Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Mindset and its detractors

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I found Carol Dweck’s book and research concerning the effect on one’s mindset on ease of learning to be convincing, and in fact include her book Mindset in my list of books that I find myself repeatedly recommending. However, as I looked around for the link to the old Mindset site, I discovered that Dweck’s mindset theory is not so strongly established as she presented — see this article.

Nevertheless, I do believe that it helps a student if s/he views difficulties in learning something new as promising rather than discouraging, as a sign that if you persist you achieve something of value, and that it’s good in those early stages to focus your attention on your progress (which typically in the early stages of learning is good) and not on the results (which typically in the early stages of learning are not so good).

Certainly I’ve found myself less discouraged when I view rough spots in learning new things as something that I can polish away through practice rather than as warnings to give up and turn back. Taking a positive attitude toward early difficulties does help one persist and damps down desperation.

This idea long predates Dweck, of course. Sales courses present customer objections as a good sign and work to train the sales staff to view objections as positive, for the obvious reasons that sales people will encounter objections, and if they quit when they do they’ll never make a sale — thus books such as The Sale Begins When the Customer Says No.

The idea of seeing early difficulties as a good sign is IMO a useful mental trick along the lines of a pool/billiars/snooker player being advised not to aim to hit the cue ball but to hit through the cue ball, as if aiming to strike a point on the far side of the ball — or a golfer being advised to focus on the follow-through, the part of the swing after the ball has already be struck and left the club. Those mindsets do have a positive effect on performance, and in the same way, one’s learning skills are helped by viewing early mistakes in learning something new as a promising signs that point out areas to improve.

See “Learning a New Skill Is a Struggle — Find Pleasure in It,” an article I posted in Medium.

Written by Leisureguy

23 April 2020 at 10:23 am

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