Why Fixed Mindset is Wrong
A fixed mindset sees human potential as something we are born with in fixed amounts and that can never be developed or changed. By contrast, growth mindset sees human potential – which includes talents, intelligence and skills – as something that evolves and can be developed through consistent action, processes, reflection, refinement and optimal conditions.
Fixed mindset is wrong because it is neurologically inaccurate.
Genes lay a blueprint, but the neural circuitry that truly makes us who we are is built entirely by experience. Enriched environments build more connections than environments that are deprived of human engagement, play and freedom to make choices. We can build our brains by using them in new ways.
Fixed mindset is also morally wrong
A fixed mindset leads to a belief that some people are just ‘born that way’ and will never be able to grow or change. But this is where we can get really tripped up. Many of us don’t realize how much of our perception of reality is totally warped by our beliefs. A belief is not truth. A belief simply means a thought we’ve had enough times that it changes our perception. It does not mean that we are accurate in our perception.
Fixed mindset leads people to say ‘things will never change’, ‘I am incapable of change, or ‘there’s nothing we can do to help those people because that’s just the way they are. From a neurolinguistic perspective, phrases like these indicated that we are using a generalization or category of some sort. Doing this prevents us from being flexible in our thinking. One of the most important features of the brain is that it flexes and changes according to new stimulus and data.
No matter what kind of mindsets we are surrounded by at home or in our community, with the right type of teacher education, curriculum and thought leadership, schools can become a place where the next generation gets to play with new perspectives and use their minds in the brilliantly adaptive ways they are designed to use them. Just one educator can give students a new way to look at themselves. This new perspective can completely change their trajectory.
The fact of the matter is that simply because we are human – learning is always possible.
Because of the uniqueness of the human mind, abilities, skills, strategies, can always be developed to create change. And this is not because we hope so, but because the laws of nature designed it this way. Fixed mindset denies what nature built the human brain to do: learn.
With a better understanding of how mindsets get formed and how these beliefs affect our behavior, students could learn to bring their stories and pre-established identities into a brighter light – and to see more clearly if those belief systems help them to evolve into their fullest human potential, or whether those beliefs hold them back. The power of growth-oriented mindsets could transform schools into sanctuaries for new ideas, where all of our old ‘explanations’, stories and identities get deconstructed.
Maybe then, the next generation would get to re-construct their stories in ways that increase their feelings of safety and connection, and in doing so – remember the experience they were born knowing and that will change the world for the better: the joy of learning.