Did you know that there is a critical mindset that’s proven to make you more successful? I’ll tell you exactly what it is today and how to develop this mindset.
This critical mindset was discovered by Carol Dweck of Stanford Univeristy. She found that how you think about abilities like intelligence—whether they can be developed or are fixed can influence how successful you are for the rest of your life.
She calls the belief that abilities are fixed the fixed mindset and the belief that abilities can be developed with effort and learning new strategies that growth mindset.
In one of many studies that show this effect, two groups of seventh graders were divided into two groups to see whether teaching about the growth mindset would make a difference to their grades.
Both groups were given eight weeks of instruction. One group was taught study skills in a workshop format. Another group was taught through citing scientific studies that the brain is like a muscle and that it’s connections grow and develop as we learn. As a result, they came to believe that their intelligence could be developed.
Their grades in math – one of the most challenging subjects for middle-schoolers – were measured before the workshop and weeks later. Only the students taught that intelligence can improve with effort had better grades. The other students experienced a decline in math grades (something that is very common with middle-school students).
The teachers of both groups of students knew they were in a special program but didn’t know exactly what they were being taught. However, they started sending in reports about changes they noticed in some students. Here are just a few quotes from the teachers of the growth mindset students.
Jimmy, who never puts in any extra effort and often doesn’t turn in homework on time, actually stayed up late working for hours to finish an assignment early so i could review it and give him a chance to revise it. He earned a B+ on the assignment (he had been getting C’s and lower).
M. was far below grade level. During the past several weeks, she has voluntarily asked for extra help from me during her lunch period in order to improve her test-taking performance. Her grades drastically improved from failing to an 84 on the most recent exam.
A Way To Develop The Growth Mindset
So how can you change your mindset (if you need to)?
Unfortunately, when you’re an adult merely learning that the brain can grow and change may not be enough to get rid of years of believing that abilities are fixed. However, there are some strategies from another intervention using self-persuasion theory that may be helpful.
Try answering these questions and sharing your answers with others in written or verbal form.
1. What are at least three reasons why it is important to realize that people can develop their abilities? Include implications for yourself, your family, friends and co-workers.
2. What is an area in which you once had low ability, but now perform quite well? How were you able to make this change?
3. Write an email to an imaginary person who is struggling in life with advice to help them improve, include anecdotes about how you have personally dealt with developmental challenges.
4. Identify three instances in which (a) you observed someone learning to do something they were convinced they could NEVER do, (b) why do you think this occurred? And (c) what may have been the implications.
Each of these questions is based on different psychological theories about how people change their beliefs. To go into the four different theories to explain why these questions are so useful would make this post too long.
However, if you try them, you will experience a shift in your mindset especially if you share your responses with others.
What do you think about the growth mindset? Leave me your comments below.
Reference to study above:
Blackwell, L., Trzesniewski, K., and Dweck, C.S. 2007. Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Achievement Across an Adolescent Transition: A Longitudinal Study and an Intervention. Child Development 78 (1): 246-263.
Dweck’s book that describes the life-changing results of developing the growth mindset in more detail than I ever could on this blog.
Dweck CS 2006. Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.