Mindset, part 1

Since the 2006 release of the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success-How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential” by Carol Dweck, the term ‘mindset’ has become a popular buzzword in the education world, and with good reason.  The research on achievement and success by Dweck and others has shown that our intelligence, and other human traits, are not all fixed.  One key to developing those qualities is our mindset.  Carol Dweck shares the two basic mindsets, fixed and growth, in her book and on her website, www.mindsetonline.com.  

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence and talent, are simply fixed traits.  A student is demonstrating a fixed mindset when they say things like:

  • “I’m just not good at math.”  
  • “I’m never going to make the cheerleading team, so I’m not going to bother trying.”
  • “I’ll never be as good at Science as Susie.”  

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work-brains and talent are just the starting point.  Some phrases that exhibit the growth mindset are:

  • “I made a mistake this time, but I am not giving up.”
  • “I can’t do this…yet.”
  • “I am going to watch what she is doing and try it.”

It seems obvious that we would want our children and students to have a growth mindset.  The belief that one can learn and achieve is essential to helping them reach their potential.  To help them develop growth mindset, we examine our own mindsets.  Do we believe that all our children and students can achieve?  Do we let them know that?  Do we use language that promotes that idea?  The example we set makes a difference.

As Christians, we find our perfect examples of the growth mindset in Scripture.  David was just a shepherd boy, but God chose him.  He empowered David to defeat Goliath, something that seemed impossible.  David exhibited a growth mindset when he said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”  Perhaps the clearest example of growth mindset in Scripture is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all thing through Him who strengthens me.”  Oh, that this would be a verse that is etched on the hearts us all!

Next time, we will look at Dr. David Yeager’s research into effective ways to model and promote the growth mindset.