Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, Ph.D.
12/18/2014 Published by: Amy Soupene
I just finished reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. Wow! I love this book! I came across it as part of the materials in a S.P.A.R.C. class by the MCEC®. What’s a S.P.A.R.C. class you ask? The full class title is: Helping Military Children Discover Their S.P.A.R.C.: Strength, Potential, Aspirations, Resourcefulness, Confidence ™.
Military students move ….. a lot. On average, they move 6-9 times in their K-12 career. Helping them find their “S.P.A.R.C.” is imperative to helping them thrive amidst difficult times. Mindset is a great resource for teaching our kids how to do that. And while it is so helpful for military families, I truly believe it holds valuable information for anyone, military or civilian. My family is no longer an active duty family and my kids most likely will not be moving again for a very long time. However, my children are still going to face challenging times in their lives and I believe it is my job as their mom to help them meet these challenges confidently and navigate them successfully.
In her book, Dweck compares two very different Mindsets; the Fixed Mindset and the Growth Mindset. I was fascinated to read how vastly these two mindset differ. Facing a challenge, those with a fixed mindset will be nervous and might not even try because success means you must be perfect…..immediately. Anything less is seen as a failure. On the flip side, those with a growth mindset find the challenge enticing and see success as the process of learning – setbacks included.
I was saddened to see how entrenched I am in the fixed mindset, while at the same time so excited to see the possibility for change before me. Adopting a growth mindset gives freedom to grow and transform. You don’t have to be the same old person with the same old short-comings forever. You’re perception can switch from “I am not…” to “I can learn to…”. Suddenly your perception is altered from one of failure to one that is infused with power.
For example, let’s take something as simple as a social gathering where you know very few people. This tends to make most of us uncomfortable. The fixed mindset will look around the room, talk to only those who are familiar and then proceed to spend the rest of the evening quietly sitting on the sidelines feeling like a failure. The growth-minded person will recognize the discomfort and then search for strategies to learn to be a better conversationalist. The growth mindset understands and accepts that gaining proficiency takes practice and that sometimes there will be setbacks. This is how growth and progress is achieved.
Another example from right here in my own house is math. Math was always hard for me, so Fixed Mindset Me just thought, “I am not good at math. I don’t get it. I’ll just get the best grade I can and move on.” My poor son, he inherited my math challenges. But instead of giving up, he chose to take a math class where the teacher moves slower, explaining the how’s and why’s of the process. It took guts for my son to admit he needed a slower math class. And the pay-off? He is now getting an A in math not a C- and he understands what he’s doing. His teacher is the best. When I went to conferences I understood immediately why she was having such a positive impact. Written across her blackboard in large letters was this phrase, “ANYONE can be a math person.” She told me math was difficult for her when she was growing up but this is the class she teaches so she had to re-learn it and figure out how to teach math to students who also find it difficult. Her encouragement and growth mindset has spread to the students and it’s powerful.
Taking this very simple example and applying to our children and their many situations gives hope to not just survive but to thrive. We can teach them to see challenges and failures as opportunities to learn. We can be patient with them as they practice and learn a new skill. We can model a growth mindset in our own lives so our children can learn by example. And most importantly, we can cheer them on when we see them working hard.
That leads to praising our kids. This was another eye-opener! Obviously, we should praise our kids and let them know how proud we are of them. Let’s go back to my son in math class. It would be easy now to praise him for being so smart and getting an A on his report card. But what does that tell him? If I’m proud of his A and he’s smart when he gets an A what happens if he gets a B or a C? Am I not proud of him? Is he no longer smart? This can really set kids up for a fixed mindset that tells them they are either successful or a failure with no chance of changing.
Naturally, I’m happy to see the better grade. But I’m more impressed with his persistence. He worked hard and that is what I praise; his effort not the outcome. I would still be just as proud of him if he worked hard and earned a C because sometimes that happens. I encourage him to keep working hard and not give up. Life is long and we should never stop learning.
Teaching our children a growth mindset gives them wings. They are no longer imprisoned by a fixed mindset that pigeon-holes them into being either a success or a failure. They can see opportunities before them and have the courage to learn new things and enjoy a full life.
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