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Growth Mindset and Learning to Walk


Dr. Carol Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. This view creates a love of learning, a resilience, and a sense of grit that is essential for great accomplishment.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their qualities are fixed traits and therefore cannot change. “Some people are just born smart.”

For most of us, we are stuck in a Fixed Mindset and have to find ways to fight against the idea that our intelligence cannot grow. The greatest deterrent for our motivation is our frustration tolerance.

Do you know anyone that just gets frustrated easily? I do.

Frustration tolerance can grow over time by changing our MINDSET. And how you praise a person will determine their MINDSET. 

“You got an A on your test?”  Wow! You must be SMART – FIXED MINDSET

Problem – The person will think, "If I am struggling, therefore, I must not be smart anymore." Or the thought might be, “I got an A and didn’t even have to study.” What happens when they begin to struggle?

“You got an A on your test?”  Wow! You must have worked hard or studied very well – GROWTH MINDSET 

If you are not struggling, you are not learning.

People that are not struggling already know it. They don’t have to learn it. 

Learning to Walk Analogy

Developing a Growth Mindset 


Babies struggle when they are learning to walk. They crawl and their parents cheer. The baby, not knowing any better, finds joy in his/her effort because the parents are praising their effort and small inches forward to the eventual goal of walking. After crawling they begin to hold themselves up on the coffee table with shaky legs. Then “WHAM!” they fall. The parents pick them up and encourage them to try again all the while praising their efforts through it all. Soon, small steps without something to hold on to accompanied with the occasional fall. They get right back up again and try again. The baby’s parents are praising their resilience and probably even recording the entire time. Walking is going to happen!  Eventually, we all begin to walk. Some babies take a while to get it right and some pick it up faster. However, we all struggle and fail while trying. And through our struggles, we grow, build up muscle and coordination essential to walking. This entire process is very important.

No parents tell their baby that they are failures when they struggle. No baby gives up after a few falls and crawls around into their adulthood (that would be very weird). 

What if everything in life was like learning to walk? Struggling was seen as a necessary part of learning and opportunities to grow. Mastery happens through effort and short-lived failures. People would praise your effort and not compare you or rank you at the moment rather see in terms of long-term goals.

Maybe right now you feel like you are only crawling through your job while others seem to be jogging. That’s ok, keep going! 

Maybe right now you feel like you’re holding yourself up on a coffee table with shaky legs in your Algebra class. That’s ok, keep going!

Maybe right now you feel like you’re taking steps and then fail on a test, presentation, or job interview. That’s ok, keep going!

There is power is believing you can improve!

In every worthwhile endeavor, we always start by crawling.    

You are never done learning! Intelligence grows through effort. So…struggle and learn!