How many of us go to our child or our friends after they have achieved something and say "GOOD JOB!" or "WELL DONE!" This has come to be socially accepted, even seen as a positive form of behaviour, doesn't it? Well today, what if I told you that very act could cause the recipient to shy away from challenges, make excuses, stop pushing himself?
You see, we have been doing it all wrong. A subtle shift in the way we use our words and praise on people does make a whole lot of difference.
Dr. Carol Dweck, a researcher who is pioneering a shift in how we view motivation in humans, is one of the few evangelizing about how to instill a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. She even has an RSA Animate video made after her.
You see, the old paradigm of thinking- the fixed mindset- is when we praise our child for their talent. We say "Awesome work!" or "Good Boy!" Familiar much?
What we should instead be doing is instilling the growth mindset- affirming others not for their talent but for their effort. The growth mindset is all about telling others how capable they are rather than validating them for how smart they are!
Now, here are how some conversations would play out to instill one type of mindset over the other:
FIXED MINDSET: "You finished reading that thick book. How Smart!
GROWTH MINDSET: "You read that thick book within three days. Your effort to push yourself to complete it is remarkable. With that kind of tenacity, you can achieve even bigger things!'
FIXED MINDSET: "You finished that mathematics problem so quickly! You are one Mathematics superstar!"
GROWTH MINDSET: "I'm sorry I wasted your time with such an easy problem! Let's do MENSA! Now we can see how much more you can achieve!"
It's just a subtle but nuance paradigm shift in the narrative. But it is these little things that makes the biggest difference!
When you change your approach to praise, you are indeed transforming the yardstick of achievement on the innate talent of a child to placing a value on the process of learning and applying oneself.
All this means that the validation you give to a child is not associated to how innately intelligent they are but to the effort they are making where they know they got more than just one opportunity to test themselves to be capable. With the fixed mindset, the child chases after your praise and if they fail at it once, they see it as they a signal that they just don't
Why such a remarkable difference?
As Dweck explains in the RSA Animate video:
"We measured their mindsets — we saw whether they believed intelligence was fixed or could be developed. … They had entered seventh grade with just about identical achievement test scores. But by the end of the first term, their grades jumped apart and continued to diverge over the next two years. The only thing that differed were their mindsets. ...
They had completely different goals in school. The number one goal for kids in the fixed mindset is 'look smart at all times and at all costs.' So their whole lives are oriented toward avoiding tasks that might show a deficiency.
But in a growth mindset, where they believe intelligence can be developed, their cardinal rule is 'LEARN at all times and at all costs.'"
You see the GROWTH Mindset brings to life the very adage that "Hard work beats talent, when talent does not work hard!" The person who is exposed to the fixed mindset would come to naturally think that if I have to work hard, I am not talented. And because I have talent, I don't need to work hard. The Growth Mindset debunks this by showing that we all are born talented. But for us to refine it and bring it to the next level, we need hard work. And heart work.
So Whether you are a parent or plan on being one or a teacher or tutor to a kid, start changing your language patterns and remember to validate your child or student for their effort. And how much more they can achieve.
We can learn anything! Let's start spreading the news.
For more, watch the RSA Animate Video of Carol Dweck's talk :