This year our theme is “Grit,” and we have already begun to study and talk about it as a community. In developing this theme, we have actually taken the word and turned it into an acronym. The “G” is for growth, the “R” is for resilience, the “I” is for integrity, and the “T” is for tenacity.
With that in mind, we are first going to look at the idea of growth. Someone who has grit is someone who can pursue a goal over a long period of time and not give up, even when faced with numerous obstacles and/or setbacks. Interestingly, the degree to which someone will persevere often depends on how they see themselves and how they see the idea of growth. Overcoming the obstacles and setbacks can be a direct result of what researchers are calling a “growth mindset.”
Mindsets are a simple idea discovered by Carol Dweck, a psychologist on staff at Stanford University. This discovery took place after many years of research on the topics of achievement and success. What Dweck uncovered in her research is that there are two types of “mindsets” that people have. They can have either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
Someone with a fixed mindset believes that talents and abilities are fixed traits. You are either smart or you aren’t. You are either good at something or you’re not. You are born with certain talents and abilities. A fixed mindset leads someone to be afraid of challenges that might unmask any deficiencies or hurt their self-esteem. Someone with a fixed mindset will often withdraw in the face of difficulties because they do not want to look or feel stupid.
A growth mindset person believes that abilities and talents can be developed through hard work and effort. They embrace challenges because that is a way to improve and get smarter. They persist in the face of setbacks because they see them as part of the process and not an issue of success or failure. They have less fear of failure because they do not see it as an ending point or a reflection of who they are.
It is amazing how one simple perception can change so much of how a person interacts and engages in life. The good news from the research is that a growth mindset is something that can be learned. Ironically, a fixed mindset is not a fixed trait. Someone who is more of a fixed mindset person can learn to have a growth mindset.
I would encourage parents to purchase Dweck’s book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” as it has some crucial ideas on how to help our children develop a growth mindset. We will talk more about this in the future as there are specific steps we can take as individuals and as parents to promote a growth mindset in ourselves and in our kids.