A couple decades ago a Stanford University psychologist by the name of Carol Dweck became famous when she suggested parents praise their children’s efforts instead of compliment them on their “inherent” intelligence (“Joey, you’re such a smart boy! “Suzy, how’s Mama’s smart girl?”). The descriptive accolades telling kids how intelligent they are, her research demonstrated, actually undermined children’s self-confidence and willingness to venture new tasks or unfamiliar material. On the opposite side of the spectrum, acknowledgement of children’s engagement and perseverance resulted in their aiming for bigger challenges.
The research, Dweck claimed, identified what she called a differentiation of “mindset.” When we’re operating from a “fixed” mindset, for example, we believe our talents and abilities are somehow set or predetermined. We’re either innately good at something or we’re not. When we accept a “growth mindset,” however, we view achievement through the lens of effort. We believe we have the power to develop our skills regardless of initial capacity. Clearly, we grown-ups can glean something essential from this concept. What could a “growth mindset” do for our health endeavors? For losing weight? For becoming fit? For changing our eating habits? For our happiness and success in general? And how would it change our self-talk and motivational strategy?