Friday, December 13, 2013

Growth vs. Fixed Mindsets

   Recently, I finished reading a book called "Mindset: the New Psychology of Success" by Carol Dweck. It talks about two different mindsets (Fixed and Growth) and how they affect people. The major difference between the two is how they answer the question, "Is talent innate and unchanging over a person's life?"
     A Fixed mindset will say yes. A Fixed mindset is a strong believer in "talent." People are born talented, and you cannot acquire a talent you were not born with. You can hone said talent, though. IQ is more or less immutable. You're born as smart as you're ever going to be.
     A Growth mindset says no. A Growth mindset is a strong believer of the "99% perspiration" line. Good things don't always comes easily, and everything must be worked for if you want to learn or improve it, but it is possible.. If at first you don't succeed, keep trying. You can learn. IQ is more like a pulse in a doctor's chart: a picture of your health at the time, but not the whole picture, and certainly doesn't cast your future in iron.
     I think I've spent most of my life in a pseudo-spot between the two minds when it comes to learning. I phrase it as, "Most brick walls will crumble if you bang your head against them long enough." Or, "you can substitute a lot of work for actual talent."  Because, at the end of the day (and into the early morning hours a lot of the time), I suspect I'm not a writer, just a scribbler with a day job (no, it doesn't keep me up at night). I learned from Calculus that most problems have a brute force method of solving, where you plug in the numbers, work through a hundred steps, and out pops the result. I like brute force options. 
     I'm not sure my concept of a brick wall is compatible with the Growth mindset. I guess that my assumption has been once I've penetrated the brick wall it would all be much easier afterwards, and I could coast on general talent. It appears, however, that it's all brick wall.
     Or I'm just a slow learner, and I should accept that learning will always be difficult for me on some subjects.
     A peril of the fixed mindset is if you try something and you don't do well at it, you'll assume you'll never be any good at it and throw in the shovel, when the reality is that you can become a lot better. Best in the world, maybe not, but you can learn. 
     There's also an effort vs. time ratio. I could conceivably learn how to sing. I don't feel inclined to spend the effort or the time to do so at this point in my life. If you want to do something, you have to beg, borrow, steal, or barge out time in your day to do it. Time won't materialize for you. 
     It's not about finding the limits of your talent, it's about learning the thing you want to learn. 

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