A How-To For Your Mind

Learning to attain our potential. Mindset. This article is a how-to for our minds instead of software or gadgets. It’s about the fixed mindset vs. getting to a growth mindset. Oh yes, I read a book!

I came across this in Mindset, by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. published in 2006. I discovered it when I read Michael Hyatt’s list of 10 top business books he read in 2016 and recommended to his readers. I like this list because he gives a short synopsis of each book and the why behind the reason he chose it.woman with coffee cup

One of my goals (and I put it in writing—a first for me), is to read at least 25 books this year – they can be business or for pleasure. In the past, there was hardly a time I wasn’t reading a book, but my reading has really dropped off – thus this goal! Sometime I will write about in my blog. When reading books to improve myself, it’s helpful to stop and make notes of important passages and thoughts.

Here are some of my thoughts from the book in the hope that you will want to learn more about

Focus on Students/Children, Athletes/Coaches and Business/Personal

To me, Dweck went deep in these three areas. If you read the book, you’ll have multiple stories that illustrate the points she’s making. With all the real-life situations in the book, it was pretty easy to find a story I could relate to and think about to improve my own situation.

Example – creativity as it relates to being able to draw. If you’re like me, you think you don’t have a creative bone in your body and certainly no artistic abilities. I haven’t had art since grade school when I learned to draw faces, dogs and horses.

However, Dweck had an illustration (below), of several people who drew a before and after picture of the same subject. Amazing, isn’t it? These people took a 5-day course called “Drawing on The Right Side of the Brain”, by Betty Edwards, (available on-line), and wa-la, look at their improvements!

drawings before and after - from Mindset by Carol Dweck

Looking at the examples in the book and on-line made me realize that I just need to have training in this area if I want to become someone who can draw.

Before – a fixed mindset that I’m not a creative, so why try?

After – a growth mindset that I would need training, instruction and practice, but I can achieve those skills.

Now, becoming an artist isn’t one of my goals, but I do aspire to be more creative in my business and personal life. To do this, I can read or take classes in areas where I’d like to improve. (See my article on getting Lynda.com for free with your library card).

“Failure is not a sign of stupidity, but a lack of experience and skill”

Our Children and the Growth Mindset

This part was amazing in that I learned the words we use to praise our (or other) children are so important.

How many of us use these phrases:

  • you sing so well, what a great, natural talent!
  • you really aced that test, wow, you’re really smart!

In her research, Dweck said over 80% of parents thought it was necessary to praise ability and accomplishments to foster more confidence and achievement. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The Danger of Praise and Positive Words

school age childHere’s something she and other researchers discovered – when we heap praise like this on our kids and students, they can feel pressure to maintain these high standards or they won’t be valued or praised anymore.

So many tests were conducted to substantiate these findings. She mentions one in the book where they divided a group of students in half and  gave each group the same 10 questions. All of them did pretty well in answering them.

First Group – they praised this group of students by saying, “Wow, you got (say) 8 right. That’s a really good score. You must be smart at this.”

Second Group – they praised this group by saying, “Wow, you got (say) 8 right. That’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard.” They were praised for their effort and not made to feel they had a special gift.

But that wasn’t the end. When they wanted to give this group more challenging work, the first group rejected it because they thought it would expose them to potential failure or they would be thought of as not gifted and special.

Of the growth-praised group, 90% of them wanted more challenges and the opportunity to learn.

“Praise the effort not the ability”

There are many examples in the book of students who feel the need to cheat to retain the smart or brilliant labels placed on them. There’s a lot about students who pulled themselves out of the mindset that they were stupid when they realized that they were in control of their learning and they might have to work harder than others, but they could learn and be successful.

Have you ever heard this information? I was skeptical, but am pretty much convinced after reading example after documented example of students and how they dealt with either the pressures of being ‘brilliant’, or the excitement of learning and being challenged.

It’s certainly something I’m going to try to remember when I’m around children. My daughter is grown and married and I wonder how things might have been different if I had this knowledge then.

If you have school-aged children, get this book from the library and at least read the student parts of it.

Business and Personal Relationships and the Fixed vs. Growth Mindsetpeople who work together

Here are some sound-bite take-aways from this section:

Fixed mindset people assign blame to a trait and a character flaw.
The growth mindset sees the flaws and still think they have a fine relationship.

There are no great relationships without conflicts and problems along the way.

Beliefs are the key to happiness (or misery).

Accomplishing a Growth Mindset

Dweck does have a website at http://mindsetonline.com where you can read about the different mindsets, read examples from the book, test your own mindset and more.

She lists four steps on her website to get yourself started…

1.  Learn to hear your fixed mindset “voice.”

2.  Recognize that you have a choice.

3.  Talk back to it with a growth mindset voice.

4.  Take the growth mindset action.

Dweck said it’s, “about changing the internal monologue from a judging one to a growth-oriented one”. The growth mindset doesn’t judge.

The fixed mindset believes you either have talent or you don’t and you shouldn’t have to work for it.

The growth mindset believes that abilities can be attained through hard work and being dedicated to practice and learning.

Maintaining the Growth Mindset

She points out that this isn’t “once and done”. You need to learn to keep seeing things the new way. It’s kind of like after you’ve lost the weight you wanted to, if you go back to your old habits, you’ll regain the weight and probably more.

So, make a vivid, concrete plan of when you will do something and how you will do it. Visualize the time of day and where you’ll be when you will do that task.

“Make the plan, do the plan, change the plan when necessary.”

Near the end of the book, she has a quote from baseball great, Alex Rodriguez who said, “you either go one way or the other”. We can decide which direction.

happy couple on the beach

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