Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Mindsets matter: Broaden your perspective and experiences

‘Mindset’ rings a powerful message

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(Michael/ Creative Commons/ Flickr)

(Michael/ Creative Commons/ Flickr)

(Michael/ Creative Commons/ Flickr)

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Recently, I was assigned a book to read for one of my classes here at the University of Massachusetts. I thought I would never have to read another book and analyze it coming into college, especially after getting credit for the English Gen Ed classes from high school. I’m a STEM major — why would I ever need to bumble my way through an essay connecting a major theme from some book to some large societal problem, like we did so often in high school English courses?

Well, the junior integrative experience class is set up a little differently than most other kinesiology classes. It focuses on real experience through a semester-long project and guest lectures and, unfortunately, two essays about a couple books I had to read. But it didn’t occur to me that I may actually get much more than I expected out of the assigned readings.

“Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck describes two perspectives one can have in life: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Everyone has a mix of both that can vary from situation to situation. For example, someone who does not believe they are very academically inclined may have a fixed mindset in school contexts, but that same person may be a stellar athlete with a growth mindset, working hard to achieve their goals on the field.

What’s the difference between the two? A fixed mindset is essentially a perspective that limits one’s own growth. Someone with a fixed mindset in school would not take challenging courses, they would only stick to what they know they can handle and would not push their boundaries. This may guarantee them an A or a satisfactory passing grade, but the real tragedy of this situation is that this person will not let themselves out of their comfort zone to try new experiences and broaden their horizons. They do not see beyond the grade and have trouble focusing on the learning experience itself rather than the end result: a pass or a fail.

Someone with a growth mindset realizes that grades are trivial compared to the value of the learning experience itself. School is more about finding their passions, exploring new areas of study they haven’t been exposed to before and learning to deal with failure. Failure or being faced with failure is an essential part of the growth mindset because without it, there is no ‘growth.’ Growth only occurs when challenges are presented and one learns to overcome them, or even by learning a valuable lesson when failing. Yes, this sounds corny, but it’s true. And Dweck can put it into much better words than I can:

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you?” –Dweck, “Mindset.”

The growth mindset is about focusing on putting your best foot forward because if you measure success by how much effort you put forth, then it can be very hard to lose. The fixed mindset measures success and failure with titles, numbers and grades, but this only leads to constant disappointment. You will not attain everything you reach for, but simply changing your perspective can help to keep your spirits high and can encourage you to keep reaching even when you fall.

Adopting this mindset has helped me grow in many ways. After reading this book, I realized I already held a growth mindset in many areas, but also fixed mindsets in others.

For example, without a growth mindset, I would never have found myself at the Massachusetts Daily Collegian where I am now. Working for a school newspaper is something I would never have seen myself doing even just a year ago, but when the opportunity presented itself, I took it; I took it because it was something out of my comfort zone and I wanted to try something new.

And now, I look around at the seniors who are leaving and have heard some of their teary goodbyes. I hear them talk about how this was a special place for them not because of the stories they wrote or the interviews they conducted, but because of the people they work with. And even though I haven’t been involved for very long, I couldn’t agree more.

Stretching myself outside of what I thought would be my straightforward career path led me to a place where I can share my own interests, learn about and embrace others’ passions and get to know a whole intimately-connected group tied together by their collective drive to give a voice to those on campus who may otherwise have no outlet.

I encourage you to try reading Dweck’s book, “Mindset,” and evaluate which areas in life that could allow you to adopt a growth mindset. For me, it has only led to great experiences and friends that I now cannot imagine living without.

Nicholas Remillard can be reached at [email protected]

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