Jackie Gingrich Cushman

At least now when I fail – I will feel a bit better.

I don’t know about you, but I hate failure. I have never liked failure and I have often avoided playing games to prevent failure. On the rare occasions when I do play games, I usually pick games I think I will win. Luckily, this habit of avoiding games has not appeared in my children. This past weekend, I could hear the peals of laughter from the den. My mother and my two children were playing a game of chance and strategy. There were instances when each of the children became upset, and almost quit. My mother encouraged them to stay in the game. Following her advice, they each won a round. The game soon ended, and while my mother did not win a round, my guess is that she considers teaching them persistence her reward.

An article I recently read, “The Secret to Raising a Smart Kid,” By Dr. Carol Dweck, (Scientific American Mind, December 2007) sheds light on why I might care about winning or losing a game. I have been more concerned with looking smart than with learning – forgetting that learning requires accepting risk and the possibility of failure.

What about you? Do you believe that intelligence is fixed or malleable?

According to Dweck, your beliefs about your ability to affect your intelligence might be more important than your actual intelligence.

Whether students believe in a growth mind set or a fixed mind set affects how hard they will work and how they will react to inevitable failure, according to Dweck. Her research has indicated that it’s better for children to believe that hard work matters, than for them to believe that they are smart.

Students with a growth mindset believe that “intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work,” she wrote. The ones who hold a fixed mind set “believe that intelligence is a fixed trait.”

Which group do you fit into?

“The students with a growth mind-set felt that learning was a more important goal in school than getting good grades,” she wrote. “In addition, they held hard work in high regard, believing that the more you labored at something, the better you would become at it. They understood that even geniuses have to work hard for their great accomplishments.”

When failure inevitably occurred, “students with a growth mind-set said they would study harder or try a different strategy for mastering the material.” Their belief that they had an impact on the outcome through the application of their effort led them to work harder or create a new approach.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.