Tag fixed-mindset

Carol Dweck on Helping Kids Move From the Tyranny of Now Into the Power of Yet …*

In this short TEDx talk, psychologist Carol Dweck gives an overview of her research on the power of mindset to facilitate or hinder children’s capacity to connect with and activate their potential. The ways in which children frame and cope with challenges and difficulties have enormous implications on their ability to thrive. Students with a fixed mindset are prisoners to the tyranny of the now, believing that each challenge is a reflection of a fixed level of a given capacity–be it intelligence, creativity or athleticism. Meanwhile, students with a growth mindset luxuriate in the power of yet, understanding that each new challenge is an opportunity to learn something new and to practice and refine skills. Dweck shares some tips and strategies for helping students move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset–praising process rather than intelligence to help students redefine things like effort and difficulty, for example.

watch & rethink …* 

Adopt A Growth Mindset To Deal With Procrastination …*

“You get down to work when the fear of having done nothing finally exceeds the fear of doing it wrong.”

Okay, so I get that watching a video about procrastination may seem like, well, procrastination; but I found this lovely short from The School of Life quite insightful. It’s easy to grow frustrated with ourselves or others when things are not getting done, but rather than giving in to the labeling game (I’m/he/she is lazy, useless etc.) which, by the way, is a key characteristic of a (highly unproductive) fixed mindset, this video reminds us that a little (self) compassion and a growth mindset go a long way in helping us to get our work done. Often the reason we put off the work we know we should be doing is because we are afraid that it will be anything less than perfect (which, of course, it will be). So next time you find yourself putting off doing your work, remember this little girl, recognize the fears and anxieties that may be hindering your progress and rather than grow frustrated or discouraged, gently remind yourself that getting better at anything requires effort over time. And get started.

It seems like I’m lazy, that’s what everyone must say, I know. But in truth I do nothing, not because I’m lazy, but because I’m sacred. I’m terrified that if I start, what I do will be horrible. I want things to be so amazing and I know they can’t be so it seems best not even to begin. What helps me the most is when occasionally, it feels like it doesn’t matter, when it feels I can mess up and that would be okay. When the pressure isn’t so great. Like when I was younger and there was less at stake.

{ The Science of Character } Character Strengths Can Be Learned, Practiced & Cultivated …*

This whole idea about developing our character really took shape in 2004, when two psychologists suggested that instead of just focusing on all the things that can go wrong with us, it’s also important to celebrate all the things that can go right. You see, they looked throughout history to identify core virtues that humans across cultures have agreed lead to a meaningful life. And then they identified 24 character strengths that when practiced and developed could lead to these virtues.”


{ The Science of Character } Character Strengths Can Be Learned, Practiced & Cultivated ...* | rethinked.org

Periodic Table of Character Strengths via LetItRipple.org


Hope everyone found a way to celebrate yesterday’s International Day of Happiness. Some of you might have also been celebrating Character Day, which was organized by Tiffany Shlain and her team for the premiere of their short film, The Science of Character.

The Science of Character is an 8 minute film that explores the neuroscience and social science behind character development and our ability to shape who we are. 

The film is available in Arabic, German, French, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Chinese and was shown at over 1500 screenings happening all over the world (in over 40 countries and all 50 states). Also, fun rethinked …* fact– our own Dominic Randolph was an advisor for the film. Be sure to check out the resources over on letitripple.org to learn more about character strengths and the research behind them. Teachers, you’ll be pleased to discover discussion guides for elementary, middle, and high school students to further discuss character in your classrooms.

Did you do anything special to celebrate Character Day? How did it go? What did you learn? Let us know.

rethink & grow …* 

“There are a lot of exciting conversations happening about character, one that I find interesting is that there are seven strengths in particular that can be real game-changers in academic achievement, success and happiness no matter what your circumstances. Those seven are: optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, curiosity, self-control, enthusiasm and perseverance, also known as grit. While there have been many different theories about character throughout history, what scientists in this field agree on is that character matters and that character strengths can be learned, practiced and cultivated ”  

The Science of Character via Tiffany Shlain & The Moxie Institute Films‘s YouTube Chanel, published March 20, 2014.

Watch your thoughts: they become words

Watch your words: they become actions

Watch your actions: they become habits

Watch your habits: they become your character

Watch your charater: it becomes your destiny

-Frank Outlaw

How Is It Possible That As A Society We’re Not Asking Schools To Develop A Growth Mindset In Children?

How Is It Possible That As A Society We're Not Asking Schools To Develop A Growth Mindset In Children? | rethinked.org

Screen Shot from Eduardo Briceño’s Talk at TEDxManahattanBeach, 2012.


