seen as weakness to have to apply effort. They often then shy away from new things or trying out different things. Growth mindset sees that effort and hard work are integral to success. Sure, talent helps, but it is useless without the effort and hard work.
- With a fixed mindset, one does not want their mistakes, errors, or blunders discussed, pointed out or acknowledged. They feel judged, persecuted, shamed. They would rather ignore the presence of a mistake then do what needs to be done to remedy the situation. They may then end up missing out on opportunities as they become driven by the fear, and not pursue riskier situations that could mean great success. With growth mindset, one understands the mistakes and failures are natural parts of the learning process and they can be viewed as opportunities to learn from rather than something to avoid. They don’t mind looking at their mistakes to see what they can do differently next time to change the outcome.
- In relationships with a fixed mindset, there is tendency to view an ideal partner as someone who would constantly validate, praise, or even worship them; rather than have someone who helps challenge them, to learn new things, accept shortcomings, and push them to do better which is what a growth mindset seeks.
- A fixed mindset is being in the constant praise zone – especially when being a parent. Fixed mindsets praise high intellect, or specific talents or global attributes (you are so smart, so pretty, so talented), whereas growth mindset focus on praising the effort and process ( you worked hard! You put the work in. You organized yourself well). It is important to create an environment that encourages hard work, effort, and growth so children can learn to continually develop their intellect and talents rather than taking the easy way out (or claiming “it’s just not who they are”).
These random tidbits have helped me understand a bit better the motivation (or lack of) of my family members, as well as many of the people that I work or associate with. I think this knowledge also helps me have a bit more compassion and patience, with myself, as well as others.
The final tidbit of wisdom, is the use of the word “yet”. Although we can’t do many things, or we are not comfortable with many things, or we may not have had success with many things…we need to remember that it is temporary. We can’t do it..yet. I don’t understand it…yet. I’m not confident in my ability…yet.
I came across this quote yesterday on social media and I thought it tied it all together nicely:
“If you raise your children to feel that they can accomplish any goal or task they decide upon, you will have succeeded as a parent and you will have given your children the greatest blessing of all.”
You may not be able to do it… yet, and you won’t be able to do it completely on your own… but you can do it. Just keep going.