“2014 will be great. I’m thrilled 2013 is behind me. I plan to lose twenty pounds. I’m going on a diet and giving up sweets. I’m going to the gym three times a week. I’m taking more vacations this year. These are only a few of the resolutions I heard in the first weeks of the new year.
In her book, Mindset: The Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck has a quote: “Becoming is better than being”. Popular in the 1960s, I wonder if it still holds weight in today’s instant gratification always on society.
In a previous post, I wrote about Dweck’s definition of fixed versus growth mindsets. People have good intentions with new year resolutions. Yet, most fail according to Franklin Covey and other research studies.
Dweck says our mindset — our reaction to setbacks – determines long-term success. How do fixed mindset people respond to negative performances and important life events?
For the fixed mindset, a poor performance is not permitted or allowed. Perfection is assumed because they are suppose to have the ‘right stuff’. They believe success comes naturally and that effort and hard work is not required. The notion of ‘becoming’ or that of the journey is secondary. Instead, they believe the destination and result is the trophy.
When a fixed mindset person fails, they carry around a black mark over their head for a long time. They feel unworthy and inadequate and avoid challenges that require effort.
Growth mindsets, on the other hand, recognize setbacks as temporary. They see failure as essential for success and an opportunity for growth and learning. They are aware they have a choice and often ask for feedback and help to overcome challenges they identify as important.
An example of the growth mindset is Jim Marshall, a defensive lineman who played for the Minnesota Vikings for 18 years and started in an astonishing 270 consecutive games. He also played in two Pro Bowls and four Super Bowls. In 1961, while playing against the San Francisco 49ers, he made one of the most embarrassing mistakes in NFL history. He recovered a fumble and ran the wrong way, giving the 49ers a touch down before halftime.
He entered the locker room ashamed and devastated, aware that millions watched his blunder on live television. In an interview with Steve Young, author of Great Failures of the Extremely Successful, Marshall recalls how he felt:
“I was real down. And I was terrified. I hurt the team and I knew when I went back out on the field, I was going to be faced with ridicule and humiliation. It was then that I remember what my father and grandfather taught me: ‘Be responsible. If you make a mistake, you got to make it right.’ I realized I had a choice. I could sit in my misery or I could do something about it.”
The coach decided to play Marshall in the second half. Marshall seized the opportunity and played his heart out. The Vikings won the game 27 to 22. What’s more amazing is Marshall’s mindset off the field afterwards. He received and responded to letters from people who felt dejected after suffering their own shameful events. He championed this group and spoke publicly about standing up after an embarrassing failure.
The Growth Mindset and Technology
In technology, we are often asked to improve on the following: productivity, efficiency, time, stress, speed. The only way to create a result is to measure the difference between point A and point B of whatever you are measuring.
The change or delta, whether negative or positive is how we measure technology. In mathematics, calculating this change is called the slope of a line, which kids learn in seventh grade.
Professor Dweck and her colleagues, in an experiment, were interested in measuring how teachers evaluated a student with only one piece of information — their mathematics exam score. The teachers were asked to complete a survey and evaluate a hypothetical student, who received a 65 perecent on her math exam. The majority of teachers surprisingly completed the survey and evaluated the student, based on the single exam result without asking other questions.
However, one teacher was upset and wrote Dweck’s team saying,
“The test uses a faulty premise, asking teachers to make assumptions about a given student based on nothing more than a number on a page. . .
Performance cannot be based on one assessment. You cannot determine the slope of a line given only one point, as there is no line to begin with. A single point in time does not show trends, improvement, lack of effort, or mathematical ability.”
When you begin a new habit, it is crucial to record your progress over several points in time. If you have a coach or trainer, this is one of the first things they do. Most people give up too quickly based on a single event.
The teacher who complained about the evaluation was right. You cannot measure peformance or ability with a single event. Over time, if you track your performance regularly, you will work hard to improve and reach your goal. This investment in the journey represents the growth mindset.
Do you have something you want to achieve in 2014? How do you react when you make a mistake or encounter an obstacle?