“The moment we believe that success is determined by an ingrained level of ability, we will be brittle in the face of adversity.” – Josh Waitzkin

In his TEDx talk, Eduardo Briceño, co-founder and CEO of Mindset Works, highlights the power of beliefs and mindset to shape performance. After reviewing several of Carol Dweck‘s findings on the power of a growth mindset— the belief that various capacities can be improved through effort over time–to facilitate success and mastery, Briceño asks:

How is it possible that as a society we’re not asking schools to develop a growth mindset in children? Our myopic efforts to teach them facts, concepts and even critical thinking skills is likely to fail if we don’t also deliberately teach them the essential beliefs that will allow them to succeed–no only in school, but also beyond.

Briceño ends his talk by sharing three things that we can all do to instill a growth mindset in ourselves and those around us:

1. Recognize that the growth mindset is not only beneficial but it’s also supported by science. Neuroscience shows that the brain changes and becomes more capable when we work hard to improve ourselves.

2. Learn and teach others about how to develop our abilities. Learn about deliberate practice and what makes for effective effort. When we understand how to develop our abilities, we strengthen our conviction that we’re in charge of them.

3. Listen for your fixed mindset voice and when you hear it, talk back with a growth mindset voice. If you hear, “I can’t do it,” add, “…yet.”

The Power of Belief – Mindset and Success: Eduardo Briceno at TEDxManhattanBeach, published November 18, 2012

Carol Dweck On The Power Of Mindset To Help Children (& Adults) Reach Their Potential …*

Carol Dweck On The Power Of Mindset To Help Children (& Adults) Reach Their Potential ...* | rethinked.org


If you haven’t yet had time to read Carol Dweck‘s brilliant book on the power of mindsets to shape students’ motivation and learning, or if you have read it and just can’t get enough–I highly recommend the video below. In a lecture given at the RSA in September 2013, Dweck summarizes the key findings from her work on mindsets and gives some practical tips for translating those insights into impact.

How To Help Every Child Fulfill Their Potential – Carol Dweck via The RSA, published September 18, 2013

{ Rethinking the Nature of Learning, Part IV } How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Process

Deer in the Headlights

My own problem is not overzealous perfectionism.
My problem is the assumption of failure. Self-censorship —
the little voice in my brain whispering, ‘It won’t work’ —
tends to reduce the possibilities of many things I do.

— Stefan Sagmeister, Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far
(New York: Abrams, 2008), np.

{ Previously: Introduction, Part I, Part II, and Part III }

In the previous installment, I wrote that high-stakes contexts are toxic to learning. They are equally toxic to creativity. For design students, both of these principles pose problems.

As a designer, I define creativity in two ways. Creativity refers to the act of making, of creation, itself. (As our thesis deadlines loomed, the need to be constantly making became an increasing struggle for everyone in my MFA class, as I’ve mentioned.) Creativity also reflects the originality or newness of an artifact or idea. Under pressure, both forms of creativity suffer.

Fortunately, the anxiety that results from high-stakes contexts, and which hampers both learning and creative output, can be mitigated with strategies that reduce the perception of risk and encourage a mindset more conducive to embracing the unknown.

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In the final months of grad school, my thesis became very meta: I was knee-deep in research on what happens to learning and creativity under pressure while experiencing both phenomena first hand. With deadlines looming and several design projects stalled or still undetermined, I felt increasingly like a deer in the headlights.

Fortunately, my research in cognitive psychology made me aware that the biggest threat to my learning and creative output wasn’t the external pressure but rather my perception of that pressure. In other words, the anxiety itself.

It became clear to me that I needed a tool, a methodology, that would allow me to reduce or simply sidestep my anxiety and start making. Drawing from contemporary psychology studies on the correlation between strong learning outcomes and constructive forms of metacognition (including “grit” and the “growth mindset”), I began to wonder how much a concertedly self-reflective design process could keep anxiety at bay. My research on intrinsic motivation — the experiential delight we get from inherently enjoyable activities —  also led me to explore play.

Play can be defined as an activity that is desirable in and of itself. More than that, it  makes daunting tasks more manageable.

In play, most of the time we are able to try out things without threatening our physical or emotional well-being. We are safe precisely because we are just playing…. We can learn lessons and skills without being directly at risk.

— Stuart Brown, M.D., with Christopher Vaughan. Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul (New York: Avery Trade, 2010), 17.

One of play’s key characteristics is a well-defined set of constraints — i.e., rules. Rules shape challenging and “scary” activities within parameters than make those activities safe. In this way, play mitigates risk.

