As I sit in my office at Yale listening to a piano student next door repeating the same passage in the same EXACT way for what seems like hours, I have an urge to knock on the door and say to this person,
“Mere repetition is not going to help you improve. You need smart new strategies and the growth mindset!”
What exactly do I have in mind?
Success is more than hard work. You need smart and new strategies from which you can learn and grow. You also need patience if you have not mastered something yet! These 3 lessons come from the updated growth mindset research from Dr. Carol Dweck and my coaching group at Yale is learning how to apply these lessons so that our members can achieve greater success!
My last blog post detailed how my coaching group was committed to adopting the growth mindset and not simply riding on their talent. As a reminder, the growth mindset approaches talent and intelligence as the starting point of success, with a belief that success comes as a result of effort, experimentation, learning, and persistence. These folks are motivated by the desire to grow and learn.
This is in contrast to the fixed mindset which is based on a perception that you are born with a limited amount of intelligence and talent and that you cannot change how talented or smart you are. These folks want to protect that talent and intelligence so they either don’t exert effort or they stay within their comfort zones, afraid to take risks and rock the boat because if they make mistake, that’s the proof that they really are not talented.
Over the years, the growth mindset has swept through our culture and several misconceptions have arisen about what the growth mindset is and how to cultivate it. Indeed, the growth mindset has been oversimplified by educators who believe that it just means working hard. To correct these misconceptions, Dr. Dweck has revisited the growth mindset and explained the updated research on the growth mindset in an interview in The Atlantic. In fact, a new edition of her 2007 book Mindset is due in early March. And exhibiting tremendous humility, Dr. Dweck herself shares how she and her colleagues are taking a growth mindset approach to their research:
“Maybe we originally put too much emphasis on sheer effort. Maybe we made the development of a growth mindset sound too easy. Maybe we talked too much about people having one mindset or the other, rather than portraying people as mixtures. We are on a growth-mindset journey, too.”
Here are 3 critical aspects of the updated growth mindset that resonated powerfully with our coaching group:
Don’t Banish the Fixed Mindset!
Often, when people hear about the two mindsets, they assume that the Fixed Mindset is bad and that they have to get rid of it. Moreover, they further believe that once they banish the fixed mindset, they have the growth mindset all the time. This is a common reaction among my students when they first learn about the Growth Mindset.
In fact, no one has the growth mindset all the time and we are all a mixture of the two.
Therefore, the work is to accept the fixed mindset, to become aware of when it arises and then to do the necessary works to convert their fixed mindset thoughts into growth Mindset thoughts. Over time, this process results in having a more growth mindset approach to one’s challenges.
Our coaching group now understands the need to embrace their fixed mindset thoughts and do the hard work that comes with changing one’s mindset. More on this in our next post!
Use Smart Strategies, Not Simply Effort
Another misconception is that you can achieve a growth mindset simply by putting in effort and working hard. While hard work is important for achievement, there is more to the growth mindset than simply exerting effort. The growth mindset develops when you use new and smart strategies, including reaching out to others for help when you get stuck. The idea is to learn from your mistakes and grow from them, which often involves changing up what you have done in the past if that method has not proved effective.
Another misconception is what Dr. Dweck calls the “false growth mindset”, perpetuated by educators who praise students solely for trying hard, without going beneath the surface to explore why certain strategies work and don’t work in order to learn from failure.
As Dr. Dweck recently wrote,
“students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve. Effort is a means to an end to the goal of learning and improving.”
This is another area where the members of my coaching group reported success.
One student spoke about the tough feedback she received from a conductor who told her that the only way she was going to improve her auditioning skills was to study scores and listen to lots of recordings to help her immerse herself in the music. While she was initially taken aback and felt overwhelmed, she thought about what it meant to immerse herself in the music. She studied one score and listened to one recording and found that it was fun. She then isolated the hard passages, played them slowly and dug deeply into the music. She also played as if she was actually performing. These were new strategies for her and she saw that they helped her to improve. That changed her mindset because she understands the importance of getting meaningful feedback with new ideas and she now believes that good things can happen when you work hard using smart strategies.
The Power of Yet
Another powerful idea is that you may not have mastered something…yet, the subject of Dr. Dweck’s Ted Talk. This approach overcomes the notion that “I will never get this.” Or “I am too dumb to get this.” In fact, the power of yet is consistent with the notion that an artist continually works to improve and is on a lifelong journey of growth!
Several students mentioned that they felt comforted knowing that they weren’t there yet but with smart hard work they could aspire to the next steps and thus achieve greater success.
Now that our students understand the growth mindset, my coaching group is going on a Growth Mindset campaign to experiment with managing their fixed mindsets and responding with the growth mindset. They are using the 4-step process to taming the fixed mindset and adopting a growth mindset approach.
These musicians are used to hard work and the idea that they can do SMART hard work is very appealing, especially when the consequence is to relieve some of the stress that they are under. And they are committed to acquiring the mindset of success.
Stay tuned for their progress!