You Mean I Don't Have to be Dumb?

Is your IQ fixed? Can anyone learn to play the violin or compete in a triathlon? Is a particular gift a requirement to learn these things? It turns out that intelligence, sports ability, music ability, just about any ability can be learned, according to 25 years of research by Carol Dweck a former Columbia and current Stanford Psychologist.

You are what you think. Perception is reality. That’s the core message from Carol Dweck’s book, ‘Mindset.’ She says that we have two mindsets, fixed mindsets and growth mindsets.  People with fixed mindsets believe that intelligence and ability are fixed, that they can’t be changed or augmented.  People with a growth mindset believe that intelligence and ability is a byproduct of focused effort and that we can improve our intelligence with effort and determination. Sounds like mastery to me.

Not only does mindset apply to mental ability but it also applies to athletics, art, personability and relationships.  Dweck’s research says, “When you learn new things, these tiny connections in the brain actually multiply and get stronger. The more that you challenge your mind to learn, the more your brain cells grow. Then, things that you once found very hard or even impossible—like speaking a foreign language or doing algebra—seem to become easy. The result is a stronger, smarter brain.”

“After seven experiments with hundreds of children, we had some of the clearest findings I’ve ever seen: Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance,” say’s Dweck. More evidence that carrots and sticks are harmful. If you praise effort and growth as opposed to intelligence or talent, it will have a positive affect. This kind of praise encourages the growth mindset.

In the last six months, I’ve been thinking about the limitations that I’d created for myself and decided that that’s just what they were, self set limitations, not limitations that I was born with or stuck with, but ones I’d put there myself. About a month ago I took those limitations and turned them into goals, with the help of Mindset and Carol Dweck, I’ve just added a couple more goals to the list.

I’ve been telling myself that I don’t have the talent or ability for: drawing (even though I have a BFA), sports, foreign language, playing a musical instrument and starting a business.  All of these things are now on my goal list. Do you have fixed mindset messages have you accepted or created for yourself?  If I can flip the switch on my fixed mindset limitations, you can to!  What are you so afraid to fail at that you don’t bother trying?

‘Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.’

Richard Bach