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What is a growth mindset?

🌱 Growth mindset is so important for learning. Mindset means your attitude towards something - and growth means to grow, improve and change.

To have a growth mindset is to believe through intentional action that we can improve.

It isn’t just about trying hard, not giving up and that we can’t do it yet.

It’s about:

⏰ Time. The iceberg illusion tells us that a moment of brilliance or achievement is underpinned by everything that has come before. You wouldn’t plant a seed and come back the next day looking for a tree. You wouldn’t pick up a Rubik’s Cube for the first time and solve it after an hour. It takes time.

😓 Effort. Or motivational rocket fuel. As a child Feliks Zemdegs’ mother used to have to tell him to put his Rubik’s Cube down for dinner or because it was bedtime. His passion, commitment and motivation to improve was like rocket fuel for propelling his ability to acquire skill. Feliks can solve a Rubiks Cube in under 5 seconds.

👩‍🏫 Input. Master coaches and teachers are experts at breaking concepts and processes down into smaller, coherent chunks. When we engage in deliberate practice of these chunks, it fires the neurons and wraps them in myelin. Myelin turns the pathways in the brain into superhighways of skill. Expert teachers offer feedback on how to change and improve. It happens in small moments that compound to huge aggregated changes.

🎯 Embracing failure. No one ever learned anything new by being right all of the time. Fixed mindset manifests by (consciously or unconsciously) covering up or being afraid of our failures. Making attempts, interrogating our failures, and fixing them is the key to moving forward.

💬 Vocabulary. When we use words like ‘clever’ (especially for children) we are reinforcing that answer is king and that we value speed over effort and diverse thinking. Dweck’s research calls this intelligence praise and a key contributor to a fixed mindset.

I look at my daughter. She’s five years old. We’ve been teaching her to play chess. She thinks strategically, experiments with moves, makes mistakes, loses pieces, ponders what happened, starts over and wants to keep going.

All the pieces for a growth mindset are in play for her. Sooner or later, it’ll be checkmate.


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