No too long ago, a very smart researcher and teacher wrote an important book that changed my thinking. In Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck discusses the differences between growth and fixed mindsets. To quote her website:
“Mindsets are beliefs – beliefs about yourself and your most basic qualities. Think about your intelligence, your talents, your personality. Are these qualities simply fixed traits, carved in stone and that’s that? Or are they things you can cultivate throughout your life?
People with a fixed mindset believe that their traits are just givens. They have a certain amount of brains and talent and nothing can change that. If they have a lot, they’re all set, but if they don’t… So people in this mindset worry about their traits and how adequate they are. They have something to prove to themselves and others.
People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, but that’s just the starting point. They understand that no one has ever accomplished great things—not Mozart, Darwin, or Michael Jordan—without years of passionate practice and learning.”
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had kids at camp who said they couldn’t do something: get to the top of the climbing tower, get up on stage, make a fire, or make it another day at camp… only to succeed after changing their minds.
There will be lots of cases when you may think to yourself, “I’m just not good at this. Nothing will help.” (I know I certainly felt that way in both my Statistics and Cost Accounting classes….)
But here’s the thing – that’s just not true. Sure, you may not be world class at something, even if you give it your best shot for many, many years. But you can ALWAYS improve. And, if you have that growth mindset, you’ve got the best chance of improving.
Words Have Power
Dr. Dweck ran an interesting experiment. Kids were separated evenly between two rooms and each room was given the same puzzle. Once everyone had finished, the researcher in one room told the kids, “Wow, you finished. You must be really good at puzzles.”
The other room was told something slight different. “Wow, you finished. You must have worked really hard on that puzzle.”
Not very different, huh? But wait – and this is where things get interesting. That same researcher gave each group of kids a harder puzzle to solve, a really tough one. What do you think happened?
The researchers found that the room of kids told they were “good at puzzles” gave up solving the puzzle at a much higher and faster rater than the kids who were complimented on ‘working hard.’ Hmm….
Being good at something is a zero-sum game. That means either you are good at something or you aren’t. And, if you feel you aren’t good at something, how long do you do it? Right… not long.
However, if you see yourself as a hard worker, someone who will persevere and take on a challenge, you’ll keep at things longer and have a greater chance of success.
As you can see from the experiment, it doesn’t take much to change your thinking. Just a few words are needed from an important source – a teacher or parent or mentor – to make a change in a young person’s mind.
But do you know who’s voice is most important on this front? Your own! As we are fond of saying at Camp Weequahic, you get to pick your attitude all of the time.
Do your best to choose a growth mindset going forward. It will help more than you can imagine. We’ll be ready to help you keep that rolling at camp this summer. Have a great weekend!