How a Growth Mindset (or Lack of One) Can Make or Break Your Knitting Success

Growing plant sproutWhat 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.

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The Power of belief -- mindset and success | Eduardo Briceno | TEDxManhattanBeach
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 Waitzki

chess piece knocked overWhen 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.

Child playing with puzzleAfterwards, 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.

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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.

Frustrated knitterActually, 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!



24 thoughts on “How a Growth Mindset (or Lack of One) Can Make or Break Your Knitting Success”

  1. I tried knitting in my teens, and just could NOT seem to do it, I didn’t understand what I was doing, and I gave up. I decided I could not knit. I was using straight needles.
    At age 59, I tried again, this time with circular needles. After a week of practicing knit and purl and watching YouTube videos I was completely comfortable. After making about 4 pillow covers and rectangular neck scarves, I was bored and I wanted to see if I could do something which was more interesting for me…cables. (I didn’t know they were supposed to be hard, so I didn’t worry about it. No problem, loved them, understood them immediately. Somehow I had taught myself to read my knitting, before I even knew that was a thing! Liat, you were the first person to ever mention that phrase “read your knitting”.
    I think that between my teens and my old age I learned to have more confidence in my ability to watch, listen and learn. I don’t doubt myself anymore, if anything I prefer a challenge. I’ve taken on all sorts of complex lace, cables, sweaters, hats, socks, even small dolls and animals…and love them all. If you tell yourself you can, YOU CAN. The only thing special about me is that I believe I CAN, and so I DO. Thanks for your videos and wise words, you are the best knitting teach out there!

  2. My Mom was a “perfect ” kitter. She wrote out every line of every pattern and followed them religiously. I on the other hand watched TV and chatted with people while I knit resulting in mistakes. Because I took the time to figure them out, I learned how to correct, them or TINK back if needed. Mom always teased me when I had to do that. One time when she had got 2 feet knitted of a knit coat, she dropped a stitch pretty far down and was devastated thinking she’d have to start over. I grabbed a crochet hook, worked the dropped stitch back up and handed it to her. She never teased me again. Mistakes are learning experiences!

  3. Candy Franks – KnitFreedom Customer Happiness

    Thank you everyone for your great/insightful comments. Liat will be thrilled to get your feedback. She is still on maternity leave, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see new pics of baby Milo!!!

    Happy Knitting
    ~Candy~

  4. I only ever have one project at a time going, because I made a promise to myself I would never give up until I am finished. I have managed to stick to it for the past 2 years, & have even dropped 6 stitches down a fair few rows because I had turned the cable the wrong way. If anyone had asked me if I could fix a cable pattern, I would definitely said No, but I managed to do it successfully & was so proud of myself, you would not believe. I love challenging myself in my knitting. That’s what still keeps it exciting, after 47 years.

  5. AND YOU DID IT AGAIN……………… Another mind set email :) Every video… every email from you is like opening doors that were closed for all those knitting years. I never would have tried to use knitting in the round until you. From that day, all my knitting is on that wonderful circle. I call it my ‘circle of love’ ! AND…….. now I am hooked on knitting socks … especiall those from the toe up. WHAT A LOVE YOU ARE. So thankful I found you. And…….. without a doubt I’m not the only one that feels this way.
    And what a mother you are going to be………… passing along all your very special YOU. Thanks from the bottom of my heart for all you do for us.
    Louise

    1. Hello dear Louise!
      Thank you so much for your sweet and supportive words! I love that you enjoy Magic Loop as much as I do. I will soon have some more toe-up sock patterns for your needles – yay! I love having you as part of KnitFreedom. Big hugs!

  6. I love that TedTalk by Eduardo Briçeno! Watched it for the first time about 5 years ago. As an educator we teach growth mindset, and the power of YET. I’ve also delved into the work of Jo Boaler (mathematician – youcubed.org) who teaches us in her many, accessible videos, that when we make a mistake, our elastic brains grow…. More proof that making mistakes in our knitting is beneficial to us in the long run.

