Monday, 26 December 2011

Do you consider yourself work in progress?

Do you consider yourself a work in progress or a finished product?How does  your belief on such issues as IQ and innate talents, affect you in different areas of your life?Professor Carol S. Dweck , Ph .D. of Stanford university  analyses this in her  246 pages long book called "Mindset:The new psychology of success" published  in 2006.I read it recently and found it simply written but very profound .You  can call it a self help book , because it helps us to understand the meaning and  importance of mindset and  what needs to be done to succeed in life .It is a book on psychology and success.But it does not talk about positive or negative attitudes or thinking.The book has eight chapters , three on what mindset is , and four chapters on the role of mindset in sports,business, relationships and parenting/education .The last chapter is on changing the mindsets.Key words are growth , mindset, belief , effort and ability.
The book has changed my thinking on mindsets , and has succeeded in convincing me that in all areas of life , the role and contribution of effort , persistence and resilience is far more important than those of ability and talent.It has helped me to understand the most direct way to succeed in  any chosen area of life.I do believe now that growth mindset leads to success in most areas of life.I also believe that mindset can be changed.
   Mindset is a belief about our qualities and abilities.Mindset is also a belief about what makes us successful .Carol divides mindsets into two types.Fixed mindset is a belief that our qualities , abilities and talents are in our genes and cannot be changed .Growth mindset is a belief that our qualities , abilities and talents can be cultivated ad changed by efforts, perseverance and resilience.Then there is a belief that success is mainly determined by our abilities.The opposite belief is that success is 99% hard work and innate talent contributes very little to it .You may win once with ability but to win over and over , you need character which comes out of growth mindset.Carol quotes John Wooden:"I believe , ability can get you to the top but it takes character to keep you there."In fixed mindset , you can win games .But to win championships , you need growth mindset.It is the growth mindset which changes life.

Our traditional belief is that Intelligence Quotient(IQ) is innate and hardwired .It broadly remains unchanged  in our life.But Carol quotes Alfred Binet, the inventor of IQ as below:"With practice , training , and above all , method , we manage to increase our attention , our memory, our judgment and literally to become more intelligent than we were before."Our IQ is not fixed , it can be changed .The same is true of other abilities or talents .We need to change our belief that our abilities are fixed .We need to develop a growth mindset  ,or the belief that we can acquire any ability , including the artistic ability with training.In other words , we can become "smart"with hard work.There are no short cuts in life.Then success becomes a function of having a growth mindset.Mindset  affects all areas of life from sports , business, leadership , education , parenting to  relationships.
 It is not necessary that we automatically  have a growth mindset in all areas of life .We may have fixed mindset in certain areas of life and growth mindset in the remaining areas of life. We need to know  and analyze our mindset.Then we must change our mindset to growth mindset in those areas of life , where for the present it is fixed mindset.
This premise of the book comes up against the widely prevalent American  culture which values effortless accomplishment higher than achievement with efforts.Malcolm Gladwell , the author and New Yorker writer, "has suggested that as a society we value natural , effortless accomplishment over achievement through effort."The book says that you should be hardworking , even if you are smart /talented."The story of the tortoise and the hare, in trying to put forward the power of effort , gave effort a bad name.It reinforced the image that effort is for the plodders and suggested that in rare instances, when talented people dropped the ball , the plodder could sneak through"
I think , Asian  culture also(?) prefers effortless accomplishments , though I am not aware of any studies which might have been done in this regard , in any country of Asia.
The self-esteem movement also presupposes a fixed mindset .Carol's advocacy of  growth mindset , to some extent goes against self-esteem movement .
What is more important , brilliance /smartness/ability or effort/hard work/perseverance/resilience?Carol comes fully in favour of the latter(Growth mindset). There are no natural geniuses.Creativity is not magic. Becoming is better than being.It prefers" Doing the best "over "Being the best"Taking charge of process brings success.It accepts and embraces  challenges. Growth mindset promotes team work , persistence in the face of setbacks.It attacks elitism, and credits fixed mindset with being a loner .Growth mindset implies full and open discussion of all information, culture of self examination, open communication and team work.It produces perseverance and resilience , which are number one ingredient in creative achievement.A growth mindset person must address every criticism and learn from it.It finds lessons and inspiration in the success of others.In the event of failure, growth minded people take the blame on themselves while the fixed mindset people blame others."As you become a more growth minded person, you are amazed at how people start to help you, support you.they no longer seem like adversaries, out to deny you what you deserve."
We need to believe in growth mindset .Train our mentee in this mindset .Fulfill our own mission and the growth of our mentees.Mentoring and learning needs perseverance.
One important corollary of growth mindset is that when we recruit people to man important positions , we should select people with growth mindsets , and reject people with fixed mindset , however talented that may be .
One drawback of the book is that it does not tell how to switch over from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset .But Carol does suggest us to ask ourselves a few questions and try to find answers to these.What are the opportunities for learning and growth today, for yourself as well as for the people around you?Make a plan or a project to change your mindset and to grow, and act on these.Take steps to maintain and continue the growth.Develop or attend a workshop to change mindset from fixed to growth.Develop study skills , study strategies and new learning styles.
  I have been a student of motivation and have frequently delivered talks on motivation .When we discuss the role of praise as a motivator , we praise the ability and very rarely , we praise the effort .Carol says that we must praise the effort and the achievement , and not the ability .This may sound radical , but Carol backs it up with her research findings.It is an important and profound insight.I tend to agree with the author.
The role of ability or talent in success is over rated .A one time winning of Gold Medal , in a university or school , is not important  in the long term success in life.
Mindset plays an equally important role in relationships and love.Is chemistry more important than relationship skills , or the other way round? .A fixed mindset blames character flaw in the partner while a growth mindset tries to understand and encourages forgiveness.A fixed mindset , when it sees character flaws in the partner , becomes contemptuous of partner and dissatisfied with the whole relationship.Growth mindset sees conflict as a problem to be solved.However , Carol does not answer all questions in this area.Fixed mindset requires or expects a partner to have total or uncritical acceptance .Growth mindset requires /expects the partner to learn new things and become a better person .I am not sure , if expecting a change in partner really makes a relationship better .I feel , in the area of relationship , the growth mindset raises more questions than answers.What if one partner has a fixed mindset and the other a growth mindset?Perhaps a more thorough analysis is called for .But Carol is at her best when it comes to learning and education .She gives very inspiring examples of Marva Collins and Esquith.
About Marva Collins and Esquith  , Carol says;"Collin's students read and discussed every line of Macbeth in class.Esquith spent hours planning what chapters they would read in class.It takes enormous energy to plan a passage for each youngster.Esquith's class often met before school, after school and on school vacations to master the fundamentals of English and maths.His motto:"there are no short cuts'.'
Marva Collins has no doubt about the role of effort:"There is no magic here.I do not walk on water.I just love children and work harder than a lot of people, and so will you"Growth mindset motivates us to learn and improve, and make efforts.
In Seven Habits of highly effective People , Covey  also talks about responsibility .Responsibility comes with growth mindset only .
The book describes three model leaders with growth mindset;Jack Welch , Lou Gerstner,and Anne Mulcahy.All leaders need to have a growth mindset.There is a relationship between leadership and our capacity to grow and develop.

This book has been able to break many of my beliefs on some very important but obvious things .I have begun to see and admire people more on the basis of their efforts,achievements and honesty and less on the basis of their talents.I have begun to have more faith in intelligent hard work .I have stopped living under the shadows of trophies, gold  medals , awards that I happened to have won in the past .
Read it and see what this book does to you.