Growth Mindset: Learning to be Better

A rising belief in psychology nowadays deals with how having a growth mindset is better than a fixed mindset. The latter believes that one is born with a certain level of intelligence and will continue at the same level until the day they die.

On the other hand, the former believes that no matter what level of intelligence they’re born with, they could always do better through learning.

Think of it as how the turtle beat the rabbit in the race; the turtle being someone with a growth mindset and the rabbit with a fixed one. The rabbit was confident of the set of skills that he’s naturally born with and was concerned with looking good — a kind of thinking that lost him the race.

Meanwhile, the turtle, despite his handicap in the race, thrived on the challenge presented to him. He didn’t care whether he would win or not because what matters to him is the process of learning; the race itself.

The core that makes the “growth mindset” great is that it sparks a desire for learning — it makes its home in almost every aspect of the human life: from traits like one’s smarts and creative juices to one’s relationships such as love and friendships. It believes that all of those can be further improved by adding more effort and deliberate practice.

Individuals who possess the growth mindset are not even afraid of failure; because they don’t necessarily view it as failing but as an avenue for learning.

Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist researching on the nature of the human mindset, conducted multiple studies to rule out which among the two mindsets is better.

One of her studies included making a group of four-year-old kids do a jigsaw puzzle then ask them after whether they would like to redo the same easy jigsaw or choose a harder one. The kids’ decisions divided them into two groups, those that wanted to redo the easy one fell under the fixed mindset, whilst the other fell under the growth mindset.

Those in the fixed mindset were more concerned in appearing to be smart, demonstrated through reaffirming their current capability and wanting not to make mistakes.

The growth mindset group was baffled by the other group’s choice of wanting to solve the same puzzle where they would not learn anything new. Their perception of success is more concerned about becoming smarter rather than appearing to be smart.

Dweck proceeded to take these groups to the Columbia’s brainwave lab in order to test their brain behavior whenever answering difficult questions and receiving comments.

Findings showed that the kids under the fixed mindset group only showed interest when the comments were directly reflective of their current skillset, but did not listen to any information that might aid them in learning in improving. They didn’t even care about knowing the right answer to questions they got wrong.

On the other hand, kids under the growth mindset group were more receptive of information that would widen their current knowledge and skillset — despite being right or wrong.

They prioritized learning over “succeeding” or “failing.”

Another study conducted by Dweck that further concretized the binary opposition of the fixed and the growth mindset involved hundreds of adolescents.

The participants were subjected to a round of easy problems then praised them for their performance. Most of which did a good job on the first round.

There were two types of praise: one emphasizing the participant’s ability and the other emphasizing his or her effort.

Ability-praised kids quickly adapted a fixed mindset; not wanting to venture more challenging tests, and when they were subjected to more difficult tasks, they did bad and enjoyed less.

However, the effort-praised kids that adapted a growth mindset did the exact opposite. What was most disturbing, is when Dweck asked the participants to write private reports to their co-participants narrating their experience and sharing their scores, 40 percent of those with a fixed mindset lied about their scores — doctoring them a bit higher so as to appear smarter.

At the end of the day, no matter what mindset you have, you are still granted with the conscious decision of choosing whether to have a fixed one or one of growth.

It’s pretty plain and simple when you think about it, just ask yourself “Would I rather be like this for the rest of my life? Or would I rather be better?”

Finally, it is your choice, whether you would be the turtle or the rabbit.