Sunday, September 16, 2007

**** Mindset by Carol Dweck

These 4 star books are few and far between, but they pack a punch. I really wish I found this book 20 years ago. In any case, it will change your mindset and possibly your life. Use it carefully and wisely.

Self-delusion, the hallmark of the fixed mindset
We found that people greatly misestimated their performance and their ability. But it was those with the fixed mindset who accounted for almost all of the inaccuracy. The people with the growth mindset were amazingly accurate. When you think about it, it makes sense. If like those with the growth mindset, you believe you can develop yourself, then you're open to accurate information about your current abilities, even if it's unflattering. What's more, if you're oriented learning, you need accurate information about your abilities in order to learn effectively. However, if everything is either good or bad news about your precious traits - as it is with fixed mindset people - distortion almost inevitably enters the picture. Some outcomes are magnified, others are explained away, and before you know it you don't know yourself at all. P11

Learning is about making mistakes - not proving yourself
You've decided to learn a new language by taking a class. A few sessions into the course the instructor calls you to the front and starts throwing questions at you. Put yourself in the fixed mindset. Your ability is on the line. Can you feel everyone's eyes on you? Can you see the instructor evaluating you? Feel the tension, feel your ego bristle and waver… Now put yourself in the growth mindset. You're a novice - that's why you're here - to learn. The teacher is a resource for learning. Feel the tension leave you; feel your mind open up. The message is: You can change your mindset. P14

If it requires a hard effort on your part, then it means...
In the growth mindset, failure is about you not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you're not fulfilling your potential… Effort is what makes you smarter… In the fixed mindset, failure means you're not smart or talented. Effort is a bad thing, it like failure, means you're not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn't need effort. P16

Who do you want to marry?
People with the fixed mindset said the ideal mate would:
Put them on a pedestal
Make them feel perfect
Worship them
In other words, the perfect mate would enshrine their fixed qualities. People with growth mindset hope for a different kind of partner who would:
See their faults and help them to work on them
Challenge them to be a better person
Encourage them to learn new things
Certainly they didn't want people who would pick on them or undermine their self-esteem, but they did want people would foster their development. They didn't assume they were full evolved, flawless beings who had nothing more to learn. P19

We showed 5th graders a box and told them it had a test inside that measured an important school ability. First we asked them: How much do you think this test measures an important school ability? All of them had taken our word for it. Next we asked them: Do you think this test measures how smart you are? And does it measure how smart you'll be when you grow up? All students had take our word that the test measured an important ability, but the growth mindset students didn't think it would tell them how smart they were. And they certainly didn't think it would tell them how smart they would be when they grew up. In fact, one student said 'No way! Ain't no test can do that.' [Lucky for him because it seems that he has some more learning to do before he grows up.] Fixed mindset students didn't simply believe that the test could measure an important ability, they also believed that it could measure how smart they were. And how smart they'd be when they grew up. They granted one test the power to measure their most basic intelligence now and forever. They gave this test the power to define them. That's why every success is so important [and every failure so devastating]. P27

Sometimes not knowing is better than knowing
George Danzig was grad student at UC Berkeley. One day, as usual, he was late for class and quickly copied the 2 problems on the board. When he later went to do them, he found them very difficult, and it took him several days of hard work to crack them and solve them. When he returned back to class he found out that these problems were not homework problems at all. They were 2 famous math problems that had never been solved. P38 [Ignorance can not only be bliss, but it can help you be unrestrained in your effort.]

How to study in school
Many students study like this: They read the textbook and their notes. If the material is really hard, they read them again. Or they try to memorize everything they can, like a vacuum cleaner. That's how students with the fixed mindset study. If they did poorly on the test they will conclude that Chemistry was not their subject. After all I did everything possible, didn't I? Far from it. They would be shocked to find out what growth mindset students do. Instead of plunging into mindless memorization, they look for themes and underlying principles across lectures, and go over mistakes until they are understood. They study to learn, not just to ace the test. And actually, this was why they get higher grades - not because they are smarter - just that they study smarter. Instead of losing their interest when the course got harder, they motivate themselves to stay interested in the subject. P61

How to mint a new liar
We told students after a series of test problems that "We are going to go to other schools and those kids would like to know about the problems you did here." So we gave them each a page to write out their thoughts and to self report their own scores. Now we had randomly divided the class into 2 groups: one group had been praised on their abilities [a fixed mindset cue], and the other on their efforts [a growth mindset cue]…Would you believe that 40% of the praised ability kids lied about their scores, while hardly hand of the other group did. In the fixed mindset, imperfections are shameful - especially if you're talented - so they lied them away. What's even more alarming is that we took ordinary children and made them into liars by telling them that they were smart. P73

So telling children that they are smart, in the end, made them feel dumber and act dumber, but claim that that they were smarter. I don't think this is what we're aiming for when we put positive labels like 'gifted', 'talented', and 'brilliant' on people. We don't mean to rob them of their zest for challenge. But that's the danger. P74

Vulnerability afflicts many of the most able, high-achieving females. Why should this be? When they're little, these girls are often so perfect, and they delight in everyone's telling them so… Girls learn to trust people's estimates of them 'Gee, everyone's so nice to me; if they criticize me, it must be true.'… Boys are constantly being scolded and punished. In grade school, boys got 8 times more criticism than girls for their conduct. Boys are also constantly calling each other slobs and morons. Such evaluations lose a lot of their power… Taking the fixed mindset, plus stereotyping, plus women's trust in people's assessments: I think we can begin to understand why there's a gender gap in math and science. P79

