Who can resist feeling self-satisfied over an A+? Isn’t a score of 100 percent a trophy-rewarding talent? Shouldn’t we praise children, students, clients, and ourselves for being smart people who earn top marks?
According to renowned motivation expert Carol Dweck, Stanford professor and bestselling author of Mindset, the answer is no. Over the past few decades, she’s produced a widely influential body of research that’s shown how all too often praising intelligence creates fragile people, devoid of resilience and motivation. Her work has attracted growing attention among parents, educators, and mental health professionals by demonstrating that, rather than focusing on talents and abilities, it’s far more important to enhance people’s ability to tackle adversity and persevere. In other words, reward hard work and good strategies, not talent.
In the following interview, Dweck discusses the implications of her research for psychotherapy.
RH: Your work is based on the overriding importance of mindset in helping people deal with life’s ups and downs. How did you first get interested in that subject?
DWECK: My research started out looking at how people cope with failure and setbacks, especially students who were asked to solve challenging problems. Some students acted as though a failure was a catastrophe, while others actually relished the challenge. I was particularly interested in the latter…