Feel Like You’re Going Out of Your Mind? Consider Your Mind-Set

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As far as criticisms of her work, Professor Dweck said it had spurred her to do more and deeper research on mind-sets. But she also acknowledges things change when theory becomes practice.

For example, she and other researchers didn’t anticipate the many nuances that could be lost when practiced in the classroom.

For example, one major part of developing a growth mind-set is focusing on effort, rather than results. But in the classroom, too often that translated into a teacher simply praising a student’s efforts without offering new approaches to solve the problem or overcome the obstacles.

“’Just try hard,’ they would say to the students,” Professor Dweck said. “Well, OK, effort is one of the ways you can develop your abilities, but there are also strategies and support from others. An exhortation to try harder, especially in a culture that believes if you had ability you wouldn’t have to try hard will not be effective.”

Ultimately, effort is “supposed to foster learning,” she said. “It’s not just a consolation prize.”

And then there was the problem that the notion of a fixed mind-set had become so negative that teachers and students were ashamed to admit they had them.

“So, they professed a growth mind-set even when they didn’t fully understand or believe it,” Professor Dweck said.

So, what how should we try to develop a growth mind-set?

  • Beware of assuming that because something doesn’t come easily, you won’t ever be good at it and then quit. Focus on the process — what you’re learning — rather than the final product.

  • Just trying the same thing over and over isn’t enough. When you run up against a brick wall, you have to come up with new strategies, skills and input from others to figure out the right approach.

  • Be aware of what triggers you from a growth to a fixed mind-set — when you feel vulnerable? Anxious? Stressed? When those emotions surface, don’t get annoyed with yourself; just try to bring yourself back to a growth mind-set.

The next big challenge in mind-set research is understanding when and under what circumstances growth mind-set works and how to create skills and opportunities to sustain it. “We call it the next Mount Everest,” Professor Dweck said.

This article, the one you are reading, proved to be a mini-Mount Everest for me. Somehow I couldn’t get it right. My editor offered some helpful comments, but a second try also fell flat. My first thought was “Oh forget it — this just won’t work.” The second thought was an internal wry smile and an acknowledgment that I wasn’t demonstrating much of a growth mind-set. Back to the computer.

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