Archives for October 2012

Why are some people more resilient than others?

Answer by Sandra Liu Huang:

Stanford Department of Psychology professor Carol Dweck has done extensive research on what she calls "mindsets" and there are two primary types:

  1. Fixed mindset: people who believe abilities are innate. You are just talented in an area or you're not.
  2. Growth mindset: people who believe abilities are developed. You can learn and grow yourself.

People with a growth mindset are more resilient to challenges related to their abilities and performance than those with a fixed mindset.

As to what leads people to these different perspectives, a lot of media in recent years has cited Dweck's work on this with respect to parenting. In the American culture of positive reinforcement, praise is often the main socially acceptable way to encourage your kids. However, Dweck's studies have suggested that the type of praise you receive can strongly impact whether you end up with a fixed or growth mindset.

An excerpt where Dweck references one of her earlier papers on effects of praising innate qualities versus effort and process (http://www.stanford.edu/dept/psy…):

People can also learn these self-theories from the kind of praise they receive (Mueller & Dweck, 1998). Ironically, when students are praised for their intelligence, they move toward a fixed theory. Far from raising their self-esteem, this praise makes them challenge-avoidant and vulnerable, such that when they hit obstacles their confidence, enjoyment, and performance decline. When students are praised for their effort or strategies (their process), they instead take on a more malleable theory— they are eager to learn and highly resilient in the face of difficulty.

Thus self-theories play an important (and causal role) in challenge seeking, self-regulation, and resilience, and changing self-theories appears to result in important real-world changes in how people function.

People who were praised more for their innate skills can end up focused on maintaining this "self-image," afraid to fail. These aren't those who value and become resilient.

Another excerpt from an article Dweck writes about mindsets and coping with setbacks (http://champions.stanford.edu/perspectives/the-mindset-of-a-champion/):

It will come as no surprise that the mindsets lead to different ways of coping with difficulty. Because in the fixed mindset, setbacks are seen as indicating a lack of ability, this mindset often leaves people few good ways of reacting to setbacks. In one study (Blackwell, et al, 2005), we found that those with a fixed mindset were more likely to say that if they did poorly on a test—even if it were in a new course and one they liked a lot—they would study less in the future and would seriously consider cheating. This is how people cope when they think setbacks mean they lack permanent ability. In contrast, those students with a growth mindset said they would study more or study differently. They planned to take charge of the situation and work to overcome the setback.

When the going gets rough, people in the growth framework not only take charge of improving their skills, they take charge of their motivation as well (cf. Grant, 2004). Despite setbacks—or even because of them—they find ways to keep themselves committed and interested. Instead, students with a fixed framework lose interest as they lose confidence. As the difficulty mounts, their commitment and enjoyment go down. Since all important endeavors involve setbacks sooner or later (more likely, sooner and later), it is a serious liability to lose interest and enjoyment just when you need greater effort.

Putting it all together, this means that a fixed mindset leads people to value looking good over learning, to disdain and to fear effort, and to abandon effective strategies just when they need them most. A growth mindset, on the other hand, leads people to seek challenges and learning, to value effort, and to persist effectively in the face of obstacles.

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Mental sick day–crack for your confidence

When I was in a key developmental stage (teens) I was granted many “mental health days.” Sounds helpful, right? Sounds like my folks were cool, compassionate, and understanding. That was the intent but the concept was…misleading. And, as it turns out, debilitating.

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(Courtesy MSNBC)

Hindsight is 20/20 (or close to it maybe, but that’s another post) so I can’t be certain, but here’s what I acquired from those days. I gained:

–Sleep
–Temporary relief; taken off the hook
–Escapism and distractions
–Wallowing in my problems

Here’s what I lost:

–Learning opportunities
–Self-respect
–Healthy anxiety and pressure
–Chances to develop a growth mindset by learning how to overcome a real problem.
–Focus on the issues instead of me as the issue.
–Being forced to discover passions, what really matters to me, and striving to reach goals.

I don’t know if I’m bitter or just plain angry, but I really feel a loss. I feel duped. Not that I’m blaming them, but rather I am seeing the choices I made myself. I feel so much regret that I missed the forest for the trees over and over and over. Instead of reinforcing success and stretching, I was reinforcing negativity and quitting.

Sometimes one of the greatest things you can do for your children (or friends, employees, students) is to keep their feet to the flame. Instead of removing the pressure, encourage them and help just enough so that they can know that they did it.

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Mental health days are to mental resiliency what the Lazy River is to sailing.

(From)