Mistakes are part of every process. Often mistakes are mile-markers on the roads we have traveled. It’s probably true that we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Embracing mistakes creates a growth mindset.
I read the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (amazon.com link), eight or nine years ago, when my kids were little. One thing I noticed right away: I did not have a growth mindset. A growth mindset sees difficult odds as great opportunity. A growth mindset sees failure as learning. A growth mindset relishes hard work, exhibits perseverance, and prizes improvement even more than success.
I had a fixed mindset: all or nothing thinking, perfectionism, glass half-full, and fear of failure. Reading this book was like the breaking of dawn. Carol Dweck, Stanford professor and motivation researcher, demonstrates that none of us has to stay where we are. If we are willing to see potential and opportunity in challenges and failures, all of us can improve and grow.
This book changed the way I viewed myself and, accompanied with Bible study and prayer, it modified the way I talked to myself. One very unexpected difference was in the way that I talked to my kids—and this is a key finding in her research—children should be praised for their effort, techniques/strategies, hard work or perseverance, not for their “success” or their personal attributes (their intellectual or physical abilities). Successes can be enjoyed, but hard work, great effort, and perseverance are of high value whether we win or lose.
I was used to saying, “You’re such a pretty girl!” or “Aren’t you a smart boy?” “You’re so good at reading!” “You’re a winner!” But research shows that we set our kids up for stress by praising them in this way. We should highlight positive character traits, encouraging kids to bounce back, not stress out, after defeats. Dweck doesn’t talk about this, but I see this as encouraging resilience—an positive attitude that helps us to recover from difficulties more quickly, creates a mental toughness…this is a kind of realistic optimism.
This book is secular, but the belief that we are not stuck in our mistakes, we are not defined by our failures—the idea that change is possible—is supported in scripture:
- Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2, NLT).
- So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16, ESV).
- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17, ESV)
- Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24, ESV).
- Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Is. 43:19, ESV).
Hey you! I’m curious: would you say you have a fixed mindset? Or a growth mindset? Here is a test you can take to see where you land. I’d love to hear about your mindset in the comments!!
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