Does someone’s intelligence change? In the early twentieth century, Alfred Binet invented the I.Q. test as a way to identify children who were not benefiting from the public schools in Paris, France. The hope was that new educational methods could be developed to help these children who were not progressing in Paris public schools. Binet writes: “With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase attention, our memory, and our judgment and literally to become more intelligent than we here before.”
With the recent finding in neuroscience, scientists are finding that we have more capacity for learning and the development of our brain for our entire lives. Robert Sternberg writes that the most important reason that someone becomes an expert is “not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement.”
A mindset is defined as “a person’s way of thinking and their opinions.” A fixed mindset means that the person believes that their qualities are carved in stone. Success is about being more gifted than others. They are constantly comparing themselves with others. This attitude means that the person must prove them self over and over again. They do not believe in effort. If you are talented, they you do not have to work hard. They assume that they are either good at something or not. They do not realize that some things take time to learn.
When someone has the fixed mindset, their focus is on looking good and being flawless. People with a fixed mindset do not like challenges. They may walk away when challenges get too difficult. Those with a fixed mindset tend to look for others to blame for their mistakes. They greatly fail to estimate their ability and their performance.
As students they are most interested in proving their ability. They have higher levels of depression. “They tormented themselves with the idea that setbacks meant they were incompetent or unworthy. . . . Failure labeled them and left them no route to success,” writes Dr. Carol Dweck.
A growth mindset assumes that success is about being the best self you can be. It assumes that a person’s true potential can never be known. The growth mindset is the idea that our ability can be developed with effort. As students, they let go of how successful or intelligent that they appear to others. They focus on learning and are willing to ask questions that reveal that they do not know. When we believe that we can develop ourselves, then we are also open to hearing about our faults. In fact, failure is an opportunity to learn about yourself.
We can learn how to change our attitude to a growth mindset. When we change to a growth mindset, our ideas about change and effort will change as well. Please watch this video by Bob Epperly on taking responsibility in business and learn about working with a growth mindset: