Is Your Success Dependent Upon Proving You Are Smart Or Learning?

Crossroads: Success or Failure

I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or successes and failures…

I divide the world into learners and non-learners. ~ Sociologists Benjamin Barber.

Your Drive To Learn

All babies are eager to learn says Stanford professor, neuroscience researcher and author Dr. Carol Dweck.

“You never see an unmotivated baby,” she says.

If you have kids, you watched them grow up. As an infants and toddlers, they stretched their skills daily to learn. Your child had great gusto to face their most difficult tasks: learning to walk and talk.

“Babies don’t worry about making mistakes or humiliating themselves,” states Dweck. They walk, fall, get up and repeat the process again and again. They just keep barging forward.

We are all born with an intense drive to learn is the point that Dweck makes.

But somewhere in our development, some of us lose that drive to learn and replace it with fear of failure.

Why Some Stop Learning

At some point some children stop trying to learn.

Frequently, it happens when they become self-aware. They start evaluating and comparing their self to others. They fear that they are not living up to others expectations. That they are not smart enough. Or pretty enough. Or talented enough. Or creative enough.

So they play it safe to prove that they are smart. They only choose tasks that they’ve accomplished in the past.

Dweck and her research team offered four-year olds a choice: They could redo an easy jigsaw puzzle or try a harder one.

What happened? Those that believed that they were smart stuck with the same puzzle.

Why? “Kids that are born smart don’t make mistakes,” these kids said. These kids have a fixed mindset says Dweck.

Kids that embraced learning and curiosity chose the harder puzzle. Time and time again. They have a growth mindset says Dweck.

“The view you adopt for yourself, (a fixed or growth mindset) profoundly affects the way you lead your life,” says Dweck.

Fixed Mindsets

Most people who don’t want to change or fear failure have a fixed mindset says Dweck. They believe that their intelligence is fixed. It can’t be improved.

So they go about proving they are smart.

Their fixed mindset causes them to avoid obstacles, barriers and challenges. They circumvent change. Or argue that change is wrong and unnecessary.

Fixed mindsets translate an action (I failed at this task) into an identity (I am a failure.) And change could lead to failure. So they stick with the familiar.

People with fixed mindsets plateau early in life.

Growth Mindsets

People with growth mindsets have a tendency to embrace challenges and change. They persist even when facing obstacles. They see their effort as a road to mastery.

Even in growth mindsets, failure can be painful. Yet people with growth mindsets don’t let failures define them. They face it and learn from it.

Those with growth mindsets reach higher levels of achievement. They thrive even in challenging times

How does a fixed or growth mindset affect conference planning and education offerings? How can we help someone with a fixed mindset change their ideas about growth, development and learning that leads to a growth mindset?

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