How the understanding of ‘mindset’ can impact success
Thursday, November 16, 2017
While you were busy doing your life, the whole field of child and motivational psychology for teachers and parents has changed ... for the better.
I have been an educator, parent and grandparent for decades, and I have often struggled with bothersome situations in which some people often just give up when times become tough, or when things don't go their way. Worse, they may blame themselves for their "failures" and continue to berate themselves as inadequate, stupid, lazy or just plain careless — sometimes for many years.
As an expert in teaching both gifted and struggling learners, I have discovered that students in both groups share many of the same self-defeating thoughts during stressful times, and are equally likely to be diverted from creating a happy and productive life for themselves.
Traditional psychology has long been about a person's deficits. Aberrant behavior is noticed, efforts are made to get a person back into the parameters of normal behavior, and a lifelong experience of "maintenance" of the preferred behavioral choices is undertaken.
However, the entire field of psychology has now entered into a different viewpoint of what should be done to "fix" a psychological problem. For example, Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman is the director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also co-founder of The Creativity Post and author of "Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined."
Positive psychology is one of the newest branches of psychology to emerge, and it focuses on how to help human beings prosper and lead healthy, happy lives. Its impact on the fields of parenting and teaching is dramatic and exciting.
In particular, the research, work and influence of Dr. Carol Dweck and her team have helped us finally understand how many problematic behaviors begin and how well-meaning words and advice from caring adults can make or break our attempts to make a positive difference in the lives of their children.
Dweck has studied what she calls "mindset." She has identified two types of mindset — either one of which becomes the guide for the ongoing thoughts, worries and abilities to get ourselves out of dysfunctional thinking and back on to a path to self-confidence and ongoing achievement.
Please consider the following remarks we adults often make with to ourselves, our children or students:
- What’s the matter with you?
- Why is this grade so low?
- Since you are very smart, you should always be able to get high grades.
- I'm amazed at how quickly you can learn things.
- Will you make the Honor Roll this year?
- If you just fixed this one item, you could get a perfect grade.
Comments like those above cause many students to believe that to be successful in school, one must always strive to make the learning tasks look easy. They think they must never make mistakes, since these will lower your grades and others' opinions of your intelligence.
People who think like this have what Dweck calls a "fixed mindset." They believe the intelligence they got at birth is all they will ever have and their job is to protect it by not taking any chances that may make other people think you are not are not smart.
Dweck also describes what she calls the "growth mindset." People with this way of thinking crave continuous learning opportunities and understand that strong effort is always a key factor in moving forward. They consistently seek situations and problems that are challenging and will require hard work over time.
I believe we want all children to develop and maintain growth mindsets throughout their lives. Every group of people — from those whose work is way below average to those who are recognized as highly capable — is made up of people with both fixed and growth mindsets. That includes students in schools as well as adults in every walk of life.
Since so many students give up as soon as the going gets really tough, and this "mindset" approach can impact untold numbers of persons of any age, I would like to suggest that you locate and watch the videos of Carol Dweck on your own, then share them with others whom you believe would benefit from this important and exciting information.
Below is a TEDx Talk by Dweck, "The Power of Yet."
This is the time of the school year when many students give up any hope of experiencing school success. The school challenges seem insurmountable, and they feel increasingly powerless to change the situation into a successful outcomes.
There are people with both fixed and growth mindsets in every group of people of all ages. There are numerous resources online to help you recognize and use the language that supports the development and maintenance of growth mindsets, and many are free. Dweck's website for this content is MindsetWorks.com, which is the home of three separate programs. You can share this information with a great many people in your lives.
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