Sep 28, 2009

Make Up Your Mind

Mind over matter dictates that with the right attitude, a person can achieve just about anything. When confronting great intellectual difficulty, this ideal becomes particularly critical. However, few people realize just how dramatic the opposite effect can be. With the wrong attitude, you could defeat yourself without even trying.

In “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, authored by noted Stanford psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, this idea is explored through the concept of a “Fixed Mindset” versus a “Growth Mindset”. Dr. Dweck visited “Countdown To College Radio” last year to discuss her findings on student intelligence and motivation.

Dr. Dweck’s research revealed that, depending on a specific mindset, coping with failure could lead an individual down two separate paths. A “Growth Mindset” allows the individual to see failure as an opportunity to improve and learn, with success stemming from a change in strategy or method. By contrast, an individual with a “Fixed Mindset” will take failure as an indication of personal inability, and consequently, performance will decrease and the individual could give up on the difficult task all together.

These opposite attitudes hold many other consequences. Individuals with a “Fixed Mindset” will try very hard not to look dumb or stupid, and will usually only proceed with something (like a new activity) when they know they’ll be good at it. “Growth Mindset” people will jump into something new headfirst, ready to tackle any obstacle. They may fail a few times, but they will learn from their mistakes and correct them so they aren’t repeated in the future.

Academics are no different. Study habits for a “Fixed Mindset” student will mean cramming in as much information as possible with minimal effort and a heavy reliance on natural ability to carry the grade. “Growth Mindset” students will relish in the challenge of new material, and will really go in-depth to learn it. If both mindsets were to receive a poor grade, the “Growth Mindset” would take advantage of all the resources available to understand and correct why they did not get the grade they wanted, while a “Fixed Mindset” student might consider dropping out or even cheating.

Next week, we’ll take a look at where these two attitudes come from and what you can do to help your mind grow.

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