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There’s a lot of talk right now about growth mindset. I know it’s been a big focus in the schools, many adopting curricula to specifically teach it to their students. For anyone unfamiliar with the idea you can visit this website for more info.
But the brief rundown is that there are two basic outlooks to learning and failure. With a fixed mindset, the individual believes that intelligence is predetermined and set. You are either smart or stupid and no amount of work will change that. (High IQ? Awesome, you win. Lower IQ? You will never catch up or be as successful.) Therefore when they fail or face setbacks they take on a defeatist attitude, giving up, knowing that there’s nothing they can do about it, and that it just reinforces what they already knew. Studies are showing that teacher/parent reactions can contribute to the fixed mindset as well. Praising a child for being ‘smart’ rather than for ‘working hard’ or even trying reinforces the idea that it’s not within their control.
With a growth mindset, however, the learner recognizes that while they may begin at a certain point they can get better if they put in effort, practice, and keep at it. This isn’t just for book learning but for physical skills like sports, painting and so forth. Failure is more often looked at as a stepping stone to success rather than the end product (think of Edison’s famous quote about finding 10,000 ways that don’t work.) There’s more to it than just that, obviously but that’s the gist.
As an adult, I’ve dealt with some of my own struggles with growth mindset often as a side effect of depression. I have not done a ton of study on this so I don’t know how the overlaps affect each other and if they can even be grouped together…the chemical imbalances of depression don’t follow the rules of everything else so it may be trying to compare apples and oranges. But the results are the same; a feeling of discouragement and hopelessness and “why bother.” So, reinforcing a growth mindset, even in adults, can only be helpful.
That said, I want to highlight a few books today that demonstrate and reinforce a growth mindset. I’m sure this is a topic I’ll revisit as time goes by so if you’ve got favorites please mention them in the comments below. I’d love to have a massive list to reference and share with you all!
After the Fall by Dan Santat–After Humpty Dumpty falls from the wall he gives into the fear of heights and failure and misses out on so many of the things he used to love. But he’s determined, eventually, to do something and that changes everything. This one is my absolute favorite. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it and yet I still get a little teary when I get to the last spread!
What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada–Looking closely at a problem can reveal something altogether different than what you at first assumed. Look for the rest in the series (What Do You Do With an Idea?, What Do You Do With a Chance?)
The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken–I’ve spotlighted this one before but I absolutely love the idea that our “mistakes” can be turned into something beautiful. And this shows the process, step by step. It’s gorgeous. (Beautiful Oops is another great one along the same lines.)
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Gary Rubenstein–A young girl who never makes mistakes, finally makes one, a big one, in front of everyone. Learning to laugh at herself makes all the difference.
The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires–An otherwise brave adventurer faces a task she’s never tackled before and finally convinces herself she doesn’t want to rather than try. After going through various emotions she decides not to let the task defeat her.
A Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats–This simple classic shows the joy of persevering.
How To Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers–This one is all about dreaming big and thinking outside the box. Both important skills in developing a growth mindset.
The Dot and Ish by Peter Reynolds–Both of these similar art tales show the value in ignoring the naysayers and trusting in yourself. With a little encouragement and effort anything is possible. *I’m a day late and a dollar short on this but September 15th is actually International Dot Day… “a global celebration of creativity, courage and collaboration.” You can join the community of thousands of others around the world in a host of activities or celebrate on your own. Check out their website for more information.
There are so many great resources for helping us all to be successful people. Don’t forget to share a few of your favorites in the comments!