We all experience success and failures in life. When we experience setbacks, there are some people who cope very well. They learn from them and move on. On the other hand, there are people who get seriously affected by failures and have trouble coping with them. They get depressed, damage their self esteem, and stop trying. What is the underlying factor that distinguishes these two types of reactions? The answer lies in your mind set.
According to a psychologist Carol Dweck,Ph. D, there are two types of mind sets:
Fixed mind set and Growth Mind set.
The fixed mind set works against achieving success whereas, growth mind set allows the person to achieve more, take the challenges of life, and become successful. The question is what are the circumstances that cause a person to have a fixed mindset or growth mindset? As children we get messages from our care givers, parents, teachers, friends and family. Parents who tend to focus on the efforts that the child makes, and recognize the process, tend to foster growth mindset whereas, parents who only focus on the intelligence of the child and say wrong things when they succeed or fail, tend to foster fixed mindset. The growth mindset is based on the belief that basic qualities can be cultivated with efforts. People may differ in their initial talents, aptitudes, interest, and temperaments but the fact is that everyone can change and grow through experience. People with this mindset believe a person’s true potential is unknown. They also believe that there are many ways to master a task with the application of knowledge, training and passion. Thus the belief that desired qualities can be developed also creates a passion for learning. People who challenge you to grow are better than friends or partners who will just praise you by giving labels to increase self esteem. The hall mark of growth mindset is that it pushes the person to stretch their potential by not giving up and persistently, making efforts even when things are not going well. This kind of mindset allows people to thrive amidst challenging situations and difficult times.
It is interesting to note how the mind sets operate when the person fails. People with fixed mindset, will react differently if they get poor grades in a midterm exam. They will say things like, “I am a loser”, “I am so stupid”, I can’t get anything right”, “I will also fail the finals”. However, people with growth mindset will say something like, “I would work harder for the finals”, “I would study harder now”, “I would learn from my mistakes, resolve to do better, talk to someone to give me help.”People with the fixed mind set believe that you fail because you lack the capacity or it was not meant to happen. People with growth mindset believe that your qualities are not carved in stone and that there is a potential to change and grow them. This leads to a host of different thoughts, attitude, actions, and efforts which lead to success and desired outcomes.
How Do We Grow Our Mindset?
1. As parents and care givers, we need to focus on the child’s efforts. Every word and action from parents sends a message. If you give messages which imply that you are judging him or her or stating that the child has permanent traits, you will be fostering fixed mindset in the child. As parents, we need to give messages by statements like, “You are a developing person and I want to see you grow”. “I accept you even when you fail but keep trying to grow.” Parents need to focus on the process of learning and refrain from giving judgmental feedback.
2. How do you praise your children? It is tempting to praise the child’s intelligence or talent but the problem is that it sends a message of fixed mindset. It makes their confidence more fragile. It is better to focus on the process, the efforts, and strategies and choices that they used so that they learn to focus on the efforts which lead to success.
3. When your child fails and messes up, remember to give constructive criticism because it helps the child to fix things. Try to avoid giving labels to the child. When they acquire labels of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ from their parents, they begin to believe them. If they fail they worry about damaging their label of “good”.
4. When you set goals for your children, make sure that you are encouraging skills and knowledge versus having innate talent. Pay attention to the goals you set for children.
5. As teachers, try to promote the growth mindset by stimulating children’s intellectual growth, giving them high standards and have students reach them. Lowering standards does not promote children’s self esteem but when you set the high standards, it is also important to give them ways to reach them. Give your students process feedback to foster growth mindset. Good teachers are fascinated by the process of learning. If you have slow children, don’t believe that they re dumb and will never be able to learn. Instead, focus on what they don’t understand and what kind of learning strategies you can teach them. It is good to believe in the growth of talent and intellect.
6. As coach, try to focus on building strategies that promote learning in your athletes. If you put too much focus on your reputation and record and become to intolerant of mistakes, you are more likely to hold back your athletes. Also, refrain from motivating your athletes through judgments, evaluations, and giving them messages of fixed mindset. Encourage your athletes to give you full commitment and full effort versus asking for perfect game which is free of mistakes. Instead of judging them, give them respect and the coaching they need to develop their skills and talents.
7. How do you cope with rejection? Do you blame, feel stressed out and get angry with the person? Get in touch with all your feelings. With the growth mindset, you will be able to forgive, learn, and move on. See what you learned from the experience, focus on the positive elements of the situation and try to apply your lesson in other relationships. Try to let go of the bitterness.
8. In all relationships, there will be disagreements and incompatibilities. If you have a fixed mindset, chances are you will not be able to tolerate disagreements etc. However, when problems arise, try to see from a growth mindset. Problems can be means for developing greater understanding and intimacy in your relationships. Allow your partner to express his or her views, listen carefully, and discuss them patiently with love and care. You will be able to develop a better bond and intimacy.
9.Refrain from an attitude of blaming others. Blame puts the other person on defensive. Explore into the dynamics of why you want to blame others, and what need of yours does it meet? Move beyond thinking about fault and blame and take responsibilities for the outcomes. If you focus too much on fault finding, then you will never pay attention to your shortcomings and improve.
10. It is important to have a growth mindset if you are a shy person, try to think how social skills are things you can improve upon. Try to understand that social interactions are for fun and enjoyment, not judgment. The more you practice this mind set, the more confident you will become and stop worrying about messing up in a social situation.
11. Seek constructive criticism to grow. Picture your brain forming new connections as you face challenges of life and learn from experience. Be persistent versus giving up when you feel tempted to drop out from facing the challenges of life by adopting the growth mindset. Use your setbacks as a basis for growth.
12. It is good to apply these principles at your work place also. Do you feel people are judging you or are they helping you develop? Think about those ways you could be less defensive about your mistakes and focus on the strategies that will help you learn. If you are a boss at work, think about how you treat your employees. Do you give them a chance to grow or do you feel threatened by them? See if you can do team building and elicit collaborative efforts from your employees. Try these strategies and think of yourself as a growth mindset boss.
In summary, it is always good to have a growth mindset. As parents, coaches, bosses, and teachers, make your mission to develop people’s potential by encouraging them to believe in growth mindset versus fixed mindset.
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Reference: Mindset; The New psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.