BY VANSHIKA CHOWDHARY
October 11, 2017
“When people with fixed mindsets err, they’re crushed. Their disappointment at their perceived failure overshadows any possibility of them being able to learn from it; conversely, those with a growth mindset are able to focus on learning from the mistake rather than the fact that it happened. They choose to forgive themselves, but they don’t forget about the mistake.”
It’s that time of year again. Back to school. And with school starting again, we students will soon be bombarded with tests, quizzes, essays, and other assessments all trying to pin us down to a single number.
Amongst all this stress, it’s so easy to get trapped in a quicksand pit of insecurity, making it impossible to learn and grow.
This quicksand pit develops when you have a fixed mindset, or when you believe that intelligence is a fixed quantity. Someone who has a fixed mindset believes that someone who’s smart will remain smart and someone who’s dumb can never become smart.
We’re all guilty of having this mindset occasionally; however, if you want to be successful and happy this semester, it’s important to try to develop a growth mindset.
Someone with a growth mindset believes that people can and will improve if they put in effort. It’s more intrinsically focused and based on your personal belief of how much progress you made and how you grew, even if you didn’t get an A.
Why a Fixed Mindset Hurts You
Often times, people with fixed mindsets are incredibly insecure, leading them to avoid any challenging work to try to preserve their self-esteem (if you don’t try, you can’t fail).
When people with fixed mindsets err, they’re crushed. Their disappointment at their perceived failure overshadows any possibility of them being able to learn from it; conversely, those with a growth mindset are able to focus on learning from the mistake rather than the fact that it happened. They choose to forgive themselves, but they don’t forget about the mistake.
All of this may seem like pseudo-science, psychotherapy hoopla, but there is scientific evidence backing it up.
The picture above shows voltage maps studying the activity of a brain when someone made a mistake from a study in 2006 by Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Harvard University, and her team. The orange color in the map of the growth mindset brain shows greater activity – the brain is focused on analyzing and learning from errors, whereas the fixed mindset brain shows no activity whatsoever.
It’s clear that someone with a growth mindset will learn better and more easily than someone with a fixed mindset.
How to Develop a Growth Mindset
A huge factor affecting your mindset is your environment and teachers. If you have supportive teachers who emphasize progress over perfection, you’re more likely to develop a growth mindset.
However, some of it is DIY.
If you want to develop a growth mindset, you can do the following:
- Learn to forgive yourself. It’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to be disappointed if you make a mistake or get a bad grade. What you shouldn’t do, though, is get so hung up on your mistake that you can’t learn from it.
- Focus on the positives – what progress have you made? If you focus more on improvement than the end result, you’ll be prouder of yourself and have enough motivation to keep working at your goal. For example, if your goal is an A in English, and you’ve gotten C’s and B’s so far, focus less on the fact that you haven’t achieved your goal yet and more on the progress you’ve made toward it so far.
- Seek out challenging experiences. Part of developing a growth mindset is having the courage to try, even if it means failure. It’s having the courage to face up to something that’s difficult, forgive yourself if you fail, but take a risk, knowing that if you succeed, you will grow.
- Finally, understand that you don’t just get a growth mindset, you keep it. A lot of people believe that mindset is permanent. Someone with a growth mindset is awesome and will always have a growth mindset. That’s not true. Many things can cause you to fall into a fixed mindset again – stress, depression, even procrastination. The key is to detect when you are in a fixed mindset and focus on changing your attitude.