The 4 Makers & Breakers of Mindset – pt. 1
The growth mindset research is a game changing field that’s actually changing the game and that excites the crap out of me.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the importance of it and the characteristics of both the growth and fixed mindset.
However, the characteristics are just the symptoms. To fully understand and realize the power of mindsets we have to dig deeper and look at the cause of these symptoms. Buckle up. It’s go time!
Hey Trev, how about a 1 min. 16 sec. mindset refresher before we start? No prob.
The premise is pretty straight forward:
Our mindsets and views on learning have a massive impact on our success in the short and long term.
People who believe that they can grow their intelligence and abilities are said to have a “growth” mindset.
While those who believe that our intelligence and abilities are set, or we have what we have, are said to have a “fixed” mindset.
Science shows two important things:
1. People with a growth mindset work harder, are more persistent, and are more open to challenges than people with a fixed mindset.
2. People with a growth mindset learn and grow faster and better than people with a fixed mindset
The symptoms or characteristics of the two mindsets are laid out in this fancy table. It does a great job of giving us the big picture and showing us the impact that the mindsets have:
However, in order to really have an impact on ourselves and those around us we need to go deeper than the table, deeper than the symptoms, and we need to work to understand what causes the symptoms.
The 4 Makers & Breakers of Mindset
- Understanding the brain (part 1 – you’re in the right place)
- Values (part 1 – you’re in the right place)
- Process v Outcomes (part 2 – click here)
- Feedback (part 2 – click here)
Imagine these like a mindset seesaw and we’re standing in the middle. If we get these right we drop into a growth mindset. If we get them wrong we drop into a fixed mindset.
1. Understanding the brain
Neuroscience shows that the brain is like a muscle. When we stretch it, it is designed to learn and grow. Stretching is the key word here.
Think about doing a set of 10 curls. Which rep sucks the most to do? Which rep leads to the most growth?
That’s right. The 10th (and even 11th rep if you’re wild) are the hardest for sure, but that’s where all the magic happens.
Your brain is the same. When you do hard things, when you stretch outside of your comfort zone, it learns like crazy.
This makes total sense but the problem is, this isn’t taught!
Best selling author, Daniel Coyle pretty much mic drops this whole issue:
“So what will your grandkids be chuckling about in 2061?
Here’s my answer: Brain Ed.
I think our grandkids will look back and say, Back in 2011 (still true today), parents and teachers wanted kids to learn, but somehow they didn’t bother teaching kids the most important part — how the learning machine actually works. What the heck were those people thinking?
And our grandkids will be absolutely, positively, 100-percent right.
Right now, teachers, parents, and coaches in our society focus their attention on teaching the material — whether it’s algebra, soccer, or music. This is the equivalent of trying to train athletes without informing them that muscles exist. It’s like teaching nutrition without mentioning vegetables or vitamins. We feverishly cram our classrooms with whiz-bang technology, but fail to teach the kids how their own circuits are built to operate.
It’s all completely understandable, of course. Our parenting and teaching practices evolved in an industrial age, when we presumed potential was innate, brains were fixed (just as we presumed smoking was healthy and three-martini lunches were normal). But that doesn’t make it right. In fact, you could argue that teaching a child how their brain works is not just an educational strategy — it’s closer to a human right.”
Recap: The brain is like a muscle and we do a shit job of teaching kids how it works. Understanding these things leads to a growth mindset, on the other hand… well, here:
There is another part of the brain that’s also at play here. And, just like brain education, we also suck at understanding it…
The amygdala, or as Seth Godin calls it, “The Lizard Brain.”
The lizard brain is literally the brain of a wild animal. It lives in the middle of our “human brain” and was hardwired to help us survive wayyyyyyyyy back in the day. It’s designed to:
- Play it safe
- Shy away from change
- Avoid risks
- Fit in
- Play it safe
- Play it safe
If we had to design a fixed mindset generating machine, it would be the lizard brain. It is one of the reasons that we are scared to speak up in class, get out of our comfort zones, and try new things. So yeah, it resists almost everything that can help us learn.
Crappy, huh? It seems like getting rid of this thing would be a huge win for us. Well, I’m like 99% sure that there is no such thing as an amygdala removal surgery. So we’re kind of stuck with it. Which means we need to understand how to use the brain to our advantage. Take it away Mr. Godin:
If you’re seeking to destroy, defeat, or conquer the lizard brain, you will fail. It cannot be done. When you try to fight the lizard brain you give it more power.
What you can do is dance with the lizard brain. What you can do is realize that the lizard brain is a compass. And when it freaks out it’s telling you that you’re onto something. When it freaks out it’s telling you that you’re about to do something that is brave, and bold, and powerful.
You should listen to it by doing exactly the opposite of what it’s telling you to do. When we listen to the lizard brain, welcome it, and thank it for giving us a clue, we can use it to our own end.
No matter how hard or easy something is a learner’s main concern is getting better and finding the lessons. To protect it’s ego, a lizard wants to look good and play it safe – which makes sense. If you believe your skills and intelligence are fixed, you don’t want people to know you’re not that great at something.
A learner speaks up in class, attempts something new, welcomes the stumbles, finds the lessons in both wins and losses, and GETS BETTER. (I love how self fulfilling this one is).
A lizard keeps their mouth shut, plays it safe, hides from situations where they might mess up, is satisfied with a win, discouraged with a loss, and MISSES OUT on daily opportunities to learn and grow. (What’s the opposite of self fulfilling? This is that).
These values directly impact our mindset. This study shows the power of these values and how we can manipulate them:
Dr. Adam Alter and Dr. Joshua Aronson gave Princeton University underclassman a challenging test using questions from the GRE. Students were divided into two groups:
Questions were presented to make the students feel like they were being judged on whether or not they truly belonged at Princeton. This activated their lizard brain and their main concern became looking good. They took the test with a fixed mindset.
Questions were presented as ‘brain teasers.’ The title of the test was even called Intellectual Challenge Questionnaire. Students were told to do their best and enjoy the challenge. These students took the test with a growth mindset.
By simply reframing the instructions Alter and Aronson created a massive performance gap on the test…
This was one test, with a one sentence primer. Imagine what happens over the course of a semester or a year, where a student is feeling judged and concerned with ALWAYS looking good hundreds and hundreds of times…
The good news is that it also shows that we can condition ourselves and those around us to have a more healthy view on learning (which is also what I’ve discovered during the Train Ugly Challenge).
Let’s add water and let that simmer for a bit. Part 2 will be coming at ya in a day or two!
UPDATE: Part 2 is up. Click Here, my friend!