Two mindsets that shape the course of our lives
The purpose of this paper is to elaborate how mindset can shape the course of our lives, either prevent us from fulfilling our potential (fixed mindset) or allow us to reach higher levels of achievement (growth mindset).
These two basic mindsets, the fixed mindset and the growth mindset, are the foundation of how high one can achieve in life.
People with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence and creativity are fixed traits they have inherent and cannot be changed. They measure and affirm their intelligence with their success and see failure as an obstacle that determine their capabilities. As a result, fixed mindset avoid challenges, tend to give up easily and consider effort ineffective. They react defensively to negative feedback, ignore constructive criticism and feel threatened by the success of others.
People with a growth mindset believe in their ability to enhance substantially their intelligence, even their personal qualities. They are not discouraged by their failures but see them as a challenge to develop their intellectual skills and as a learning “tool” to become smarter.
As a result, growth mindset embrace challenges, persist obstacles and value efforts. They are receptive to criticism and are inspired by the success of others.
These characteristics determine the level of each mindset’s achievement. Fixed mindset don’t reach their full potential while growth mindset reach greater levels of achievement.
Dr Dweck (2006) writes “A belief that your qualities are carved in stone leads to a host of thoughts and actions, and… a belief that your qualities can be cultivated leads to a host of different thoughts and actions, taking you down an entirely different road.”
I was offered a new job that will completely take me out of my comfort zone as it resides on the art of convincing and negotiating. These characteristics are one of my weaknesses. Thus I was frightened by the idea to embark on this new challenge due to the risk of failure. But I saw this challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow both professionally and socially. My first experience in presenting my idea was a failure as I couldn’t deliver the message properly nor had I the eloquence of speaking publically. So I started observing others, watching educational videos and practicing as I was inspired by others’ determination. After all, I was taught that the brain has the ability to evolve throughout learning and practicing. I cultivated a sense of purpose and kept the end goal in mind. The positive thinking and constructive criticism from my superiors brought me some kind of motivation to improve and reach my goal.
Robert Sternberg, a modern intelligence guru, explains that ‘the major factor in whether people achieve expertise, “is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement.”
People tend to develop self-worth. This affects their choices of tasks, the diversity and the level of difficulty of the tasks. In fact, students’ perspectives on the implicit theories of intelligence are an important factor influencing their motivation, their academic resilience, the goals they set to themselves, their dedication and the effort they put to achieve their goals.
In a study to The School of Education in Massachusetts (2014), Elizabeth Claire examines ninth grade students’ beliefs about their intelligence and how it affects their overall achievement. She concluded that “there is a strong correlation between students’ implicit theory of intelligence and their success in high school, persistence in the face of challenges, their self-efficacy beliefs and their perceptions of being successful.”
The group that was taught the fixed mindset achieved lower grades that may not reflect their full potential and had tendency to give up fast. They believe they fail a task because they are not smart enough.
The group that was taught the growth mindset achieved higher grades, worked harder and were eager to learn new things. They believe if they fail a task, it is because of their insufficient effort or improper strategy.
When students are taught that personal capabilities cannot be developed, any failure can be perceived as a setback or a sign of unintelligence. This generates pessimism and negativity that prohibit them from improving.
When taught that the brain is malleable and can grow smarter by forming new connections, any failure is seen as a challenge that needs harder work and better strategy to be achieved.
This is applicable to everything in life. If you don’t “buy the idea” or believe it can be done, you will never try to push yourself to execute it. And this belief comes from both familial and educational environments.
Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper for “lacking imagination” and “having no original ideas” and became a pioneer of the animation and entertainment industry.
Even though it is easier to help implement and develop growth mindset at younger age, changing someone’s mindset can occur at any age for both genders, male or female by teaching at home and in school (at older ages from colleagues and friends as well) that the brain is dynamic, plastic and can be developed, to value effort and praise constructive criticism.
The latter was shown in women’s math test performance. The more they acquire growth mindset, the more they derived from the stereotype theories that only men excel in math and science and the more they were focused on effort, engaged in learning and committed to performing well.
I had the chance to work with a team of five engineers in one of my previous companies. One was intimidated by our superior and this resulted in a lack of self-confidence. The other three members of the team and I interfered and helped boost his self-worth and acknowledged his capabilities. It had allowed our colleague to put extra effort to his tasks and to deliver them accurately on time.
Blinet recognized, “it’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.”
Achievement is a result of hard-work, belief and determination
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