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Choose a Growth Mindset

cv-perseveranceLate one Thursday afternoon Duncan anxiously waited to hear how he had done on his recent assignment … *Ping* … 56%.

Duncan’s fixed mindset story:

Only 56%? Yikes! Didn’t I do any better than that? How did that happen? Everybody else probably aced it, but I didn’t. All that time and effort—what a waste. My parents are going to be so disappointed. How am I ever going to get through this course, let alone two others? I should just give up now.

Duncan’s growth mindset story:

Really, 56%? That’s not at all what I expected. It certainly doesn’t make me happy. I guess I should go back through the lesson. It might be worth the time and effort to rework those self-exercises. This time, I’ll try not to be in such a hurry. Austin said he got 82%. There’s no reason I can’t do the same! Maybe he has some study strategies that work better than mine do. I’ll ask him for advice. I remember him saying that he always proofreads his answers twice, just to double check things. I think I’ll start doing that. Dad mentioned that Mr. Ross, next door, was willing to work through some of those equations with me. I’m going to ask him.

Same scenario, different stories.

When we work from a fixed mindset, we believe that qualities such as intelligence or talent are fixed. Individuals with a fixed mindset tend to avoid challenges, give up easily, and ignore constructive criticism. They assume it’s easier for others than it is for them because the others have innate qualities.

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The growth mindset opens the mind up to believing that qualities such as intelligence and talent can be developed through hard work and dedication. Individuals with a growth mindset tend to embrace challenges, be persistent, and learn from criticism. They believe that others may have used better learning strategies or managed their time more effectively to meet their success. 

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Many think of the brain as a mystery. They believe we are born intelligent, average, or unintelligent—and stay that way for life. However, scientists have shown that the brain is more like a muscle. It changes and gets stronger the more we use it. When we challenge our minds to learn, we strengthen our brain. Things that we once found hard or impossible soon become easier.

What does this say for us? It says our mindset can affect our chances of success. So, will you stay ‘fixed’ on what is? or ‘grow’ to what can be? Nothing is going to change overnight, but even just learning about the growth mindset can cause positive shifts in our approaches to learning, and to life.

How can you develop your growth mindset?

  • Accept failure, and understand that every failure is an opportunity. Learn from your mistakes.
  • Use feedback and criticism to continually develop. Focus on improvement.
  • Don’t be discouraged by the achievements of others. Be inspired, and find lessons in their success.
  • Try new things, and know that you can learn anything through hard work and dedication. Time + hard work = Success.
  • Adopt a positive attitude towards challenges and your abilities to overcome them in order to achieve your goals.

Based on Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.


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Linda Jones is a teacher in The Arts department at Virtual High School. She enjoys teaching music online and says that the technology available today is what makes learning and teaching music online so effective. Learn more about Ms. Jones here.