We all are struggling to know the art of becoming smart, but what is it to become a smart person? It’s similar to the saying, think before you act. There are many ways of explaining smartness like way of thinking, way of acting, but for me it’s with the understanding of how to cope with failures. From a very long time we are taught to be successful and not to fail. Most of the qualities of thought were carved in stone. You were smart or you weren’t, and failure meant you weren’t. It was that simple. If you could arrange success and avoid failures, you could stay smart.
But that’s not how it works. Human qualities are the things that can be cultivated and carved in stone. These both cultivating and carving can be stated as growth mindset and fixed mindset. To calculate the smartness a person possesses, there is a test called IQ test (Intelligence Quotient). But this is a false method. The inventor of IQ test Alfred Binet, a Frenchman working in Paris in the early twentieth century, designed this test to identify children who were not profiting from Praia Public Schools, so that new educational programs could be designed to get them back on track. He believed that education and practice could bring about fundamental changes in intelligence.
A quote from one of his books, Modern Ideas About Children, in which he summarises his work with hundreds of children with learning difficulties: A few modern philosophers, asset that an individual’s intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protest and react against this brutal pessimism. With practice training and above all, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgement and literally to become more intelligent that we were before.
If you believe that your qualities are carved out of stone, the fixed mindset, it creates an urgency to prove yourself again and again. It’s not the case with those who are cultivating their qualities, growth mindset.
If you believe what your elders or predecessor are doing is correct and if you follow the same path, you will get yourself stuck with the qualities you carve out of the stone watching that of your predecessor. You always feel to prove yourself, at school, college or even at work. This is because you are just building those qualities which your predecessors had and none of them are your own. You wont get satisfied with any of those things.
There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand, you’re dealt and have to live with. Always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just starting point for development. This is the growth mindset which is based on belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through efforts, your strategies and help from others.
We have lots of sayings that stress the importance of risk and the power of persistence such as “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”. If you don’t succeed at first, try again. Nothing can be built in one day or one go. But the people with fixed mindset tend to take it the other way as “ Nothing ventured, nothing lost”. They believe, if you don’t succeed at first, you probably don’t have the ability. Risk and effort are two things that might reveal your inadequacies and show that you were not up to the task.
If you compare yourself with a child, most of the small children tend to have growth mindset even though they don’t have fully mature brain capacity. When you carefully observe a child, you may notice how eager and determined a child can be. When you provide some new games or puzzles to children, they don’t give up until it is finished or till they get satisfied. If you give the same puzzle again and again, the interest and eagerness won’t be same, whereas even if you harden the puzzles after each level, the child may fail in completing it, but they don’t loose the determination. It’s because they feel something is new is being provided.
Similar to that of a child’s mindset, make yourself feel every failure as a new challenge and puzzle. Believe that something new is being learnt and don’t give up. Allow everything to pass through you. Don’t get fixed to only little qualities by creating a wall around your mind. Open up to all the challenges and risks in life. They are here to teach us, if you are not ready to face even the small challenges or problems because of fear of failure, you are constraining yourself and not your mind is not strong enough. Fear of failure can only overcome by facing it. When you fail, don’t say you are a failure, total looser or any other thing to yourself. These thoughts are of fixed mindset, but instead feel that if you are facing problems it means you are worthy of something so you are being tested.
Tests, competition are provided to know where you stand and if the standards of these tests are high, believe that you are special because of which you are being tested so tough.
If you can substantially change how intelligent you are, you have the mindset of growth and will thrive throughout your life. Have control over your mind. Cultivate what you learn.