For instance, a bear cub who is learning to fight by wrestling playfully seems to intuitively understand that its sibling isn’t going to gouge its eyes out in the process. Similarly, any game works — be it chess, football, or Mario Brothers —  because prescribed rules establish what actions can and cannot be taken to achieve a goal. If a player breaks the rules, the game’s integrity is destroyed, along with its appeal. And if the play itself becomes stressful or dangerous, it is no longer play, and accordingly, most people (and bear cubs) will abandon it.

This line of thinking led me to consider whether a constraints-based, chance-driven methodology — in short, a system of rules governing the design process — would create a sense of play sufficient to sidestep anxiety and jumpstart my final thesis project. With that theory in mind, I wrote a set of design parameters intended to limit decision-making, emphasize process over product, and encourage exploration and experimentation.

  1. For Content [C], write down the central themes of your thesis
  2. On that basis, determine x number of projects and a time limit for each
  3. For Format [F], write down x possible forms/kinds of projects
  4. For Procedures [P], write down x procedures to encourage reflection, i.e., walks and writing exercises
  5. Put the Cs, Fs, and Ps in separate containers, then draw one C+F+P combination
  6. Set a timer and start making
  7. Repeat until finished

Simply put, I listed the variables inherent in any graphic design process (content, format, and procedure), wrote down ten options for each, and randomly selected ten combinations thereof. Armed with these instructions, I made ten design projects in two weeks — more or less without further ado.

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Was this methodology an elegant solution to my problem? It depends on what the goal was.

If the goal was to do the best design work of my life, then, frankly, no. As individual artifacts, some of my pieces were unsuccessful. But a series of perfect design pieces wasn’t in fact the goal. Making in a high-stakes context was my goal. And in that regard, my constraints-based methodology was an elegant solution, in several ways:

  • By reducing an overwhelming universe of design options down to one incontrovertible option, I avoided the indecision that often suspends making.
  • By creating a series of very small projects as opposed to one big project, I reduced the impact of each design decision.
  • By leaving the primary design decisions to chance (as opposed to determining them on my own), I also avoided the perception that each project somehow reflected the sum total of my skill as a designer.
  • Chance also lead to juxtapositions I wouldn’t have made on my own, leading me to more original solutions and forms I’d never explored before.

Ultimately, my strategy reframed the problem. Initially, the hurdle I faced felt monolithic. Reflecting on the characteristics of play led me to reframe this hurdle as a series of highly circumscribed tasks.

In other words, I went from:

Everything depends on the work you do between now and graduation. OK — Go!


In the next three hours, you have to make a image-driven poster on this theme: “play sets learning and creativity free from anxiety.” You can’t use the computer to create the imagery. Halfway through you have to take a 20-minute walk to assess your progress. 

This shift lowered my perception of the stakes. In turn, that quieted the creative doubts of “little voice in my brain”: Is this going to work? Is this the best I can come up with? Do all my skills as a designer come down to this one project?

In a sense, the real proof of concept was that I made ten distinct design projects in two weeks, which formed the basis for my thesis capstone book.

Not every moment in making those ten projects was fun, but the release from anxiety was immediate and palpable. And I’m happy to say that my methodology created a space where I could pursue pure experimentation — childlike and free — without fear of failure. I could play. I did thesis work and it felt like play. Halleluia! I hadn’t felt that sense of possibility or inspiration since the early days of grad school.

Back in my formative years, my avoidance of risk emerged from internal as well as environmental factors. I contributed to my conflating learning with being right, and in making being right my comfort zone. In that respect, I’m most proud of the fact that I let go of that stale, limiting formula — being a good student at all costs — to experience something I’d never been able to consider before: that the deepest learning can only happen when you find a way to take risks.

Next: Essential questions I’ll be exploring and testing at rethinked…*  

Daniel H. Cohen On Why We Need To Rethink…* The Metaphors We Use To Think About Cognitive Arguments

In a recent TED talk, philosopher Daniel H. Cohen, challenges us to rethink…* the metaphors that we use to think about arguments so that we may shift our focus away from winning to deeper learning and understanding when we engage in argumentation. Cohen begins his talk by highlighting the three existing models for arguments that we hold:

1. Argument as War: There’s a lot of screaming and shouting and winning and losing. That’s not a very helpful model for thinking about argument, but it’s a pretty entrenched and common model for argument.


2. Argument as Proof: Think of a mathematician’s argument: Here’s my argument–does it work? Is it any good? Are the premises warranted? Are the inferences valid? Does the conclusion follow from the premises? No opposition, not necessarily any arguing in the adversarial sense. 


