The Growth Mindset

What are the benefits of having a growth mindset?

To conclude my last post on passion and perseverance, I mentioned that it is better to have a growth mindset than a fixed mindset in order to achieve long-term goals. While I am still convinced that this is true, I would now like to discuss the general benefits of having this growth mindset outside of achieving long-term goals.

For starters, credit should be given where credit is due. Carol Dweck is a pioneering figure in research regarding the growth mindset. Essentially, her argument is that people with a growth mindset are more likely to flourish than those with a fixed mindset. She states that those with a growth mindset believe their abilities are capable of developing over time, while those with a fixed mindset believe their abilities are fixed and unchangeable. (Dweck 2006). Therefore, those with the growth mindset are more likely to see failures and difficulties as learning experiences, while those with fixed mindsets are more likely to see the same experiences as indicators of their traits or abilities. One implication of this finding is that it is better to praise a child’s effort during a task rather than praise their overall ability as if they are fixed traits within the person (Kamins & Dweck 1999). For example, it is better to praise a child’s perceived intelligence by saying something like “you worked through this problem really well!” instead of something like “you got this problem right. Wow, you must be really smart!”

There is even evidence at the neural level of individuals with these different mindsets handling mistakes differently based on their ideas of intelligence and ability. Those with growth mindsets process errors and learn from their experiences much more than those with a fixed mindset, as shown by measures of brain activity during these trials (Moser, Schroder, Heeter, Lee, & Moran 2011). To summarize, there is support for the benefits of the growth mindset both psychologically and biologically. Those with growth mindsets process and learn from their mistakes, while those with fixed mindsets are more likely to run away from these challenges due to perceiving them as threats to their self-esteem (Nussbaum and Dweck 2008).

After consideration of this evidence, one would reasonably conclude that it is preferable to see failures as learning experiences rather than attacks towards one’s abilities. So to wrap up with this post, I would like you to think of situations in your own life where this is applicable. Are you giving a genuine effort towards a goal and still experiencing failures along the way? If so, then having a growth mindset will help frame those failures as learning experiences to get you closer to your overall goal. This strongly contrasts with seeing those failures as indications of you simply not being cut out for something. Essentially, it is the effort that matters, and not solely if you are experiencing setbacks along the way. So definitely evaluate whether your effort towards a goal should be addressed or not. If you indeed are giving a great effort, then try to realize the benefits of having a growth mindset when you experience inevitable trials during the pursuit of a goal. Thank you so much for reading, and I hope that this week will be filled with meaningful learning experiences for you!

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