Are the words you speak unwittingly sabotaging yourself, and your children? Nobody wants to say or do things that do psychological harm, however, that is exactly what a lot of us are doing, without even realising it.
A couple of days ago, I wrote an article called No Such Thing As Natural Talent - Exploding The Myth Of The Gifted, in it I discussed how the concept of natural talent, was essentially flawed. In this article I would like to go further, and explore the difference between the fixed and growth mindsets.
It turns out, that the idea of natural talent, is very much borne out of the fixed mindset. Identified by Dr. Carol Dweck, in her excellent book Mindset. In her book, Dweck shows how the wrong kind of praise given to your children, can actually do them more harm than good, and how the right kind, can increase their IQ.
The Unchanging Land Of The Fixed
Let me start asking by asking you a short series of questions; it's just me and you now, so you can answer them honestly.
- Do you believe your IQ is set; or can it improve?
- Do you believe that children either show an aptitude for something early on; or if they don't it is unlikely they will excel in that field in later life?
- Do you believe that there are some sports, that you simply have to have a genetic predisposition to play; or can anyone learn to play anything well?
- Are there certain things you are good at, and others you are bad at; and that won't change, regardless of your personal efforts?
Let's take a look at the first question; IQ, standing for Intelligence Quotient, ever since the testing for IQ was introduced in France in 1904 by Alfred Binet (1857-1911) and Theodore Simon (1873-1961), the topic has been surrounded in controversy.
Many commentators, have accused IQ tests as being culturally and socially bias. They argue that perfectly intelligent children and adults, can be marked lower, simply by result of not living in a specific environment.
So how did you answer the question? Dr. Dweck discovered, that people who answer the question; "..no, your IQ is set and cannot be changed. have a fixed mindset, whereas people who feel that it can be improved upon, have a growth mindset.
What is interesting about this, is that, this is true for both children and adults, some children feel that they are either good at something, or they are not, and they accept this very early on in their lives, sometimes as young as just 3 years old!
So why is that such a bad thing? I hear you ask; surely, some people are good at certain stuff, others are not. Best to find out which ones, so you can move onto something that you can be good at; no?
Maybe so, however there is something more serious, and more damaging, lying at the heart of that mindset.
Impossible Is Something
Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
"Hang on a second Cryptogee! You can't argue with the above statement, no matter how much the fish wants to, it will NEVER be able to climb a tree!!"
OK, OK, yes, I know; calm down, of course the above statement is true; it is however, an analogy. Human beings are not fish; right? I mean we can both agree on that; can't we? If not, it will be very difficult to continue on with this discussion!
There are some times, when the above analogy will directly translate to the human condition. For instance, as a child, I wanted to be a fighter pilot (not realising that actually meant going to war and killing people).
However in order to join the British Air force, you need to have 20/20 vision. Whilst I may have been able to hide my shortsightedness for a while. I'm sure the very real sight tests would have uncovered my disability, and I would have been refused entrance.
So clearly, I am not talking about things that are actually impossible to do; fish can't climb trees, humans can't fly without the aid of technology.
Cryptogee can't make a point in under 1800 words...
Stunting Your Inner Child With A Fixed Mindset
Some of us have children, and if we don't, then we can all at least lay claim to having been children at one point in our lives. We either want the best for our children, or our parents, wanted, and in some cases still want, the best for us.
In the book, Mindset, Carol Dweck cites a very interesting experiment, which shines a light on the importance of the subtle use of language, when dealing with ourselves and our children.
A group of 14 year old high school children were given a test that was actually meant to be for university level students. As expected the children found the exam difficult; afterwards, they filtered out the children who did well in the test, and then split them into two groups.
Here's the interesting part; they divided them into the groups, simply by the sentence they spoke to them as they handed their results back. The words were designed to put them in either a fixed mindset or a growth one.
Wow 85% you must be really good at this!
Wow 85% you must have worked really hard on this!
Note the subtle difference; one phrase praises ability (fixed), the other praises effort (growth). The experimenters, then went on to ask how the children enjoyed the test, and what they thought about it.
The ones who had been handed the results with phrase number 1. reported back that they did not enjoy the test at all. They felt it was very hard and stressful; when asked if they would like to try and even harder test, most of them declined.
On the other hand, the children who had been given their results with the second phrase, reported back on, how challenging it was, and how they enjoyed that challenge. They almost all, decided that they would indeed, like to try a harder test.
PAUSE FOR THOUGHT...
Let's really analyse this now, because this is important. The experimenters, did not know the children beforehand. They did not select them on whether they thought they were growth or fixed minded.
They simply SAID something to them, as they handed back the children's test results. The phrase spoken to them, was what PUT them into a fixed or growth mindset.
The really astounding results came later; when they asked the children to write what they thought of the test, to help future students who would also take it.
The phrase 1 children; you must be really good at this, lied about how well they did in the test. Around 40% of them decided to give themselves higher marks.
The thinking is, that they were told that they were smart, therefore, they themselves, didn't think that the marks they achieved, were that of a smart person.
So what the experiment uncovered, was that by praising our children's abilities, over their work ethic; we make them feel dumber, whilst acting smarter.
The experiments and observations don't stop there; it has often been observed, that certain childhood proteges, who were outstanding in their field at highschool, suddenly just stop trying in college. This has been dubbed the; low effort syndrome, and is synonomous with a fixed mindset.
Unfortunately, we have discovered that, when we praise abilities, the child (or adult), has a fear of not being able to live up to that praise again. Therefore, rather than try and improve, they attempt to protect their position as; the good one.
In other words; fixed-mindset individuals, try and avoid failure like the plague, as it will shatter previously held misconceptions about their general intelligence.
Whereas, children (or adults) who have their efforts praised, are not just more likely to succeed, but succeed with less neuroses. They aren't afraid of failure, simply because they don't view it in that way, they view failure as an opportunity to learn; rather than a judgement on their character.
Growing Into The Future
So how do we ensure that ours' and our children's minds, are put into a healthy, growth mindset? Well, for our kids it is easy; and the younger they are, the easier it is, we simply praise their effort, over their ability.
We can still tell them how proud we are, however we must focus our language on the work they put in, rather than the outcome of them doing well.
I myself have been doing this with my daughter, and the change in her is quite remarkable, it has also led me to realise, which areas of my life that I have viewed with a fixed mindset, and those which I have viewed with a growth one.
So just remember;
child get's an A in class? Turn wow! You are so good! to Wow! I'm so proud of the work you've put in to get that A!
Wins a race? Turn, you are the best! To. All that practice is paying off! Imagine how much faster you can get if you train more!
...and so on.
Ultimately, this subject is too big to deal with in a Steemit article; if you want to find out more, I urge you to right-click the following (non-affiliated) link and open it in a new tab/window. It will take you to Dr. Carol Dweck's, Mindset book, it really is the most fascinating read, I highly recommend it.
I will be revisiting this subject in the near future, however for now, satisfy yourself by reading the book, and enjoy!
NOBODY IS COMPLETELY ONE OR THE OTHER, SO WHAT AREAS OF YOUR LIFE HAVE YOU HAD A FIXED MINDSET IN? WHICH ONES HAVE YOU BEEN MORE GROWTH ORIENTATED? AS EVER, LET ME KNOW BELOW!