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Mindsets (Dweck) are two different ways people view intelligence and ability. A fixed mindset is the belief that intelligence and abilities are static and unchanging: you are who you are; you are smart or or not so smart. You have certain abilities or you don’t. A growth mindset is the belief that intelligence and abilities can develop and grow. Our current abilities are simply a starting point.
Mindset underlies what we see as motivation or lack of it. It lies beneath what we observe as tenacity and grit in the face of challenges rather than a tendency to give up. It is that part of us that says, “I can’t do this…yet, but I think I can figure it out,” rather than, “I’m no good at this.”
Researcher Carol Dweck and her colleagues at Stanford University discovered this concept when they were studying children’s reactions to failure. They were surprised to find that many children who were unable to solve the problems they encountered didn’t view these experiences as failures at all: rather, they viewed them as opportunities to embrace challenge and figure things out. Their research led them to posit that there are two basic mindsets: a growth mindset, and a fixed mindset.
The way we understand our intelligence and abilities deeply impacts our success. Based on social science research and real life examples, Eduardo Briceño articulates how mindset, or the understanding of intelligence and abilities, is key. When students or adults see their abilities as fixed, whether they think they’re naturals or just not built for a certain domain, they avoid challenge and lose interest when things get hard.
Growth Mindset Swimmer
This young man joined his high school swim team…but he didn’t know how to swim! His belief that he could develop his abilities with time and effort allowed him to become a competitor.
Girl’s First Ski Jump
A fourth-grade girl overcomes her fears to make her first ski jump. We all have the capacity to learn from our own experiences.
Barbara Arrowsmith-Young is the Creator and Director of Arrowsmith School and Arrowsmith Program, and the author of the international best-selling book The Woman Who Changed Her Brain. She is recognized as the creator of one of the first practical applications of the principles of neuroplasticity to the treatment of learning disorders.
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