How a Growth Mindset (or Lack of One) Can Make or Break Your Knitting Success
What is a growth mindset? It's the idea that the success you have depends on how hard you work, not on any inborn qualities you may possess.
To learn more about it, watch this fascinating video by Eduardo Briceno below. In it, Briceno clearly describes how having a growth mindset helped Josh Waitzkin, the chess champion upon whom the book Searching for Bobby Fischer is based, not only win more chess championships than anyone else in the world, but also, at the age of 21, become a world-champion tai-chi qigong practioner as well.
When he lost his first chess championship, Josh learned a valuable lesson that helped him win multiple championships thereafter. He realized he wasn't special.
He realized he wasn't going to win on inborn ability or talent. Hard work and dedication would get him to where he wanted to be.
In an even more incredible example, Briceno tells of an experiment in which groups of schoolchildren were given a puzzle to solve.
Afterwards, researchers told half the students, "You scored really high! You must be good at this." The idea that we are inherently "good at" something is a fixed mindset.
The other half of the students were told, "You scored really high! You must have worked hard on this." The idea that hard work gets you success is a growth mindset.
You won't believe what happened to the students after that. When they were asked, "What puzzle would you like to do next? An easy one or a hard one?" most of the students who received fixed-mindset praise chose to do the easy puzzle. After all, they had a lot to lose - their "goodness" or perceived inborn talent.
On the other hand, the students who received the growth-mindset praise overwhelmingly opted for the difficult puzzle. They chose to challenge themselves instead of playing it safe to protect their identity as "winners."
But wait, there's more! When researchers gave all the students a hard puzzle, the fixed-mindset group did much worse on the puzzle than the growth-mindset group. They even did worse than they had on the original puzzle.
You won't believe this last one. When asked to report their own scores, guess what? The fixed-mindset group of students LIED about their scores at a rate of three times more than the growth-mindset group. They had so much to lose, thinking that their success or failure on the puzzle was a reflection of their own inherent goodness or talent, that they couldn't bear to tell the truth.
Of the many takeaways from this video, among them being "Be careful how you praise your children," Briceno stresses that learning facts, skills, and information is quite secondary to mindset when it comes to our success. As you can see, the mindset you have towards success and failure and what it "means" about you has far greater impact than arbitrary skill.
So what does this have to do with knitting?
Reflecting on the many in-person knitting classes I've taught, plus my own experience learning new knitting techniques, I realized that I've heard both attitudes from different students in the classes.
Actually, those with a fixed mindset are often more vocal. When they make mistakes, they chastise themselves, saying, "I KNEW I wasn't any good at this." The growth-mindset students just zip along, asking questions when they get stuck, but without suffering or getting frustrated at having made the mistakes.
What about you? When you make a mistake in your knitting, do you take it as proof that you just aren't very good at knitting? Or do you see yourself as a perfectly capable person who has simply made a mistake?
How does your mindset affect which projects you knit?
When you choose new projects, do you opt for the easy ones, where there is a low risk of errors and frustration? Or do you choose to challenge yourself, knowing that any mistake you happen to make is just part of the learning process on the road to Knitting Superstardom?
I hope that, if you DO see mistakes in knitting as a reflection of lack of skill or "talent" for knitting, that you begin to "talk back" to that fixed-mindset voice. In his video, Briceno advises us to add that all-important word to any negative phrase, making it, "I haven't succeeded - YET."
After watching the video, I reflected that, here at KnitFreedom, we celebrate a growth mindset. The word "Freedom" is even in the name! This isn't knittingtechniques.com (although I probably bought that URL at some point). It's Knit FREEDOM. If you're a subscriber to the site, you probably already strongly lean towards the positive attitudes that will help you in your knitting.
We love making mistakes at KnitFreedom! If you've been watching my knitting videos for a while, you'll notice that I often make mistakes while filming. It's hard to see everything when you're focused on a camera screen! Usually when I make mistakes, I say, "Oh good! Now I can show you how to fix this."
In addition, all of our video knitting classes have extensive troubleshooting sections. I often say in the classes that even if you don't make any mistakes on the project, go ahead and make some on purpose so you can benefit from the troubleshooting videos.
Fix Knitting Mistakes ($12.99) is a great class to get you started on your road to knitting success. Every knitter should practice fixing these basic mistakes so that you're not scared to try difficult projects and so that you can approach them with the all-important growth mindset.
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How has a growth mindset helped you in your knitting projects? Or have you noticed a fixed mindset holding you back? Let me know in the comments!