On Mindset and Learning
In this article, you will learn about the fixed and growth mindsets. These are two basic mindsets that determine how we approach learning. You will also learn how mistakes might help us learn better and faster.
Are talents, gifts and intelligence given to just a few?
We often think that intelligence is something that is fixed. You’re either born intelligent or you’re not. Some of us see exceptional and outstanding people from different fields and we call them “talented” or “gifted”. Could it be that we all are “talented” and “gifted” (if we are to use those words), but only a few live up to their potential?
Well, most people are held back not by their innate ability, or inborn ability, but by their mindset. In fact, intelligence is not fixed and your brain is like a muscle which grows through use and struggle.
It is very crucial to understand how belief systems about our own abilities and potential fuel our behaviour and predict our success. According to Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, one of the most basic beliefs we carry about ourselves is associated with how we view what we consider to be our personality.
Two Basic Mindsets And How They Shape Our Lives
Carol Dweck is popular for her remarkably insightful book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” where she explores the power of our beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, and how changing even the simplest of them can have profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives.
Growth vs Fixed Mindsets
According to her work, there are two basic mindsets that shape how we view success and failure in our lives; the “fixed mindset” and the “growth mindset”.
A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and that success is proof of that inborn intelligence — a way to access how our gifts match up to some illusive fixed standard. For the fixed mindset, striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.
A “growth mindset”, on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of not being intelligent but as a springboard for growth and stretching one’s current abilities.
When we learn anything new such as a new skill, we’re changing how our brain is wired on a deep level as we’ve seen in a previous article. We become better with practice and effort because we are aided not only by memories of how to perform the tasks but also memories of the errors and mistakes we’ve made along the line.
We’ve heard the expression practice makes perfect more than a million times but we still take for granted the importance of challenging ourselves and putting in consistent effort even in the midst of failure.
The mindset you adopt or tend towards determines what you strive for and what you see as success. It changes how you see failure and how you define and value effort.
Do you want to know why only a few learn faster, better and eventually live up to their potential? Then read the following words of an interesting seventh-grade girl below:
“I think intelligence is something you have to work for. It isn’t just given to you. Most kids, if they’re not sure of an answer, will not raise their hand to answer the question. But what I usually do is raise my hand, because if I’m wrong, then my mistake will be corrected. Or I will raise my hand and say, ‘How would this be solved?’ or ‘I don’t get this. Can you help me?’ Just by doing that I’m increasing my intelligence.”
Interestingly, when this girl eventually attains an exceptional height in the future, there’d still be those who’ll say “Oh! How lucky she must be!” or “How bright and gifted she must be!”
Many of us must have come to the realization that life is fleeting and not too many people get to live above 90 years. So, there’s really no time to waste proving over and over how great we are, trying really hard to hide our weaknesses and scouting only for friends who will always hold up our self-esteem for us.
You can get much better at anything by seeking experiences and challenges that will stretch you. You can overcome your deficiencies by putting in effort and seeking environments and situations that will challenge you to grow. That’s the growth mindset and that’s what you need to become a great learner.