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Carol Dweck: "The Growth Mindset"
They were "sort of brushed off," not rejected outright. Robert Sternberg, the present-day guru of intelligence, writes that the major factor in whether people achieve expertise "is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement. When I asked people with the fixed mindset, this is what they said: What did they know? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? Whether human qualities are things that can be cultivated or things that are carved in stone is an old issue. Nothing good ever happens to me. Isn't it normal to want these traits? What would you think? It was guaranteed that someone would ask the question of why people differed--why some people are smarter or more moral--and whether there was something that made them permanently different. How does this happen?
When I gave people with the growth mindset the same vignette, here's what they said. How does this happen? One day, you go to a class that is really important to you and that you like a lot. They knew that human qualities, such as intellectual skills, could be cultivated through effort. And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? Nothing catastrophic or irreversible happened. Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? Being really frustrated, you call your best friend to share your experience but are sort of brushed off. Confronted with the hard puzzles, one ten-year-old boy pulled up his chair, rubbed his hands together, smacked his lips, and cried out, "I love a challenge! Who cared about or enjoyed learning when our whole being was at stake every time she gave us a test or called on us in class? Binet, a Frenchman working in Paris in the early twentieth century, designed this test to identify children who were not profiting from the Paris public schools, so that new educational programs could be designed to get them back on track. From conception on, there's a constant give and take between the two. 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. They thought they were learning. How can a simple belief have the power to transform your psychology and, as a result, your life? Here is a quote from one of his major books, Modern Ideas About Children, in which he summarizes his work with hundreds of children with learning difficulties: I expected differences among children in how they coped with the difficulty, but I saw something I never expected. Yet those people with the growth mindset were not labeling themselves and throwing up their hands. Now, how would they cope? When they aren't coping with failure, they feel just as worthy and optimistic--and bright and attractive--as people with the growth mindset. You were smart or you weren't, and failure meant you weren't. No, but they believe that a person's true potential is unknown and unknowable ; that it's impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training. Believing that your qualities are carved in stone--the fixed mindset--creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. That Geraldine Page, one of our greatest actresses, was advised to give it up for lack of talent? Aside from the daily stomachaches she provoked with her judgmental stance, she was creating a mindset in which everyone in the class had one consuming goal--look smart, don't look dumb. That evening on the way back to your home, you find that you've gotten a parking ticket.
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