Want to lower your kids IQ? Just tell him he's wicked smart!
Do you label your kids? This one is the artist and that one is the scientist? Next time remember that you're not helping them - even though you may be praising them. Remember our study where praising kids' ability lowered their IQ scores. Find a growth mindset way to compliment them. P81

The Nyad Diet - eat a full meal every hour and still lose over 1 lb per hour
Diana Nyad wanted to swim 100 miles - in open water without stopping… NASA experts were brought in for nutrition and endurance guidance since she needed 1100 calories/hour. Her new record was 102.5 miles and she lost 29 lbs. p105

Malcolm Gladwell [in Blink] concludes that when people live in an environment that esteems them for their innate talent, they have grave difficulty when their image is threatened: "They will not take the remedial course. They will not stand up to investors and the public and admit they were wrong. They'd sooner lie." Obviously a person or a company that can't self correct can't thrive. P109

Groupthink Avoidance #1
During WW2, Winston Churchill setup a special department whose job was to give him all of the worst news. Churchill could then sleep well at night knowing that he had not been groupthinked into a false sense of security. P135
Groupthink Avoidance #2
Alfred Sloan, former CEO of GM during its heyday was leading a group of high level policy makers who seemed to have reached a consensus. "Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here… Then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding about what the decision is all about." P135
Groupthink Avoidance #3
Herodotus over 2500 years ago, reported that the Persians used a version of Sloan's techniques to prevent groupthink. Whenever a group reached a decision while sober, they later reconsidered it while intoxicated. P135

How to pick and refocus your disappointed kid
Imagine if your 9 year old child is heading off to her first gymnastics competition. She did well, but by the end of the competition she had received no ribbons and was devastated. What would you do?... Let's look at 5 possible reactions from a mindset point of view.
1. Tell her you thought she was the best. This is insincere. She wasn't the best, both she and you know that. This offers her no recipe for how to recover and to improve.
2. Tell her she was robbed of a ribbon that was rightfully hers. This places blame on others when in fact the problem was mostly her performance, not the judges. Do you want her to grow up blaming others for her deficiencies?
3. Tell her that gymnastics is not that important. This teacher her to devalue something she doesn't do well in right away. Is this really the message you want to send?
4. Tell her she has the ability and will win next time. This may be the most dangerous message of all. Does ability automatically take you where you want to go? If she didn’t win this time, why should she win the next?
5. Tell her she didn't deserve to win. This seems hardhearted, and we don't suggest that you say it so succinctly. But that's pretty much what you need to say. Here's an example:
"It's disappointing to perform your best and not win. But you have not really earned it yet. There were many girls who've been in gymnastics longer than you and who've worked a lot harder. If this is something you really want, then its something you will have to work hard for like them." P175

How to react when mistakes (inevitably) happen
Sometimes children will judge and label themselves. Here's an example of a 14 year old boy working with his dad on a project. The son spilled nails all over the floor, and guiltily looked at his dad and said:
Son: Gee, I'm so clumsy
Dad: That's not what we say when we spill something.
Son: What do you say?
Dad: I say, the nails spilled and I'll pick them up!
Son: Just like that?
Dad: Yeah, just like that.
Son: Thanks Dad. P177

Why punishment seldom works
Many parents think that when they judge and punish that they are teaching, as in 'I'll teach you a lesson that you'll never forget.' What are they actually teaching? They are teaching their children that if they go against the parent's rules or values, they'll be judged and punished. They're not teaching them how to think through the issues and come to mature decisions on their own. And they're not teaching that the communication channels are open. P181

False praise and lower standards just leads to dumb kids who crave false praise.
Many educators think that lowering their standards will give students success experiences, boost self esteem, and raise their achievement. It comes from the same philosophy as the overpraising of student's intelligence. Well, it doesn't work. Lowering standards leads to poorly educated students who feel entitled to easy work and lavish praise. P187

Dinner routine
At the dinner table ask each child "What did you learn today? What mistake did you make that taught you something? What did you try hard at today?" Go around the table with each question, excitedly discussing your own and one another's efforts, strategies, setbacks, and learning. You talk about skills you have today that you didn't have yesterday because of the practice you put in. You dramatize mistakes you made that held the key to the solution, telling it like a mystery. You describe with relish the things you are struggling with and making progress on. Soon the children can't wait each night to tell their stories. "Oh my, you certainly did get smarter today." If your child tells stories about doing things better than others, everyone should say 'Yeah, but what did you learn?'. When he tells you about how easy everything in school is for him, you say 'Oh, that's too bad. You're not learning.' When he boasts about being a champ, you say 'Champs are the people who work the hardest. You can become a champ. Tomorrow tell me something you've done to help you become a champ.' P229


antje said...

Re: "why punishment seldom works"
As well as open channels of communication I'd say it's very important that the child knows he/she is valued! That what they feel is important. This will help them gain courage and help in their ability to make and stand up for their decisions.
I have to smile though, there are those times when a child wants/needs to be reminded that YOU are the adult.
Stay open to the development of the child but keep your perspective other wise you could send a mixed message. :)

Ben Sharma said...

I agree parents need to set boundaries for children especially since we have experience and better developed frontal lobes on our side. Children look to us to do that, and are generally OK with parents saying 'No' or drawing the line especially if the reason can be grounded in genuine care and interest towards the child. It's another way of saying that I love you even though this immediate item may make you happy, but my job as parent is to think about your happiness now and in the future. So sometimes it means that you can't have it now. Of course you don't say that, but that is what kids come to realize and trust. That you are there to help, protect, and guide them - not hurt them. As time goes by and they mature, you'll have to let them take some risks and make some mistakes on their own, and be there to help pick them up. Eventually, they'll be gone to start their own independent adulthood, and then it is their choice to still involve us in their lives.

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