A Mindset That Can Conquer The Universe

Published by Hasan Mansoor on

A supporting mindset in contrast to a judgemental mindset can literally shape the humans we interact with. Dr. Carol Dweck has written a magnificent piece of work titled  Mindset, which discusses the idea of a growth-based environment versus a fixed-mindset approach. The idea has been supported by personal accounts of a number of people from different backgrounds, ages, demographics, and occupations, all of which point towards a positive outcome when dealt with in a supportive manner. When similar individuals were presented with a fault-finding interaction, their responses clearly indicate the negativism they perceived from it and the lack of extraction of any real constructive criticism it may have contained. Thus, mindset theory clearly has the potential to be a positive and productive force for great numbers of people.

The mindset theory states that there are essentially two types of categories that every interaction falls in: growth-based mindset and fixed mindset. A growth-based interaction results in the subject becoming more eager to learn and to improve upon their mistakes while fixed mindset ones result in the person often feeling bad and insecure about themselves. Of the categories presented, teachers tend to be one of the most common figures to be found in the life of every person. For this particular reason, it is imperative that they should implement a growth-supporting attitude towards their students.

To demonstrate this effect, we shall look at a few encounters from Mindset. One of Miss Dorothy DeLay’s (a famous violin teacher) students said, “That is part of Miss DeLay’s genius — to put people in the frame of mind that they can do their best…Very few teachers can actually get you to your ultimate potential. Miss DeLay has that gift. She challenges you at the same that you feel you are being nurtured” (Mindset). If we look at the last line of the above quote, we can see that the student felt challenged, but at the same time, they enjoyed it. They felt that Miss DeLay was there to help them grow and accomplish feats that they did not think were possible for them. The student also claims that Miss DeLay helped them reach their full potential, and it says a lot about what they felt while working with her.

Another of her students said, “We were working on my sound, and there was this one note I played, and Miss DeLay stopped me and said, ‘Now that is a beautiful sound’” (Mindset). Here, it is evident that Miss DeLay did not spare a moment where she could appreciate her student’s efforts and actively pointed out areas that would make them feel amazing. Hearing this, the student further said, “Wow! If I can do it here, I can do it everywhere!” It was a practice session where the student was led to believe that they can partake in an actual performance just as well as they did here, and that is phenomenal.

Marva Collins, an inner-city grade school teacher often had to deal with some rowdy-natured students. They would be difficult at the start, but as time passed they garnered the ability to participate in critical thinking sessions along with the class. One of those students, Gary, wrote in a class assignment, “Somnus, the god of sleep, please awaken us. While we sleep, ignorance takes over the world…Take your spell off us. We don’t have much time before ignorance makes a coup d’état of the world” (Mindset). Gary was a student who had even said, “I’m not gonna do any damn work.” Gary went from being a typical adolescent teen to someone who could reference Greek mythology in his writings. It was Mrs. Collins’s stubbornness to give up on Gary that resulted in this. She once told Gary, “If you don’t want to participate, go to the telephone and tell your mother, ‘Mother, in this school we have to learn, and Mrs. Collins says I can’t fool around, so will you please pick me up’” (Mindset). By placing the responsibility for his own learning in his hands, the teacher encouraged the student to grow.

The above examples all show a growth-mindset being applied, but what happens when the fixed-mindset is used? Ivan Galamian, a colleague and mentor of Miss DeLay, would say, “Oh, he has no ear. Don’t waste your time” (Mindset). From the readings, it is clear that Galamian possessed a fixed-mindset. Any student who would hear such a remark will undoubtedly develop insecurities and hatred for playing the violin and eventually lose their interest in the field.

The TED talk, “The Power Of Believing You Can Improve”, is also by Dr. Carol Dweck. This talk touches on how young children with the two mindsets responded to a test that was designed to be more difficult than the curriculum they were taught. The fixed-mindset group got scared and felt that their intelligence was under attack. On the other hand, there were a few students who legitimately enjoyed the challenge. One student said, “You know, I was hoping this would be informative” (The Power Of Believing You Can Improve). This suggests that one’s approach to learning is an important factor in responding to a potentially stressful learning situation.

“The Fringe Benefits of Failure” is a remarkable speech by J.K Rowling that addresses how failure at certain points in her life actually paved the way for her to become what she is now. Had she gotten everything that she had hoped for, it would have been a different path for her, which could have possibly prevented her from giving the world Harry Potter. Rowling believed that it was necessary to teach Harvard graduates failure because they had seen a great magnitude of success already. If they are not taught what failure is, they might not be able to cope with it in a respectable manner when it comes knocking at their doors. This fact is evident by the line, “Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person’s idea of success, so high you have already flown” (The Fringe Benefits of Failure). Rowling’s speech highlights the importance of embracing failure as a necessary step towards growth.

All these accounts explain to us how fragile and sensitive human beings can actually be. As they highlight a very dreadful problem, they also provide a straightforward solution, and that is to be cautious of how we react to outcomes of actions. The moment we start to make judgments and imply that the current situation is a permanent one, we will have already done enough damage. The resources provided have proved again and again that there is always a chance to help people improve. It may not be so simple for everyone, but for teachers, it should be a paramount responsibility to make sure they give it their best effort. Not everyone can always perform at their best, but simply giving up on the difficult cases without attempting a specialized approach should be an offense that teachers, the gateways of knowledge, should be afraid of.

Resources used:

Carol Dweck’s book titled Mindset and the TED talk “The Power of Believing You Can Improve.”

J.K Rowling’s speech at Harvard


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