by Clare Langley-Hawthorne
On Friday night I heard a great presentation from our school district’s differentiation coach about fixed versus growth mindset and how research into this relates to how our children learn and succeed at school. Although I haven’t read the work by Carol Dweck (who pioneered much of this research) I was intrigued enough to watch her in a TED speech online (click to see here) and to place her book ‘Mindset, the New Psychology of Success’ on hold at our local library. Initially the concept of a fixed versus growth mindset didn’t seem all the radical, but when I thought a little more closely I realized it highlights many of ‘mindset’ issues we face as writers.
A fixed mindset is one which regards intelligence, talent or ability as static and innate – meaning we are either intelligent, smart, good at creative writing or we aren’t (and I guess if we aren’t we just have to accept our fate!). Scientific research over the last few decades reveals, however, that our brains are much more flexible and fluid than that and, like any muscle, the more we use it, the stronger it gets.
At some time in our lives, I’m sure many of us have been caught within the fixed mindset trap (“I’m not good at math”; “I’m a hopeless athlete…”), or may have had a fixed mindset imposed on us by our teachers or our peers (“You can’t write!”; “You’ll never be able to do that!” ). Research shows that children start out in kindergarten believing they can do anything (just think of how many of us wanted to be astronauts!) but as we mature, many of us shift from a growth mindset to a fixed one. At that point we no longer want to face the possibility of failure and remain firmly entrenched in our ‘comfort zone’ of abilities.
Someone with a fixed mindset will most likely avoid challenges; give up easily; ignore feedback and feel threatened by other people’s success. Unfortunately, writing is by its very nature an ongoing challenge that more often than not results in failure – writers face a constant learning curve, which (I would argue at least) requires us to move to a growth mindset in order to succeed (or at least not go insane!)
Someone with a growth mindset embraces challenges, gives everything their best shot, learns from feedback and is inspired by others’ success. More importantly, they accept failure as a necessary part of the growth process (an admittedly difficult lesson for any of us to learn).
As both a writer and a parent, I got a great deal out of Friday’s presentation. It made me think more closely about my own mindset and whether it was fixed or growth focused when it came to my writing, and how I can embrace the challenges as well as the failures as I continue to grow as a writer.
So TKZers, how would you categorize your mindset when it comes to your writing?