I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
- Thomas A. Edison, American inventor
Some people are born intelligent, right? Some people are born less intelligent. And you cannot change that. Wrong. Wrong. And wrong again.
Psychologist Carol Dweck is a professor at Stanford University in California, USA, and the author of Growth Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Over 30 years ago, Dr. Dweck became interested in students' attitudes about failure. She noticed that some students were resilient while other students were devastated by even tiny failures. After studying the behavior of thousands of children, Dr. Dweck invented the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” to describe people’s beliefs about learning, intelligence, and effort.
Think of mindset as a continuum from fixed mindset to growth mindset. A person with a fixed mindset believes that intelligence is innate and unchangeable. These people give up in the face of obstacles and are reluctant to take creative risks. They generally chose easier tasks and put in minimal effort because they believe there is no reason to try since success is determined by intelligence. Effort makes no difference. On the other hand, people with a growth mindset believe abilities can be improved through practice and effort. Failure is a chance to learn, to become better. These people enjoy challenges and hard work because they know they have a chance to become better.
A mistake that teachers and parents sometimes make is praising children’s intelligence. Once children believe that their success is based on intelligence instead of effort, their level of success actually goes down! They stop trying if something is very difficult.
Adults can motivate a growth mindset by talking to children about how brains are like muscles. The more they use their brain, the stronger it gets. Encourage children to not give up if they are finding something difficult, and challenge them to try something new. Celebrate mistakes! Use them as opportunities to learn and make improvements. It is better to praise the amount of effort children put into something instead of how clever they are.