Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

By Eileen Williams

Unificationists all desire to live for the sake of others, become tribal messiahs to our loved ones near and far, and reach out to our families with the message of love and hope that inspired us decades ago.

After going through so many crises and phases as a movement, many of us feel an urgent need to reflect on what works and doesn’t work in terms of nourishing and growing our roots — whether that involves community activism, event planning, or reaching out to our second generation.

To move forward, the first gen, in particular, need to develop what is popularly known today in education pedagogy as a “growth mindset.” This is in contrast to a “fixed mindset,” but more about that later.  Let me explain what the two are and how a growth mindset might be applied to our unique faith community.

“Growth mindset” is a term coined by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck to explain how children learn.  The latest research shows that the brain is far more malleable than previously believed. Research on brain plasticity reveals how connectivity between neurons can change given new input and experiences. Medical cases of stroke and brain damage have demonstrated in surprising ways how neural networks can grow new connections while at the same time strengthen existing ones.

What this proves is we can increase our neural growth by the actions, choices and decisions we make. Asking questions, using problem-solving strategies, even experiencing failure and trying again all serve to help a child learn.  Studies have shown that when educators can change student mindsets from fixed (“I can’t do this, I fail at this”) to growth (“I can keep trying, step-by-step”), then motivation and achievement is increased.  But why stop with children; aren’t adults strengthening their brain connections as well?

In her 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of SuccessDweck describes a growth mindset as one that “thrives on change and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a springboard for growth.”

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