3. Argument as Performance: Arguments in front of an audience. We can think of a politician trying to present a position, trying to convince the audience of something. But there’s another twist on this model that I really think is important, namely, that when we argue before an audience, sometimes the audience has a more participatory role in the argument. That is, arguments are also in front of juries who make a judgement, decide the case, let’s call this the rhetorical model.


By far the most dominant and pervasive of the three models is the metaphor of argument-as-war.


It dominates how we talk about arguments, how we think about arguments, and because of that it shapes how we argue–our actual conduct in arguments. Now, when we talk about arguments, we talk in very militaristic language: we want strong arguments, arguments that have a lot of punch, arguments that are right on target; we want to have our defenses up and our strategies all in order; we want killer arguments. That’s the kind of argument we want. It is the dominant way of thinking about arguments. 


The issue with this model for argumentation, as Cohen points out, is that it has deforming effects on how we argue.


1. First, it elevates tactics over substance–you take a class in logical argumentation, you learn all about the subterfuges that people use to try and win arguments, the false steps. 


2. It magnifies the US vs. THEM aspect, it makes it adversarial, it’s polarizing.


3. And the only foreseeable outcomes is glorious victory of ignominious defeat.


I think those are deforming effects, and worse of all, it seems to prevent things like negotiation, or deliberation, or compromise or collaboration. Think about that, have you ever entered an argument thinking, let’s see if we can hash something out rather than fight it out? What can we work out together? I think the argument-as-war metaphor inhibits those other kinds of resolutions to argumentation. 


Perhaps, the most negative impact of the argument-as-war metaphor with its either-or framework–either I win or I lose–is that we begin to equate learning with losing.


If argument is war, then there is an implicit equation of learning with losing. Let me explain what I mean: suppose you and I have an argument. You believe a proposition–P–and I don’t. I say why do you believe P? And you give me your reasons. And I object and say, “well, what about…” and you answer my objection. And I have a question, well what do you mean? How does it apply over here? And you answer my question. Now, suppose at the end of the day, I’ve objected, I’ve questioned, I’ve raised all sorts of counter considerations and, in every case, you’ve responded to my satisfaction. And so, at the end of the day, I say, “you know what? I guess you’re right.” So I have a new belief, and it’s not just any belief, but it’s a well articulated, examined, battle tested belief. Great cognitive gain. Ok, who won that argument? Well, the war metaphor seems to force us into saying you’ve won, even though I’m the only one who made any cognitive gain. What did you gain cognitively from convincing me? [,..] The war metaphor forces us into thinking that you’re the winner and I lost, even though I gained.


What we need then, is to think of new ways to frame arguments that would yield more positive outcomes.


What we need is new exit strategies for arguments but we’re not going to have new exit strategies for arguments until we have new entry approaches to arguments. We need to think of new kinds of arguments.


Put in different terms, what Daniel Cohen is urging us to do is to shift from a fixed mindset understanding of arguments to a growth mindset appraisal of argumentation. This idea of mindsets comes from Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck’s research, which I was just writing about last week. Dweck’s big idea is that there are two basic mindsets: the fixed mindset, which sees ability as limited and static–you’re either good at something or you’re not–and the growth mindset which views ability as dynamic and changing over time with effort. Which mindset we hold in any given situation has a wide range of implications on the beliefs we carry and the ways in which we behave. For example, if you believe that ability is fixed and does not change over time, your primary focus is going to be proving your ability, proving that you do have it or, at the very least, hiding that you don’t. The fixed mindset leads to a primary framework of judgement–how good am I at something and am I better than others? Meanwhile, if you think that ability can change over time with effort, you’re going to have a framework that is oriented towards growth and you will develop a  deep desire and excitement for learning. The argument-as-war model puts us in a fixed mindset: this is an either-or model in which you are either a winner–you have talent and ability when it comes to arguing– or you don’t and you’re a loser. If we framed argumentation as fertile ground for growth and learning however, we would be able to place ourselves in a growth mindset from the get go and in doing so, redress many of the distorting effects of the argument-as-war metaphor. Our focus would not be on winning but rather on deepening our thinking and understanding, on discovering new perspectives, on pushing ourselves to keep iterating and refining our beliefs and assumptions.


If we want to think of new kinds of arguments, what we need to do is think of new kinds of arguers. So try this, think of all the roles that people play in arguments–there’s the proponent and the opponent in an adversarial dialectical argument, there’s the audience in rhetorical arguments, there’s the reasoner in arguments as proofs, all these different roles. Now, can you imagine an argument in which you’re the arguer but you’re also in the audience, watching yourself argue. Can you imagine yourself watching yourself argue, losing the argument and yet, still at the end of the argument, say ” wow, that was a good argument.” Can you do that? […] I think if you can imagine that kind of argument, where the loser says to the winner, “Yeah, that was a good argument”, then you have imagined a good argument. And more than that, I think you’ve imagined a good arguer. An arguer that’s worthy of the kind of arguer you should try to be. 


