Is success a simple matter of mindset?

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Following a recent ‘change in circumstances’ (read: I resigned from my teaching position), I found myself looking about for a new challenge that would enable me to better fulfil my personal goals and ambitions.

With such lofty intentions, it was a simple question from my wife that suddenly made me pause and re-think. I’m someone who thinks ‘out loud’, particularly when tussling with what the future might hold. Typically my beautiful wife is the one who shares in these mental gymnastics sessions with me. This particular day, she listened patiently (as always) and then simply countered with, ‘Sweetheart, do you think you should find a position at a school that shares your mindset?’

My mindset? I have a mindset?

I began searching about for more information and the deeper I dug, the more gems I found. My wife had come across this concept through a New York Magazine article published back in August of 2007. Titled ‘How not to speak to your kids’, it was written by Po Branson and referred to the work of US Psychologist Carol Dweck P.hD. Professor Dweck and her team of researchers have spent the past 20 years looking into the psychology of motivation and success and have found, repeatedly and in a multitude on contexts, that two different mindsets can have a significant impact on an individual – what they have termed a growth mindset or a fixed mindset;

“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”

– Carol Dweck, P.hD

Immediately, I sourced her book “Mindest: the new psychology of success” and began to read. The concept itself struck me as being elegantly simple and the multitude of examples resonated with my own experience of learning and teaching – both as a student and as an adult. As I spread my research into this topic online, I found that the idea of teaching students to have a ‘growth mindset’ was by no means revolutionary – schools across the globe have been implementing strategies to foster this for at least 10 years. In fact, the school that my wife and I had recently enrolled our children in was at the forefront of leveraging a whole-school commitment to fostering a growth mindset in their students.

The question that stayed with me, however, was the one asked by my wife – should I look for an educational institution that had a growth mindset to join and work with?

To my mind, I think the aspects of an organisation that would represent a growth mindset could be:

  • a clear and articulated idea of what the organisation is trying to achieve;
  • a dedication to the continual improvement of students, staff and the community;
  • a leadership team that valued, encouraged and actively worked with the teaching staff to foster a growth mindset in every child.


Does such a place exist? I certainly hope so!

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