Growing a Growth Mindset

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One of the simplest ways to support and recognize each other, whether it’s at work, school, or at home, is to offer timely, sincere, 100-percent positive praise. But is your praise as effective as it could be?

According to Dr. Carol Dweck, a social psychology professor at Stanford University, people develop and learn from setbacks and failures in two very distinct ways. Some people hold what’s known as a “fixed mind-set belief” that most of their abilities and intelligence levels are more or less set in stone. These people tend to perceive setbacks as a threat to their identity and sense of worth, and they tend to focus on external validation.

Conversely, other people possess a “growth mind-set”: the belief that their abilities and intelligence can be nurtured, so these people instead view setbacks as opportunities for growth, and therefore, tend to be more persistent when the going gets rough.

So how does this relate to praise and motivation? Studies suggest that the best approach for nurturing growth in a person is to praise their effort, not their innate talent or intelligence. A review of 150 praise studies by scholars at Stanford and Reed College support the findings that praising ability, although an ego-booster for sure, actually reduces persistence. Conversely, praising a person’s effort, their ability to grow, learn and to be challenged, their ability to deal with setbacks, and praising the process a person goes through leads them to growth mind-set behaviours, where they view setbacks as challenges to overcome and mere bumps in the road to success.

So, I challenge you to think about your own mindset when it comes to taking on new challenges and to think about your style of praising. Do you recognize and praise only the raw talent in your workplace or children, or are you supporting the people around you in their efforts to tackle challenges and grow?

Michael Kerr