Grit, Mindset, and the Power of Yet!

According to the definition that shows up on Google, grit is courage and resolve; the strength of character. Check out this TED talk by Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth. Duckworth found in her research that students who were the most successful, showed the most grit. She referred to the work of Carol Dweck, Ph.D., the author of Mindset, as a way to strengthen this concept of grit. Dweck proposed that people tend to fall into two different mindsets, the fixed and growth mindset. If someone has a fixed mindset, they believe that they are born with a certain level of mental and physical abilities, and that can’t be changed. A person with a growth mindset believes that they can improve both their mental and physical capabilities by learning and consistently working hard. Take a listen to Carol Dweck’s TED Talk titled, “The Power of Believing you can Improve.” Let’s take a closer look at these two mindsets.

A person with a fixed mindset believes that their abilities are innate and their isn’t much they can do to change that. They will often avoid challenges and when they do take on a challenge, they usually give up quickly. Effort is seen as unimportant, and they will use a lack of it as an excuse when they fail. “I failed because I didn’t really try” is generally the underachiever’s motto.  They ordinarily don’t take criticism well and do not take delight in the success of others because it makes them feel like a failure. According to Dweck’s TED Talk, research shows there is a greater likelihood that a person with a fixed mindset will cheat after experiencing failure. The person will often compare themselves to others who did worse, so they can feel better.

A person with a growth mindset will welcome a challenge and will persevere through difficulty. They know that consistent effort and practice leads to proficiency. They are open to criticism and learn from it. They also grasp the notion that “success leaves tracks” and they can learn from the success of others without feeling threatened by them. Here are a few ways to cultivate a growth mindset and have true grit.

  •  Utilize the power of yet. As Professor Dweck said in her talk, instead of thinking of yourself as a failure when you do something poorly, just look at it as “I don’t have it mastered yet.” She mentions that this opens up a path to the future, instead of prompting someone to give up.
  • Try something new. Whether it’s a new sport, hobby, or class, putting yourself in a position to learn something new will give you a chance to practice the growth mindset. In most cases, unless you’re a total natural, you will make mistakes and have to accept it as part of the learning process. Remember to refer back to the first tip often. If you are struggling, then you don’t have the sport/activity/information mastered, yet.
  • Welcome constructive criticism. A person with a fixed mindset will shy away from criticism and feel attacked by it. Try to be open to criticism and learn from it. Of course, in some cases, the criticism will not be constructive and down right mean. It will not be worth your time to dwell on that type of useless input, and it will be better to move on.
  • Praise effort, not the end result. This is a way you can bring out the growth mindset in others, especially children. This is something I am working on with my daughter. Instead of telling her she is great at reading, I acknowledge her effort in learning to read and sounding out words. I am proud for how hard she works at reading. A recent study showed that children who had parents who overvalued their accomplishments (end results) had a tendency to exhibit narcissistic behavior.
  • Consistency is the key to grit. Short bursts of hard work are not synonymous with  grit. Grit is the result of a long term consistent effort towards your goals. If your goal is fitness, it’s not about going to the gym and working out really hard for one week during the year. It’s about working out each week, year after year, to reach your goal of good health and fitness, and maintain it.

We always have a choice, we can either give our best effort, or we can quit. Even if we give our strongest effort, there are times we will fail, but we can dust ourselves off and learn from those failures. If we have a fixed mindset, we will remain stuck in place, and success will most likely allude us. If we can utilize a growth mindset and have some grit, there is a good chance we will reach our goals. If we don’t, then we’re just not there, yet!

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