Do pure intelligence and talent make a person successful? Well, not according to Carol S. Dweck, psychology professor and researcher at Stanford, author of a best-seller known as "Mindset".
There are so many ingredients to success, but we all would like to know at least the underlying secrets. What truly makes a person able to be successful in their goals, and beyond? What are the qualities, actions, and paths people have taken -that you may not know about- that lead people to success?
Dweck and her colleagues’ research has very interesting findings of what mindset and actions people take in order for them to reach their desired goals. Your mindset can make the difference in the successes that you face in life. Although this seems like the old run in the mills saying, it is not so simple as it seems.
Let's first talk about the two different mindsets: the growth mindset and the fixed mindset.
The growth mindset comes from the belief that your basic qualities can be cultivated with effort. People differ greatly in aptitudes and talents, but everyone can change and grow through application and experience. People with growth mindsets have a desire to learn, rather than to become smarter in itself: they embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see the effort as a path to mastery, learn from criticism, and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.
The fixed mindset comes from the belief that your qualities are carved in stone; you are who you are. Characteristics such as intelligence, personality, and creativity are fixed, not something that can be developed. People with fixed mindsets have a desire to look smart, which therefore leads to a tendency to avoid challenges, giving up easily, seeing the effort as a waste of time, ignoring useful negative feedback, and they feel threatened by the success of others.
How do we see fixed mindsets unconsciously in our day to day lives? There are many examples, and studies that show how.
Many educators feel that lowering their standards will give their students success, self-esteem, and raise their achievements. Unfortunately, this method leads to poorly educated students with a lousy work ethic. However, simply raising standards and showing kids no clear way for reaching their goals is simply a recipe for disaster. Is there a way to have high standards and have students reach them?
Marva Collins taught children in Chicago who have been discarded. Kids that went to mental health centers, who stabbed, ruined, and hammered other kids. On the first day of school, she forged a contract with them: they would learn. None of them even knew the alphabet or how to spell their name, but she was guaranteeing they were going to be reading advanced level books.
When Collins expanded her school to young children, three and four-year-olds used a vocabulary book titled "Vocabulary for the High School Student". Seven-year-olds were reading "The Wall Street Journal". Even the kids that picked their teeth with switchblades loved Shakespeare, and always begged for more.
Rafe Esquith teaches Los Angeles kids from poor areas that are riddled with crime. All of his fifth graders master a reading list that includes high school level books, including To Kill a Mockingbird and the Diary of Anne Frank. Every one of his sixth graders passed an Algebra 1 test; test that many ninth and eighth graders struggle to pass. The key of these teachers was to heavily nurtured their students and never give up on them.
Teachers with a fixed mindset create an atmosphere of judging. These teachers look at student's performances and decide who is smart and dumb, and the dumb ones are not their problem. They don't believe in improvement, so they don't try to create it. These teachers with fixed mindsets believe that students entering their class with different achievement levels were deeply permanent. An excuse used by a fixed mindset teacher in a research study in Germany said: "As a teacher, I have little to no influence on the student's intellectual capability."
There are also studies that show how students with growth mindsets work and how students with fixed mindsets think. Students with the fixed mindset usually blamed poor grades on their innate abilities with a certain subject, or covering their feelings by blaming someone else, such as "[the English teacher] can't teach, she is such a bitch". On the other hand, when their grades were suffering, students with the growth mindset were eager to mobilize their resources for learning. Although they felt overwhelmed, they had to do what it took to improve.
Students with growth mindsets and fixed mindsets also study differently. Carol S. Dweck describes that she gave her undergraduates a chemistry course and used it to study the student's mindsets. The students with fixed mindsets usually just read their hard material over and over again, trying to regurgitate and memorize everything. When the students with the fixed mindset did poorly on a test, they didn't improve or get better.
However, students with the growth mindset actually read the material to understand it, instead of regurgitating the information. Instead of plunging into unthinkable memorization, they looked for themes and underlying principles across the lectures. They studied to learn, not to ace the test. In result, the students with the growth mindset got better grades in the course material.
There is also a very interesting factor about mindsets. We all tend to do it, even though studies have proven that it is harmful. Parents, teachers, coaches... tend to think that it is beneficial towards a child's performance/motivation to constantly praise their child's intelligence/talent. It actually harms their motivation and performance: it makes children doubt themselves as soon as anything is hard, or as soon as anything goes wrong.
Parents, coaches, and teachers should teach their child to love mistakes, to be intrigued by challenges, enjoy the effort, and to keep on learning. That way children don't have to rely on constant praise. Their life from there on will be towards building their own confidence.
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