The growth mindset is the mentality of believing that hard work and determination will allow an individual to grow and become better at whatever they are practicing. The fixed mindset is the mentality of believing that people will never develop higher than a set IQ or past a fixed potential, despite how hard an individual practices or studies. In Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset: An Introduction, Carissa Romero describes the benefits of the growth mindset and the detrimental effects of the fixed mindset. In a TEDx Talks presentation, Derek Sivers explained how struggle and failure increases a student’s understanding of subject matter through the experience of trial and error. When students are challenged they retain more information. When their brains are forced to solve problems, new neural pathways are created for understanding. No pain no gain. Use it or lose it.
People who possess the growth mindset focus on learning and aren't concerned with whether or not they look intelligent. Students who possess the growth mindset ask questions to better understand what they are learning. Scientific findings prove that, despite beliefs of the past, the human brain can be worked out through study and, like a bicep, can actually become stronger when challenged. Studies show that humans who have a growth mindset actually have heavier brain weight than those who have a fixed mindset. They are more likely to excel in school.
The fixed mindset is a mentality in which individuals believe that their intelligence level is a limited trait. They believe that no matter how hard they work, they will not get any smarter; therefore they are more likely to give up on tasks. Individuals who possess the fixed mindset tend to gravitate towards tasks that come easy to them. By not challenging themselves, people with a fix mindset stifle their own opportunities to grow.
I believe that I have had a combination of both growth and fixed mindsets in my nonacademic life. When I first started to teach myself how to play guitar, I had painful blistering calluses forming on my fingertips. I had to learn how to string and tune the guitar, how to practice finger placement on the fret board, how to play chords and scales, how to read tablature, and I had to continuously repeat the same practices again and again and again. Learning to play guitar was strenuous and hard, but I was determined. I practiced everyday after school, refining my skill. In the beginning I played horribly. Slightly out of tune notes became chords, and chords became songs. I purchased and read guitar books and magazines. I watched live performances on VHS tapes, pausing, rewinding and replaying the videos to study guitarists’ strumming techniques and finger placements on the guitar. I was a very lousy guitar player, but the harder and longer I practiced the less bad I became. It wasn’t easy, but I never gave up because it was something I held an interest in and wanted to learn.
Years later when I started to teach myself how to play the drums I gave up fast. I held a genuine interest in learning the drums, but I found that I wasn’t up for the challenge for many different reasons. I didn’t have time to learn a new instrument. Other responsibilities took precedence over banging on the drums. I won’t blame a fixed mindset on giving up on the drums because I still believe that with determination and time allotted for practice, I am able totally capable of learning how to play the drums.
When learning how to skateboard I practiced my ollies for two weeks before I actually popped the board off the ground and landed the trick. Standing on the board with my left foot positioned on the very back of the tail and my right foot positioned on the front truck screws, I kicked down on the tail with my left foot and slid my right foot from the truck screws to the nose over and over and over again for hours. The self-gratification that I received when landing that trick was the same feeling I got when I learned how to play my first chord on the guitar. I felt proud and accomplished. My determination paid off. In skateboarding all tricks revolve around the Ollie. I started ollying onto and over anything I could until I got bored. I started to try flip tricks. The heal flip is similar to an Ollie except when you kick your foot to the nose, you kick your heal out and over the top edge of the board, causing the board to flip forward. When kick flipping, you kick your toes off the opposite edge of the board, causing the board to flip backwards. Pop shove-its are a variation of an Ollie in which you kick your front foot forward while kicking your back foot backwards, causing the board to spin 180 degrees in the air. All the tricks I learned on the board took time, effort, and determination but the more I practiced and refined my skills the easier learning the tricks became. Each learned trick taught me the essential foundation for new tricks to be learned. One thing I didn’t learn was how not to tear my ACL. In 2012, at the age of 33, I tore my ACL while front side 180’ing out of a board slide at the Chichester Skatepark. As I came off the box, my right foot stayed on the board while my left foot planted on the ground. The momentum of circular motion caused both my right foot and the board to continue in a 180-degree turn while my left foot stayed planted on the ground. I heard a POP that could only be compared to the sound of a football stadium full of people all cracking their knuckles at the same time. In shame, my initial thought was in regards to how I could be so irresponsible. I thought to myself, “How could you be so irresponsible? You have a 6-month-old son to care for and your spending hours at a skatepark like you are Tony Hawk? You ain’t Tony Hawk, You are Phony Hawk!” I got reconstructive surgery on my ACL in February of 2013. I haven’t skated the park since then. I haven’t done much except Ollie. I know I could still skate if I wanted, but the surgery was so severe that I can’t justify taking the risk and possibly injuring myself again. Maybe I’ll take up golf like a yuppie. I heard that’s what dudes do when they get older.
I don’t believe I have a fixed mindset outside of academics. With the exception of previously learned material like mathematic times tables, I don’t really believe that I have a fixed mindset in school either. There have been occasions in my life where I possessed a fix mindset. In grade school I tended to excel in baseball as it always came easy to me. When I decided to play soccer, I gave up pretty quickly. I was discouraged that I wasn’t as good at soccer as I was at baseball. Instead of pushing through and working hard to become better, I quit. I found that adopting a growth mindset has personally helped me to grow as an individual. The feeling of accomplishment gained by sacrificing hours, days, weeks, months and years to learn how to do something that you previously could not do is priceless. I believe anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it, just look at Stephen Hawking.
My plan for sustaining the growth mindset through out college is to actively ask the professors questions if I don’t understand something, continue to be proactive and use as many resources as I can for understanding, continue allotting time for studying, and networking with other students and faculty. Above all else, I refuse to take no for an answer. If I experience failure, I will learn from my mistakes and push on harder. With a growth mindset, I will persevere.