No Natural Talent? Grow your Ability. It’s more lasting.

The Heart 11 Sept 2012


Read “Mindset, the new psychology of success” by Carol S Dweck recently. Wished I had read this in 2006 but hey,¬†awesome to have read it now. ūüėä

Mindset BookThe author Carol Dweck, a Standford University psychologist, shared how having a growth mindset as leaders, teachers, parents, coaches etc can motivate people to reach their goals and success. That by praising effort rather than talent has long term positive effects.

I like to share about my art teacher Diana who demonstrates this growth mindset when teaching her students and the immense impact it has.

I was terrible in art in secondary school and believed that I had no talent. Then in 2012, a friend connected me with Diana as I was interested to learn how to paint.

The Heart (main picture) was completed at my first lesson. It was only possible because Diana shared that everyone can learn how to paint. So I focused on picking up the techniques required rather than on my past experiences of scoring low marks on art.

Through the subsequent lessons, I discovered that the times when I could be immersed in the learning process was when I enjoyed it the most. During the moments when I focused on whether the painting was pretty or not, was when I became stressed and felt like giving up (fixed mindset came to play).

The more I became interested in the painting process rather than questioning myself¬†if I’ve talent or not, the more ‘in flow” I became. I would choose a different focus each time in order to learn different techniques eg painting koi fish, the sea or lace curtains.

The fixed mindset believes that intelligence is static which leads to a desire to look smart and therefore, a tendency to:

  • avoid challenges
  • gets defensive or give up easily when faced with obstacles
  • sees effort as fruitless or worse
  • ignore useful negative feedback
  • feels threatened by the success of others

As a result, they may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential.

On the other hand, the growth mindset believes that intelligence can be developed which leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to:

  • embrace challenges
  • persist in the face of obstacles
  • see effort as the path to mastery
  • learn from criticism
  • find lessons and inspiration in the success of others

As a result, people with growth mindset reach ever-higher levels of achievements.

And we may have a growth mindset for one aspect of our lives, and a fixed mindset in another. For example, we may have a growth mindset as a manager but a fixed mindset when it comes to our relationship with our spouse.

Twin babiesTo me, the most important information is that we were all born with a growth mindset! Babies do not stop learning to crawl, to stand and to walk because they decide it is too hard and not worth the effort. They fall, they get up and barge forward.

As soon as children become able to evaluate themselves, some of them become afraid of challenges. They become afraid of not being smart.

Carol studied thousands of people and in one of them, she and her researchers offered 4 years old a choice: they could redo an easy jigsaw puzzle or they could try a harder one. They found that even at this tender age, children with the fixed mindset – the ones who believe in fixed traits – stuck with the safe ones. “Kids who are born smart don’t do mistakes” they shared with the researchers. They want to make sure they succeed. Smart people should always succeed.

Children with the growth mindset¬† – the ones who believe you could get smarter – chose one hard one after another. They thought it was strange that why anyone would want to keep doing the same puzzle over and over again. Success is about stretching themselves. It’s about becoming smarter.

Understanding about the growth mindset has many useful applications for us both on a personal and professional level.

The way we self-talk/ self-coach, handle situations and relate to people will be totally different depending on the choice of our mindset. The way we motivate ourselves and others will also be entirely different.

Much food for thought and great insights for moving forward.