Many of us are concerned about our children growing up with the now common ‘entitlement’ complex. Most of us are concerned that our children are not engaged in learning. How do we avoid these two paralyzing situations?
Dr. Carol Dweck(1) has researched this subject and has found brilliant insights into the leverage areas that mark performance or failure. In her book, Mindset, she shows how children can be empowered or diminished by simply placing ‘fixed’ or ‘growth’ mindset thoughts in their minds prior to the study. These findings have since been used and proven in real school situations, turning poor students into those who excel.
So what is the key? MEganize refers to a ‘control’ paradigm, while Dweck calls it a ‘fixed’ mindset. This ‘fixed’ mindset it appears stems from popular belief in emphasizing confidence in the child’s ‘talent’. In fact this still pervades our education system, where children are told how great they are. Everyone gets a prize! The tail wags the dog where confidence is promoted over competence. This was exemplified by premier management consulting firm McKinsey & Co, who promoted the ‘talent’ mind-set to drive success in The War for Talent. This concept was of course accepted en masse, especially by Enron. We all should know what happened there. The upshot of this ‘fixed’ or ‘talent’ paradigm is that it reduces feedback, minimizes learning, promotes short-termism and results in dishonesty. Mostly it prohibits engaged learning, as the feeling of winning, or protecting the image of being smart becomes more important that learning from honest feedback. “We know that people with a ‘fixed’ mindset do not admit and correct their deficiencies.” This, according to Dr. Dweck, results in cheating and lying, of which we seem to have more than our fair share at all levels. It all boils down to this ‘fixed’ mindset that we are stuck with.
So let’s pursue the ‘fixed’ mindset a little. Many educators have argued that lowering standards will boost the self-esteem of students and ultimately lead to improved attainment. This was the federal philosophy of the educational establishment in the 1970’s and 80’s, and still pervades our classrooms. “Lowering standards just leads to poorly educated students who feel entitled to easy work and lavish praise” (Dweck). In the distant past it was believed that our intelligence (IQ) is fixed at birth. This again is a popular misconception that we cannot shrug-off. In fact the person who designed the IQ test concept, Albert Benet, meant it to highlight how the French public schools were not benefiting the children. He believed back then (early 1900’s) that education and practice could bring about fundamental changes in intelligence. (This is the main purpose of MEganize). Recent cognitive science has shown the amazing plasticity of the brain, and many examples and tests have shown this to be fact. However, popular belief still refuses to acknowledge this, primarily because success involves motivation, hard work and resilience (Bounce). It is an easy way to excuse poor performance if someone else is ‘talented’, and this devolves into the ‘fixed’ mindset. Dweck shows how the promotion of this concept actually diminishes performance, but this is the mindset around which our schools are still structured.
What is this ‘growth’ or empowered mindset? Dr Senge (2) (5th Discipline) highlights that ‘high leverage’ items (that can bring about the most change) are often least visible, like a simple change in mindset. MEganize explains this in detail in Ch.10: The Strategic Change Cycle. Many of our best performers were underdogs of some form or other. Billie Jean-King, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, the Williams sisters and Mia Hamm are a few. Their strength of will or ‘growth’ mindset empowered them to minimize their losses and create a vision for their success.
Luke (8), who has had a number of levels of change resistance, has finally broken through from a ‘fixed’ mindset to a ‘growth’ mindset. What made this happen? Firstly, it revolved around building his confidence levels through structured levels of achievement. Music and Taekwondo have increased his sense of self-worth and capability greatly. The Power-hour process has also shown him that effort over time achieves success. He shed tears (and significant resistance) when first asked (at 5) to learn the USA states, and then Asian countries. Now he knows all the countries of the world and major rivers. He thrives on challenge. He started Tower of Hanoi (a logic game) at around 4. It was a struggle to walk through the Teaching Progression with him, always holding the vision. Today he challenges himself to the next level to a point where he seems to be on autopilot. He has truly MEganized this process to a point where he doesn’t need to think. He just does.
His programming though is the clearest testament to the MEganize principle, and Dr. Dweck’s ‘growth’ mindset. He expressed an early interest in Minecraft on Xbox. Soon he wanted to do a Minecraft Mod programming course (at 7), which he finished in a few weeks. He has just completed the 3D Game Design program, designing his own game (at 8)! This was all done on his own initiative, without any direct instruction. He took ownership and even though he had to redo his game three times before it was accepted, he did it. There were no incentives, other than to get the next programming course asap. He is deeply ‘engaged’ or ‘in the flow’ when he is at work. It is amazing to witness the real potential within our children coming to life.
This, according to Dr Dweck, is the ‘growth’ mindset, a product of the MEganize approach. He has overcome his fear of failure, accepted that learning is fun and that he has the capability to do it. The rest of his schoolwork has changed gear as well. It was as though he flipped a switch. The coaching method to achieve this is critical. It requires a clear concept of the MEganize strategies and principles.
I recently requested an audience with the head of our pre-school where my youngest son attends, mainly for socialization. I sent her an outline of the MEganize Integrated Learning Program, highlighting the potential benefits. I was fobbed off, twice. I approached a member of a local school Board of Education to present the MEganize principles, but still await a response. Our paradigms must be challenged, and our leadership mindset must change. These form the generative structures that define our thoughts, actions, and ultimately our children’s success in life.
So, we can continue to believe the illusion that our failure is based on divine decision, or destiny, that our lot in life is not our fault, and that those who are successful are the lucky ones. The ‘fixed’ or ‘control’ paradigm is based on illusion. Continuing this proven fallacy will not help your children to be successful. We can rather decide to actually believe in science, proven examples, and allow the change of our ‘fixed’ mindset to one of ownership, meaningful engagement and new process. We have to ‘face the tiger’, to confront our weaknesses and paradigms at the highest levels, and change.
Faith conquers all, as long it is not misguided. MEganize offers a clear, integrated solution to minimize our educational redundancy and its related fall-out, and to empower our children’s learning potential. We all have a duty to bring about this change of mindset to cope with the 21st century. Our prosperous future depends on it.
Incidentally, Luke’s game (The Invasion) is a free download, available on meganize4life.com here. You will need to download Owl Game Creator externally (freeware).
- Dweck is a world renowned Stanford University psychologist. Her accolades are too many to print. Please refer to https://psychology.stanford.edu/cdweck if you would like to see her credentials.
- Peter Senge, author of The 5th Discipline, is a Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Sustainability at the MIT Sloan School of Management. TheJournal of Business Strategy named Senge one of the 24 people who has had the greatest influence on business strategy over the last 100 years. The Financial Times (2000) named him one of the world’s top management gurus.