What are Fixed Mindsets & Growth Mindsets?

“More and more research is suggesting that, far from being simply encoded in the genes, much of personality is a flexible and dynamic thing that changes over the lifespan and is shaped by experience.” – Carol Dweck

            It was once assumed that our intelligence was something unchangeable. Fortunately, Carol Dweck, a renowned Stanford University psychologist, has achieved immense amounts of research on the neuroplasticity of human beings and their ability to learn and improve their abilities.  She shows through mindsets that anyone can learn. A person’s ability to learn depends on their mindset.

            Your mindset begins to form as a child. Children who are praised on their skills (‘you are so smart!’) will attempt to do anything in order to secure the image of being the best/smartest kid in class, even if it means not taking on new challenges. Children with fixed mindsets believe that they are innately skilled and that is why they can accomplish their tasks so well, not because of their hard work or determination. When these children become adults, they will not willingly take on challenges that could end in failure.  It is also common for these adults to become upset when they experience something that does not come naturally to them because this challenges their identity of being naturally the best.

            Growth Mindset children & adults are created when their process is praised (you are working so hard on that!) rather than their ability. When you praise a child for putting in the work it takes to become good at something, they will in turn work to improve their abilities. These children grow up understanding that with hard work and determination, they can accomplish anything. This creates adults who look at challenges as something entertaining, like an interesting puzzle to be solved. Furthermore, growth mindset children and adults are often not apprehensive about making mistakes, because they are comfortable with this being a part of the process of learning something new.

What are Movement Arts?

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            Movement arts, also called ‘Flow Arts’, is an art form where people use their body’s movement to express themselves in an artistic manner. In some cases, just the body is used, such as in yoga and dance. Other movement arts include a prop or apparatus. There are a myriad of different props and apparatus that movement artists use! For instance, my favorite at the moment are fans, lyra, whips, & dragon staff.

Mistakes are Opportunities for Learning

“See failure not as a sign of stupidity but as lack of experience and skill” – Carol Dweck

            For much of my life, I have been naturally gifted at the things I tried. Yet, movement arts have never really come naturally to me. At first, this was exasperating because I battled intensely with my fixed mindset and was never able to enter a ‘flow state’ (a type of moving meditation) while practicing movement arts.  I picked up a pair of poi, only to smack myself square in the eye and became frustrated. My partner bought me a pair of forged creations practice fans for Christmas and I was in love. My brain synapses however, not so much. Learning how to connect movements through all the ‘planes of movement’ with my fans was a lot of work for me. After struggling for some time and feeling like I was letting my partner down by not becoming instantly successful with my fans, I put them up. I felt incompetent & I had let my fixed mindset get the best of me.

Allies in Learning

“ Important achievements require a clear focus, all-out effort, and a bottomless trunk full of strategies. Plus allies in learning.” – Carol Dweck

           My fixed mindset was challenged again when participating in a fans workshop at a flow arts festival. Oftentimes, instructors have you mirror movements when you learn. This is really difficult for me for me to understand and translate into my own body movements for some reason. All of my fellow students seemed to be doing so well with the concepts and I felt insecure to be struggling the way I was.

Thankfully, some of these students were so giving in their knowledge! Little groups of students helping each other broke off while the instructor was going around personally helping students. Not only did I grasp the concept with their help, they taught me more tricks. Through learning from others I have found that those with talent didn’t just become amazing, they work amazingly hard. I was inspired to keep trying and to be more gentle on myself, especially since I was so new to this art.

My Success in Flow

“No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.” ― Carol S. Dweck

           After reading ‘Mindset’ by Carol Dweck, I became aware of my fixed mindset and how radically it was hindering my growth. I confronted this mindset and became determined to change. I picked up my fans again & dropped them & dropped them, & dropped them.

           Then Magic! I nailed a difficult concept. I practiced over and over until this new trick was ‘smooth like butter’ and laughed at the massive grin on my face in the mirror. I had done it! The feeling of accomplishing something that had been so tough was extraordinarily more rewarding than just thinking I was really good at things.                  

           Today, when I pick up a prop, pull up into a lyra, or prepare to practice yoga, not only am I working towards improving my abilities, I am actively challenging my mindset. There are still practices where I have to redirect back into growth mindset ideas because I can be particularly difficult on myself, but I am a work in progress.

How to Change your Mindset

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“I derive just as much happiness from the process as from the results.”

           People are capable of changing their mindsets and thus can learn and improve their skills and intelligence.  How incredible is it that we CAN get better?! Why wouldn’t you want to improve if you know you could? So what are some things you can do to challenged a fixed mindset and move into a growth mindset?

  • Read Carol Dwecks Book, Mindset. Go for it! Its on amazon, audible, and probably in your nearest library!
  • Acknowledge and embrace imperfections. When you understand what skills you are not strong in, you can work to improve them. How could you improve if you don’t know what needs work?   
  • View Challenges as opportunities. Take on the challenge. Break it into smaller pieces to accomplish in steps. Visualize your brain making new connections as you are working on something challenging.
  • Replace ‘failing’ with ‘learning’. You only fail when you do not try. Mistakes are part of the process of learning.
  • Value the process over the end result. Value the journey instead of just getting to the destination. Appreciate the work you did in order to achieve an accomplishment!
  • Celebrate Growth with others. Take classes, teach, share your struggles.
  • Use the word ‘Yet’.  This is a big one for me! When I am having a difficult time with something, I remind myself that “I don’t understand, yet’. If I keep working towards understanding, I will. There is power in this feeling.

My question to you is, What did you learn today? What mistake did you make that taught you something? What did you try hard at today? – Carol Dweck

Jenni Jenkins Sekine Student Midwife

Jenni Jenkins – Sekine is an Oklahoma Student Midwife, Midwives Assistant, Birth & Postpartum Doula, and Child Birth Educator who serves her Central Oklahoma  community. She began her journey as a student midwife in 2022 at the Midwives College of Utah.

To learn more about Jenni, please click here.

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