Oh, and one more thing:


It takes practice [effort over time–hello, growth mindset] to become a good arguer, in the sense of being able to benefit from losing. 

Educators, Rethink…* Your Assumptions About School To Become More Effective, Engaging & Fulfilled Teachers

One of life’s greatest pleasures, in my opinion, is the discovery of a simple idea that enables you to completely rethink…* and reappraise your understanding of yourself and the world. Not that the actual rethinking…*process is always pleasurable; it has been my experience that change comes with its fair share of growing pains. But once you have put in the hard work, and developed a deep and multilayered understanding of the idea, made it yours and truly changed your perspective to a new, richer and more nuanced vision of yourself and your reality, there is a special type of intense joy that comes from recognizing the extreme power and impact of simple and elegant thoughts. Carol Dweck‘s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success– How We Can Learn To Fulfill Our Potential, provided me with such an opportunity for deep, assumption-shattering rethinking…* Dweck, who is a psychologist at Stanford University, has focused her research on achievement and success and elaborated a simple yet extremely impactful idea: success and fulfilling, engaging lives are linked to whether we approach our goals and existence with a fixed mindset–the belief that intelligence and personality traits are fixed, which leads to a desire to look effortlessly endowed and a primary framework of judgement for evaluating experience–or with a growth mindset–the belief that intelligence and character can be developed, which leads to a desire to learn and a framework of growth. Mindset, is a veritable treasure trove of powerful rethinking…* prompts and simple actionable advice which I will write about more fully in future posts. But for now, I’d like to share a passage that I came across earlier today which made me want to howl with recognition:

How can growth-mindset teachers be so selfless, devoting untold hours to the worst students? Are they just saints? Is it reasonable to expect that everyone can become a saint? The answer is that they’re not entirely selfless. They love to learn. And teaching is a wonderful way to learn. About people and how they tick. About what you teach. About yourself. And about life.

Fixed-mindset teachers often think of themselves as finished products. Their role is simply to impart their knowledge. But doesn’t that get boring year after year? Standing before yet another crowd of faces and imparting. Now, that’s hard.

Seymour Sarason was a professor of mine when I was in graduate school. He was a wonderful educator, and he always told us to question assumptions. “There’s an assumption,” he said, “that schools are for students’ learning. Well, why aren’t they just as much for teachers’ learning?”  I never forgot that. In all of my teaching, I think about what I find fascinating and what I would love to learn more about. I use my teaching to grow, and that makes me, even after all these years, a fresh and eager teacher.

Source: Dweck, Carol. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – How We Can Learn To Fulfill Our Potential. New York: Ballantine Books, 2008. Print.

This is exactly what rethinked…* is about–we are an autonomous, innovation team whose mission is to help students and teachers question their assumptions and rethink…* their practices to optimize their learning and teaching and experience more fluid, nourishing, and engaging lives. We’ve worked with IDEO to explore the ways in which design thinking could be applied to K12 to optimize the learning and teaching experiences. We’ve worked with the Rotman School of Management to see how integrative thinking could be leveraged in rethinking…* education. We’ve partnered with Martin Seligman and Angela Duckworth to integrate principles of positive psychology into the curriculum to teach character strengths such as grit and gratitude. But at the end of the day, all of these methods are just tools that we employ to rethink…* our doing and, just as importantly, iterate our questioning. Tools are lifeless, their impact comes from the purpose for which they are used and from the people who use them. And people are complex, multilayered beings ruled by their assumptions. By using different tools we broaden our field of inquiry, we try on new perspectives from which to evaluate our assumptions and in the process, we continue to refine our questions about what it means to thrive in our lives and learning. How? is a very important question–without it, nothing would get done, ideas would remain intangible, non actionable and therefore unimpactful. But why? must come first and it must infuse the process of iterating the how?

Ultimately, we’re not looking for definitive, all encompassing answers. Rather, we aim to keep moving towards more salient iterations of the age old question: what is the good life for man and how do we get there? And through our evolving questioning, to discover simple, impactful hacks such as the one proposed by Dr. Sarason– reframing how we approach teaching by questioning assumptions about school and rethinking…* their purpose with a simple question–to empower as many people as we can to take control of their experiences and learning and enjoy fluid, playful and fulfilling lives.

Check out Joy’s post, What Do We Assume About School and Learning? and try to see how many different ways you can rethink…* the assumptions he’s collected.

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