The 'Growth Mindset' Will Change Your Life

By Vicki • January 14, 2015

There is one thing that can be easily learned in five minutes (literally the time you spend reading this answer) that can have a profound impact on your life, and the lives of your children or students. It's called the "Growth Mindset" and it's simple, powerful, and backed by a vast body of scientific research.

In a series of experiments, Stanford researcher, Carol Dweck, divided students into two groups and gave them relatively easy math tests. After the students did well on the tests, half of the them were praised for being naturally clever or gifted, and half were praised for working hard.

After those conversations, they were given harder math tests. The ones who were praised for working hard performed dramatically better on the more difficult exams.

Students who are praised for effort quickly adopt what Dweck calls a "growth mindset." When they face more difficult problems they think "hard work got me this far, so I just need to work a bit harder and I will figure out these questions too."

Students who are praised for being clever adopt a destructive internal narrative. They think "Perhaps I’m not that clever after all, since I can't figure out these harder questions." So they quickly give up. Or worse, they see the hard questions as a threat to their self-esteem, and develop the dangerous habit of avoiding any situation where they might be wrong. (e.g. Any situation where they might learn something new!)

So what can you do? If you're a parent or teacher, praise effort rather than innate ability. And for yourself – ascribe your own success to effort and tenacity rather than innate ability. Really believe that your successes are a result of your efforts rather than purely some innate gift. It's really is that simple!

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