TTS Clues
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TTS Clues

123. CAROL DWECK

Maria Popova keeps coming up with great archival discoveries in her Brain Pickings blog. One of those discoveries is the work of Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is “an inquiry into the power of our beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, and how changing even the simplest of them can have profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives.” Popova’s blog topic, “Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives,” references Carol Dweck’s book and is the focus of this post.

“A ‘fixed mindset’ assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A ‘growth mindset,’ on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.”

Dweck: “Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.

“I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves — in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?”

“There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”

“Dweck cites a poll of 143 creativity researchers, who concurred that the number-one trait underpinning creative achievement is precisely the kind of resilience and fail-forward perseverance attributed to the growth mindset. She writes:

“’When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world — the world of fixed traits — success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other — the world of changing qualities — it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.

“’In one world, failure is about having a setback. Getting a bad grade. Losing a tournament. Getting fired. Getting rejected. It means you’re not smart or talented. In the other world, failure is about not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you’re not fulfilling your potential.’”

Dweck’s research showed that children who were praised for ability pushed them into the fixed mindset whereas those praised for effort sought challenge. She found that those with the fixed mindset viewed an ideal mate as one who would put them on a pedestal and make them feel perfect, whereas those with the growth mindset, “preferred a partner who would recognize their faults and lovingly help improve them, someone who would encourage them to learn new things and became a better person.”

“What it all comes down to is that a mindset is an interpretative process that tells us what is going on around us. In the fixed mindset, that process is scored by an internal monologue of constant judging and evaluation, using every piece of information as evidence either for or against such assessments as whether you’re a good person, whether your partner is selfish, or whether you are better than the person next to you. In a growth mindset, on the other hand, the internal monologue is not one of judgment but one of voracious appetite for learning, constantly seeking out the kind of input that you can metabolize into learning and constructive action.”

Q: Where do you find yourself within the spectrum of the two mindsets — fixed vs. growth?

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TTS CLUES is a flow of insights from the gleanings and reflections of Irving Stubbs for finding the truth that sets us free to be the new creations we can be. Check out these clues each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and add your thoughts when you are so inclined.

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Irving Stubbs

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