I love movies.

cliff success One of my favorites is the original Karate Kid series (okay, not Karate Kid II so much but the first and third ones were cool). There is a great line in KK III, where the bad guy “Terry Silver,” (portrayed by Thomas Ian Griffith), tells the audience at the All Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament, that, ‘when you get, you give.’ The irony here is that most of us know that its the other way around – when you give, you get.

“If you don’t give anything, don’t expect anything. Success is not coming to you, you must come to it,” says Dr. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. We see this frequently in the student organizations and even in the professional groups – people join, send in a few bucks and expect the benefits of membership to start flooding. What they eventually realize (well, some figure it out), that if you’re not contributing to organization, you’re not getting anything out of it. Fixed mindset people wait for their ship to come in; growth mindset people  swim out to it.

As we finish Dweck’s book this week, I’m curious what messages we’re sending to our kids about how the fixed and growth mindset affect our kids perspectives on success and failure?

  • It used to be that after little league games, parents and their young athletes would analyze how the game went and give tips for improvement (i.e. a growth-mindset). The fixed-mindset parents however focus on blaming the coaches and referees, often because they are too afraid of telling little Johnny or Susie that they just played poorly and that’s why they lost (Dweck 182).
  • “I’ll teach you a lesson you’ll never forget!” Ever hear those words, or perhaps worse, said them? What do you think this teaches children? You’re right, they will probably never forget the lesson but the lesson is that if they go against their parents’ rules, they will be judged and punished – they are not teaching their children how to think through issues and come to ethical, mature decisions on their own (Dweck 187). With kids, don’t judge, teach – it’s a learning process (Dweck 186).
  • Lowering standards doesn’t work – telling kids the truth and giving them the tools to succeed works (Dweck 199).

I’m by no means the perfect parent, but today I tried to pass along a lesson to one of my kids. We played Chess and we played like my dad and I used to play – which means that he taught me the game, but didn’t let me win – ever. To beat him I had to genuinely win. Today, I helped explain the rules and work through different the outcomes of different decisions that my youngling was about to make – I carried him on the ropes for awhile so we could continue the game but at the end I still won (I did spare him my victory dance and avoided spiking his King into the living room carpet). Obviously, youngling was disenchanted but I explained to him that he made several good decisions, pointed some of them out, and that he learned much more about how the game is played.

I still remember the day I finally beat my dad – he actually flipped the chess board over completely in defeat. Earned success is the best kind of success!

Before we leave Dweck’s excellent book, I want to address her perspective on growth vs. fixed mindset in intimate relationships.

  • Fixed mindset people believe their qualities are fixed, as are their partners – and it’s either meant-to-be or it isn’t. They don’t believe in actually working to improve the relationship (Dweck 148)
  • At the end of a relationship, fixed mindset people feel judged and labeled – revenge often comes to mind; growth mindset people believe they have just learned more about who is right for them (Dweck 145)
  • When meeting someone new, fixed mindset people expect everything good to happen automatically; growth mindset people know that a good, lasting relationship comes from effort and working through inevitable differences (Dweck 149)
  • People with fixed mindsets talk about conflict in their relationships and assign blame (notice a trend here?); growth people mindsets can see their partners imperfections and still think they have a fine relationship. (Dweck 152-153)

Finally, and some of you need to listen very carefully to this final piece of relationship advice from Dweck: Mind reading, instead of communicating inevitably backfires (Dweck 150). 

We started with a movie reference so lets end the Mindset book with one. It comes from The Shawshank Redemption and I feel it captures the fixed vs. growth mindset debate perfectly: “You can either get busy living or get busy dying,” Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne.

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. Print.

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