We all want to see our students and our children grow into happy, balanced and successful adults but exactly what that means and how it is to be achieved are areas of uncertainty. Into this debate comes Carol Dweck’s research into ‘Mindsets’ and how individual differences in our approach to the world dictate our ultimate experiences of success or disappointment. Through Carol’s research the reader is provided with an insight as to why some people seem to cope with the trials of life while others in the same situation fail to reach their full potential. Carol tells us it is all about an individuals ‘Mindset’ and in a refreshing shift away from complex theories, with multiple dimensions and layers, presents a model with two possibilities.
According to Dweck an individual in a particular situation across all aspects of their lives can adopt a Growth Mindset or a Fixed Mindset with very different outcomes as a result. In a Growth Mindset the individual is open to the idea that their ability to succeed in any situation can change as a result of actions within their control. An individual with a Growth Mindset will believe that they can learn new skills, expand their abilities, improve their results, understand new perspectives and adapt to changing circumstances. The Growth Mindset is a very positive outlook and the key to success of the individuals described by Carol in her writing. The Fixed Mindset assumes that ability is fixed and unalterable, a result of factors outside of the individuals control. In the Fixed Mindset success occurs because an individual has talent or innate ability, failure is due to a lack of the same and as such negative results are taken as a personal attack that in many cases it warranted as the evidence points to a lack of ability. The alternative to taking failure personally in the Fixed Mindset is to find excuses and external factors that biased the result against the individuals still fixed ability.
The most compelling aspect of Carol’s research is her assertion that an individuals Mindset can be changed, that a Fixed Mindset person can develop a Growth Mindset. Beyond asserting this Carol shows how this can be achieved and how individuals are already moving between the two. By understanding the two Mindsets and looking for signs of each the individual can learn to shift their thinking from on to the other. For teachers and parents Carol’s research also shows how outsiders can influence an individual’s Mindset through the nature of the interactions they have. Understanding the influence that subtle factors linked to praise and feedback can alter the outcomes achieved and it is in this that the power of Mindsets for schools and households with young learners is revealed.
Anyone with an interest in understanding the role Mindsets play in allowing individuals to achieve a positive approach to life, success, failure and personal growth needs to read Carol’s books. You will find in them tools to identify your Mindset, analyse the thinking that results from it and take action to shift towards a Growth Mindset or avoid a slide towards a Fixed Mindset. Applicable to all aspects of life and relevant to anyone who shares their time with a Fixed Mindset individual, Carol’s writing is definitely worth reading.
Highly recommended readings:
Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential by Dr Carol S Dweck
Mindset: The new psychology of success by Dr Carol Dweck
This site includes information and 'Mindset Tests'