Hopefully you’ve decided this is the year that you want to try something different. In my last post, we talked about (1) deciding that you want to make a change, (2) believing you can change, and (3) taking action. I talked about taking charge of the things that we can control instead of being reactive all of the time.
I decided to take control and change my mindset.
“Change your thoughts and you change your world”.
-Norman Vincent Peale
I read a book called “Mindset” by Carol Dweck, Ph.D., a Stanford psychologist who studies achievement and success. I learned that there are ways a parent can encourage growth and resilience in children. Unfortunately (for myself), I identified many ways that I was NOT doing what Dr. Dweck’s research recommended.
First, Dr. Dweck identified two distinct mindsets, the "growth" mindset and the "fixed" mindset.
The fixed mindset is summed up by "believing that your qualities are carved in stone"1 With the fixed mindset, you believe people are born talented and smart, and that they don't have to work at it. You also think this is something that can’t be changed. If you’re in this camp, you believe that failure means you aren't smart or talented, and that effort is only required by those who don't have natural ability. The idea of trying and failing is one’s worst fear. The fixed mindset also values success over growth, and success is measured by the outcome (results) and not the process.
Perhaps this sounds familiar. Your child only wants to participate in the activities he’s good at, and tends to lose interest if something is challenging or unfamiliar. He doesn't want to try something new and fail at it. He’s easily defeated when he doesn’t show immediate aptitude for something.
Do You Have the Growth Mindset?
The growth mindset is believing that your "basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts."2
In the growth mindset, you believe that your intelligence and ability are not fixed, and can be changed through effort and hard work. If your child has the growth mindset, he thrives on challenges and enjoys being stretched outside his comfort zone. He values the process of learning over the outcome, and doesn’t fear failure. Instead, he believes that failure is only a temporary setback. He’s not afraid of hard work, because he doesn’t believe hard work means he's less intelligent or talented.
Don’t we all want our kids to be the best version of themselves? The growth mindset doesn’t measure your accomplishments against others. You only want to be the best you can be.
The growth mindset is believing that image doesn’t define you or your child. There's no judgment. He’s not a failure if if he wasn’t admitted to an Ivy League school or wasn’t the First Chair in Orchestra. It’s not about being third batter on the team or how many travel teams he’s been on. It’s about your child’s own development and growth. We all know of Tiger Woods and his legendary drive to be the best golfer in the world. Yet, he has said, “But the best me—that’s a little more important.”3
The First Step: Recognize our own Mindset
Whether we intend it or not, the messages we communicate to our kids (directly and indirectly), help to shape them and the framework for their own thinking. Recognizing the limitations with our own mindset is the first step. Only then can we help our children change their way of thinking.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “You cannot sincerely try to help another without helping yourself”.
Do you recognize some of the fixed mindset in yourself? Being aware is key. Once we are aware of it, we can take steps to change our mindset and the way we communicate to ourselves (our self-talk) and to our kids.
Be aware of what comes out of your mouth. Listen to what your kids say. I found myself sounding off many fixed mindset messages automatically, without thinking.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Having the right mindset allows our kids the opportunity to fail forward, get up, dust off, and try again. Teaching your child to get up after failing (with their heads up!) and working hard can help them to develop the mental fortitude needed to succeed in all areas of their life!
Do you want to have the growth mindset? The good news is that it can be learned and cultivated at any time. It’s all within your control!