november 2016 | Kellerman
Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
When you fail, what goes through your mind? Do you feel you have let yourself down because you lack an innate ability to cope with everything that is put before you? Or do you realise that you cannot know everything and that even as an adult you can still learn things? Based on your answers, you should already be able to easily distinguish if you have a predetermined way of thinking or a mindset that is open to development and growth. This is an important question for anyone who wants to understand how they learn or how they allow themselves to be taught.
I know plenty of people who basically refuse to learn new things. They either don’t want to, or find it difficult to absorb new knowledge. They give the impression of already knowing everything they need to know, and it is enough to last the rest of their lives. Full stop. This is a static mindset that means these people do not want to develop.
Fortunately, I also know a lot of people who are aware that all challenges can be met by learning new things and that this process continues throughout our lives. These people solve problems by learning something new, form a better understanding of their surroundings and find new sources of learning. They also realise that sometimes it is necessary simply to think the opposite of yesterday because new times require new skills. This is what the research calls a growth mindset, meaning we are always challenged to progress, develop and grow – hence the name.
This knowledge comes from psychologist, scientist and author, Carol Dweck, of Stanford University, who, in her research, discusses the difference between a fixed and growth mindset.
“In a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look clever all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset, students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”
Carol Dweck’s research focuses on education and how the brains of pupils can be formed over time. In the research it is clear that the growth mindset approach is preferable when it comes to teaching pupils. Her research shows that if you learn this approach, you will keep using it in adulthood.
Is it possible for adults to change from a static to a more growth-based attitude? Yes, it must be possible. If you want to change, want to learn new things, want to push the limits and have a fundamentally positive attitude towards the brain developing throughout your life, then it should work, shouldn’t it?
So with this said, why not use this column as an opportunity to reflect on how you think and learn? Do you have the attitude that you constantly want to learn new things? Or are you content with the knowledge you already have?