5 Lessons Dr. Carol Dweck Shared on the HPU Campus

Qubein and Dweck 2Today, High Point University welcomed Dr. Carol Dweck, Stanford University professor and author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” Her book also inspired HPU to select “Growth Mindset” as its Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) theme.

In a conversation with HPU President Dr. Nido Qubein that was filmed by UNC-TV, Dweck spoke about the premises of her book, the psychology behind growth mindsets, and how getting out of your comfort zone is the key to lifelong learning. Below are five lessons Dweck shared with HPU students, faculty, staff and the community:


1. A growth mindset is empowering.

“When people are in a fixed mindset, they believe their basic talents, abilities and intelligence are fixed traits – that they have a certain amount, and that’s it. Before they take on something, they think, ‘Will I look smart? Will I look dumb?’ They become devastated if they get less than an A. They may be super competitive, and have to always be better than others to validate themselves. They take the easy route and do the same thing over and over because they think it’s going to bring approval from others. This limits their growth.

But, in a growth mindset, people understand that your talents and abilities can be developed through hard work, through learning new strategies, and through help and input from others. They understand that everyone can get smarter. People who embrace a growth mindset are more excited about learning and accomplish more. And this is an empowering belief.”


2. Learn what triggers your fixed mindset.

“We have to learn how to recognize when our fixed mindset is triggered. What are the circumstances, who are the people in whose presence we get triggered into a fixed mindset? When we have setbacks, when we meet someone who’s much better than we are at something we value – do we hate them just a little? Or, do we feel inspired to learn from them? All of these things can be fixed mindset triggers. We must learn to recognize them and work with them.”


3. Value progress, not perfection.

“Don’t tell your child they’re smart, talented or brilliant. Help them understand the processes that lead to learning and growth. Because praising intelligence and talent leads to a fixed mindset that limits your child. You are communicating to him that this achievement that grew out of his curiosity, and his trying new things, came from some fixed ability that he had within him.

Whereas showing your child how their hard work, their strategy, their use of resources – that empowers them to learn in the future. You should say ‘Wow, you looked at that, and you looked at that, and you saw how they fit together. That’s exciting! Tell me more.’

Model for your child how to find their way through the failure to some future, better place.”


4. Be willing to work hard.

“I teach a freshman seminar every fall. I have them project themselves 25 years into the future, and write me a letter. This letter is about the heartaches, the heartbreaks, the failures, the setbacks… all the difficulties that they have encountered on the road to becoming the person they want to be. The letters are heart wrenching to read. But I want them to know that it’s not easy. If you’re trying to do something worthwhile, it’s going to take a lot. They need to know the kind of fortitude, recovery, resilience that they’ll need. At the end of these papers, the students say it’s remarkable. This process helped them find what they really value, and help them become that person they dreamed about in the beginning.”


5. View failures or setbacks as learning opportunities.

“Life can be extremely difficult. I know we’ve all had our fair shares of trials. What is it in your history that you’re afraid to look at and open up to? What’s the pain and fear inside of you that makes you do the same unsuccessful thing over and over, and how can you grow and take those risks?

But in a growth mindset, you say ‘What can I learn from this?’ You have to be willing to look within. It doesn’t mean you can’t be sorely disappointed or crushed for a moment when something doesn’t work out. But you learn from it and use it as a springboard for your next attempts.”

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