When making mistakes is not a disaster anymore

Carol Dweck, pioneer researcher in motivation and successful learning, explains in her TED talk the power of cultivating a “Growth Mind-Set”, in other words, shifting our mind-set from “I failed” to “I didn´t get it right yet”.

“Fixed Mind-Set” vs “Growth Mind-Set”

While students with a “Fixed Mind-Set” assessing an error as a failure are stopped in their learning process, students with a “Growth Mind-Set”, seeing trials and errors as part of the learning process, learn better and faster, develop a “scientific mind”, curious and flexible, and build up a sense of self-empowerment and autonomy.

In students with a “Fixed Mind-set”, the absence of immediate positive outcome results in a decreased brain activity and therefore their learning process shut down. Students with a “Growth Mind-Setuse errors as feedback (“I didn´t get it right yet”) and open their mind to other options, increasing cognitive flexibility and efficiency. This is reflected in an increased brain activity and a more efficient neuronal connectivity.

Here are the results of Dweck’s research on the difference in electrical brain activity in “Fixed” vs “Growth” Mind-Set students when confronted with an error:

Fixed Mind-Set students have a decreased brain activity (green color) when confronted with an error. The absence of immediate positive outcome leads them to judge negatively their capacity and to experience discouragement and disengagement.

Growth Mind-Set students have an increased brain activity (red color). Errors are experienced as a feedback, a part of the learning process and thus are a source of curiosity, exploration, and active engagement.

A sociocultural responsibility

It is about changing the way we see ourselves and the way people see us (i.e., educators, caregivers, partners, colleagues, in short, everyone) during any kind of learning process.

So many negative self-judgements are the result of environmental pressures. How many times did we feel that we are a “failure” when we don´t reach our goal right away? It is interesting to notice that we identify our Self with the error itself. And we become helpless Fixed Mind-Set people who want to get it right away as if learning was a magical deed and not as a process. Growth mind-set people do not identify with their mistakes, they see errors as part of the learning process.

Is it that some of us are the lucky ones, optimistic, and equipped from birth with a Growth Mind-Set or is it that society tends to favor a successful immediate outcome more than a successful trial and error process? However, the acknowledgment of the “not yet”, of the trial and error process is what leads us towards self-regulation, healthy and effective learning, autonomy, and self-esteem.

“Learning” is not just about academic learning

It is important to remind ourselves that learning is not reserved to academic learning, we learn at every moment of our life and we need to make ourselves truly aware that learning is a continuous and endless process, that there is no magic here, that is a long path, sometimes frustrating but mostly rewarding as long as we don´t get stuck and focused on what didn´t work.

“I didn´t get it right yet.”

Feldenkrais, Fitzmaurice VoiceWork, and Focusing are all process-oriented approach of learning, a process where trial and error are the necessary elements on our path towards self-discovery, authentic and specific, unique ways of moving, communicating, and thinking.

I may not get it right yet but I am on my way and I enjoy it.