Carol S. Dweck of Stanford University has identified mindset as a determining factor in success in her studies of motivation. Specifically, she has identified that a growth mindset leads to success as opposed to a fixed mindset that often leads to wasted potential. A fixed mindset believes that talent and intelligence are fixed traits within a person that lead to success or failure, while a growth mindset attributes success to hard work and effort. You can imagine that failure or difficulties really challenge a person with a fixed mindset, especially if they see themselves as needing to be perfect. One in that instance is always looking for evidence (or absence of evidence) of the existence of positive traits and failure really creates a situation that is worst case scenario. However, if one is focused on growth and efforts as key, one might have more curiosity and creativity to offer to a situation and less hopelessness and helplessness.
This is important news for parents in terms of the praise we offer our children. Research is mounting that praising children as “smart” does not lead to success in school. It actually can lead to a lack of effort being applied when learning and work is challenging. When challenges come, even very intelligent children with a fixed mindset will avoid or not make efforts because they believe if they are smart, then they should know the information already or the work should come easy. Children that have been praised for efforts, on the other hand, tend to stick with challenging work because this work does not test their view of themselves as smart. It simply means they are having to make efforts in order to learn and succeed and that is okay. It does not say anything negative about their abilities. Check out this video that illustrates the concept with children: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWv1VdDeoRY.
We can see this same dynamic play out in our view on romantic love. I recently posted about the Unity versus the Journey view of love and how that determines whether we judge our relationships as positive or negative: https://ca4wellbeing.com/imagorelationshiptherapy/. I see this as a congruent finding that builds on the idea that, if we are to be successful in life and in relationships, we need a perspective that allows for growth and learning. A less fixed mindset allows for the possibility that challenges, problems, and failures are part of the path and do not signal doom or something inherently flawed in the person or the relationship. Challenges are a given and curiosity, creativity, open-mindedness as well as effort are required to navigate academics, career choices, or love relationships in a way that feels positive and is sustainable for the long haul. If you are interested in exploring your mindset and how it affects your parenting, relationships or how you see your world, give me a call at 706-425-8900 or email me at [email protected].