Last week I spoke about a new “mind-set” for our country. (A New Mindset)
It all starts with our own personal mindset.
The book considered to be the “granddaddy” of self-help and personal development is “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. It was written in 1937. I read it in 1965 and by 1970 it had sold over 20 million copies. By 2012 it had sold over 70 million. I have read and given away that book at least a dozen times over the decades. I just downloaded it for 99 cents from Amazon to my Kindle.
Mr. Hill had written a book earlier entitled “The Law of Success” and it intrigued Andrew Carnegie, the very-rich Scottish-American businessman. He encouraged Napoleon Hill to expand on his ideas by interviewing the most successful men in the world and write how they succeeded. The book basically states that an individual with desire, faith, and persistence can reach great heights by eliminating negative energy and thoughts, and focusing on the greater goals at hand. Personally, this book changed my own life and started me on a quest for success in business. However, I believe the times were different, much different, in the ‘60s. I still think every adult should read this book because it is fascinating and will make you think.
In early childhood, our personalities and “mindset” are formed. As an adult it is possible to re-do these childhood developed traits, but difficult and sometimes even mentally painful.
I would like to recommend a book for every parent with young kids. It’s called “Mindset” by Carol Dweck, Ph.D.
My interest in the book is derived from the past six years of being a volunteer reading tutor to second grade students with reading difficulties. (If you can’t learn to read you can’t read to learn). I have seen incredible differences in the mindsets of these youngsters and the work of Dr. Dweck, a Stanford psychologist, makes understanding these differences much easier. I can’t change, nor do I want to change these great kids. I love them all and most of them I want to take home and keep.
Dweck’s research team has found two distinct personality mindset traits in youngsters. A “fixed” mindset and a “growth” mindset. A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.
One experiment with four-year olds was to give them a choice of re-doing an easy jig-saw puzzle they just put together or trying a harder puzzle. Even these young children conformed to the characteristics of one of the two mindsets — those with “fixed” mindsets stayed on the safe side, choosing the easier puzzles that would affirm their existing ability, articulating to the researchers their belief that smart kids don’t make mistakes; those with the “growth” mindset thought it an odd choice to begin with, perplexed why anyone would want to do the same puzzle over and over if they aren’t learning anything new. In other words, the fixed-mindset kids wanted to make sure they succeeded in order to seem smart, whereas the growth-mindset ones wanted to stretch themselves, for their definition of success was about becoming smarter.
My own beliefs stem from my generation. We might have screwed up this “self-esteem” thing. This book does not point that finger of blame. That’s’ just my opinion. Telling kids they are smart and perfect and blah, blah blah— does nothing to help them understand that we have to “work” hard and keep learning more and more our entire life. I see this so much in my earlier life and in relationships everywhere. The “fixed” mindset believes in fairy tale romance and how their “ideal” mate will put them on a pedestal and make them feel perfect. They will ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. Yeah.
The “growth” mindset prefers a partner who recognizes their faults and lovingly helps improve them; someone who encourages them to learn new things and become a better person.
The “fixed” mindset in marriage is toxic. They think everything will happen automatically (like Cinderella and Snow White) and the ideal is instant, perfect and perpetual compatibility.
The “growth” mindset in marriage believes all things can be developed through work. You, your partner and the relationship are capable of growth and change.
I believe we have to help our children form a growth mindset. In summary, I’ll let Dr. Dweck’s words finish:
“When people embark on a relationship, they encounter a partner who is different from them, and they haven’t learned how to deal with the differences. In a good relationship, people develop these skills and, as they do, both partners grow and the relationship deepens. But for this to happen, people need to feel they’re on the same side. . . . As an atmosphere of trust developed, they [become] vitally interested in each other’s development.”