Mindset and Success

My son, who is in second grade, is going to be taking some tests in the next few months; the results will determine whether or not he is eligible to be in a gifted and talented program moving forward. It’s a tremendous opportunity if he gets in, and my husband and I want him to be prepared, but he already is feeling a lot of pressure to succeed. We are trying really hard to put it all in perspective. We’re looking for practice examples so that the types of questions are familiar to him when he takes the test – not to “hothouse” him, but so that he’ll have less anxiety. In looking for those, my husband found a Ted Talk by Eduardo Briceño that expounds on the power of “mindset.” According to Briceño, people fall into one of two categories: fixed mindset or growth mindset. Apparently, if you have a growth mindset, you are better able to deal with losing/failing – you can turn it into a learning event and actually grow and get smarter.

We’re hoping to diffuse the pressure my son is putting on himself to do well by sharing this idea with him. In reviewing it and anticipating our conversation, it occurs to me that I could benefit from a deeper understanding of these concepts myself. In a recent post I talked about how I’m nervous about taking on some new areas at work and how this both frightens and excites me. I have always been a pretty high-achiever in life, but every time I am given a new skill to build or experience to try, I am rife with self-doubt. From a very young age, I have thought of myself as “unable to do math” – this is clearly an example of the “fixed” mindset. My opportunity to work on some new projects in areas less familiar to me is a chance for me to embrace the “growth” mindset. It isn’t fair for me to promote this to my kid without believing it myself. So, I am going to embrace it with abandon…and who knows? If it goes well, there could be a career in the mathematical arts in my future!

– Libby Bingham

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