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How to Overcome Failure: Personality, Beliefs More Important Than IQ

September 21, 2012|Uncategorized

A fascinating article looks at how kids learn to overcome failure and how kids can be taught to take on the mindset of "mastery," which helps them handle challenging tasks and situations.

These personality traits and skills follow us into adulthood. Do you see yourself in these descriptions?

Excerpt:

Over the past 25 years, social scientists have produced some key insights into how successful people overcome their unsuccessful moments—and they have found that attitudes toward learning play a large role from a young age.

In a 1978 study, the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and a colleague gave a series of puzzles to children, all of them about 10 years old. The first eight problems required some careful thought, but none was too demanding. The next four, however, were far too hard for anyone that age to solve in the allotted time. On the first eight, all of the youngsters solved the exercises and appeared to enjoy them. But everything changed with the impossible second set.

Reactions differed enormously. One group of students said things like, “I cant solve these problems. I’m not smart enough.” They wilted in the face of failure. Children in the other group took a different approach: They kept telling themselves that they could solve the difficult problems with more effort.

Dr. Dweck and other psychologists have assigned labels to these two types of students. Students of the first sort are called “helpless” because they develop the idea that they just cant do something. If they continue to believe that they are generally smart, they still often become helpless because they are afraid to try anything new for fear that failure will undermine their self-image as “one of the bright ones.”

Kids of the second sort, however, are said to have a mind-set of “mastery” or “growth.” They believe that they can expand their abilities if they try. If they dont succeed, they look for new strategies rather than giving up.

Are these students just smarter than their “helpless” peers? Not according to Dr. Dweck. She has found that children in the two groups have roughly the same natural abilities. In fact, sometimes the “helpless” ones demonstrate greater native powers.

Where do helpless students get the notion that intelligence is fixed? In part from our culture, which bombards them with the idea that IQ tests measure how bright they are. Even well-meaning parents and teachers can foster this view. Melissa Kamins, who worked with Dr. Dweck, discovered that children who primarily receive personal praise “how smart you are” rather than kudos for their efforts are more likely to develop fixed views of intelligence.

Article at: How to Overcome Failure – WSJ.com.

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