Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Growth Mindset

I'm a curious person by nature.  I love to learn and pride myself in following through on the advice of my Grandma Hilda, "Learn something new everyday!"  She was an avid baseball fan who kept a score book as she watched the "Cubs".  She played "Scrabble" like it was her own "business" and full-time job and if you didn't take it as seriously as she and her sister (Great Aunt Ida) did, they would politely remind us to "get in the game or get out".  Scrabble was serious business and the lessons I learned from those moments of "business" still stick with me to this day.

One of those lessons was we could always learn.  Aunt Ida and Grandma would give us subtle hints to use the dictionary to help build upon our initial word thought.  They didn't want us beating them at their game, but they did want us to expand our vocabulary and grow as learners.  So, often my siblings and cousins would have the dictionary next to us as we tried to find words that would give us more than 5 points.   Sometimes we made up words and Grandma would say, give me that dictionary.  If it wasn't in the dictionary, it wasn't legal and it didn't count.  My vocabulary grew as I researched the dictionary trying to be as creative and "legal" in playing scrabble with those two wonderful role models.

When I became a parent, I looked to other things to research besides words in the dictionary.  I was drawn to Growth Mindset when our youngest daughter ran cross country in high school.  She (along with her older sister's) had running ability, yet she didn't seem to have the desire to compete.  Being the competitive soul I am, I was puzzled by this behavior and wondered what I could do to influence her thoughts and behaviors.  As I quickly learned in my research -- I was the one that needed to change.  I needed to change the language I was using with her.

Carol Dweck describes Growth Mindset as the belief that you believe your abilities can improve with effort.  The opposite of growth mindset is fixed mindset.  Fixed mindset is the belief that your abilities are already set and no amount of effort or energy will make you better.

Some examples of how we might use this type of thinking in our language are below:

  • Growth Mindset:  "I'm not good at math right now, but I can get better if I work at it by going to skill development time."  
  • Fixed Mindset would say, "I stink at math!"

  • Growth Mindset:  "I'm currently struggling with my reading, but by working on specific skills I'm going to tackle my reading deficits!"
  • Fixed Mindset:  I am not good at reading.

  • Growth Mindset:  "I'm not as fast as I want to be, but I'm improving my speed by lifting weights and speed training."
  • Fixed Mindset:  "I'm a slow runner!"

Taking this new found knowledge, I challenged myself and became very intentional in the ways I spoke with our youngest daughter.  I praised her effort and made statements reflecting her effort put into her tasks at hand -- whether that be academic, athletic or personal.  By the end of her high school career, our youngest daughter completed her cross country career with many accolades.  My heart's desire of her seizing and developing her potential was, in part, possibly propelled forward with Growth Mindset language.  I hope she believes she can learn anything, grow in areas of challenge and put forth the effort to solve any problem in front of her.

As a testament to her efforts (and maybe just possibly my Growth Mindset language), she graduated from college in three years and is now enrolled in an Occupational Therapy doctoral program.  During her undergrad experience, she even studied abroad in Ireland and I took the opportunity to go and visit her and was able to photograph these amazing sites.

What I found most intriguing in my research on Growth Mindset is the language I use with others promotes a "fixed" or "growth mindset".  One example of this is instead of saying "I am proud of you!" -- simply say, "You should be proud of yourself."  Being thoughtful in my language in how I praise others has an impact on development of Growth Mindset within myself and I hope with those I communicate with.

Carol Dweck  says, "If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning."  I believe this is a true statement we can take to heart with all the people we are blessed to interact with and I truly hope others are willing to help me continue to learn by using Growth Mindset language with me.

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