    1. Hi Linda,
      Thanks so much for sharing this! I know that I’ve barely scratched the surface with growth mindset. My sister, who forwarded me the video, says that Carol Dwyck (the author of the studies mentioned)’s book, Mindset, goes much more into depth and shares more of her experiments. The basic idea is that constant failure is the path to success. Incredible!

  7. I have a growth mindset for sure! I take on projects (like that hot pink cardigan that you helped me with) that definitely challenge me and make me stretch to figure out how to do whatever the project will be. That is not to say that some of my projects are thrown in the proverbial closet on a semi-regular basis just because the design or project is getting on my last nerve! I will eventually get the project back out of the closet and figure out where I left off so that I can work on it some more and hopefully get it done. I have 3 projects on my needles right now, a pair of socks, another Drift cardigan for ME this time, and I am about to begin the Hue Shift afghan by a KnitPicks staff member whose name I cannot remember! I am going to do the rainbow version that has a lot of big, bold colors in a mitered square pattern. It is gorgeous, and I am excited to begin working on that one. I am concerned about the size of my squares compared to the ones in the pictures as well as picking up stitches and connecting all of the squares like that. It will definitely stretch my imagination, but I am definitely up for the challenge!

    1. Hi Linda,
      Hahaha, yes, you are the epitome of growth mindset. You take on ANY project that appeals to you and don’t quit until you get it right. You remind me of the great joy of knitting possibilities. Thank you.

  8. I loved this newsletter! So insightful and it really got me to thinking. No matter if it’s knitting, sewing, crocheting – all of which I’ve been doing over the past 45 years, I’ve been learning all along. I’ve definitely struggled at techniques over the years but persevered. Having someone out there that supports learning and growth is a friend indeed. We can all use someone in our corner like you. Thank you Liat for all that you do!

    1. Hi Patrice,
      It’s so great to hear from you! Thank you for posting here. Wow, I wish I had 45 year of sewing experience under my belt! You are really to be envied. Thank you for being a part of KnitFreedom and posting here your story.

  9. I’ve been knitting since the 3rd grade, many many MANY decades ago. Imagine how many mistakes I’ve made over the years. Thing is, I LOVE making mistakes. Weird I know. BUT, there’s nothing that makes me learn something new faster than screwing it up! I rarely undo my mistakes. I keep them because they’re great visuals of what NOT to do.

    I love making ‘monster’ socks. The idea is to make use of scrap/leftover yarn. Then I thought, why not make them my blank canvas for stitch patterns, techniques, colorplay, and whatever else comes up during my 3AM revelations. I just recently finished a pair of Barbara Walker mosaic patterns sampler socks. One of the patterns was giving me a problem. It just wasn’t turning out like the picture. I was going to frog it and start over but decided to keep it. I instead opted to use the same pattern on sock 2. Turns out I didn’t mess up at all. It was a simple matter of color contrast. Sock 1 just didn’t have the right amount of color contrast to let the design stand out. Sock 2 did.

    The sense of freedom to make mistakes is exhilirating!

    1. Hi Chi,
      What an incredible attitude! Thank you so much for sharing your story about monster socks. I LOVE that you choose to keep your mistakes in. You learn SO much that way! You said it much better than I can, so I won’t repeat you, but thank you again.
      Liat

  10. Hi Liat,
    What an insightful newsletter. I have learned throughout the years that making mistakes and taking the time to correct them myself is a great teaching tool. Frustrating at times but certainly worth the effort. Thank you for all you do to help us become Superstars!

  11. Thought I was going to enjoy new techniques and patterns on this email. Got nothing that every mother doesn’t already knows on rearing a motivated child and a book marketing push. Not impressed.

    1. What I get from a long association with Liat Gatt is experienced insight into ways to help beginning knitters to hold onto their initial motivation to have a go at becoming a confident, or at least capable, knitter. These knitting techniques she offers are not so much “new”, as about gaining a deeper understanding of how to overcome unsuccessful attempts at standard knitting techniques (mostly by looking more carefully at what you are doing successfully, and what it is you are doing that needs to be done slightly differently). Yes, this post is a marketing push – but for her own video course: how to Fix Knitting Mistakes. Liat Gatt’s video demonstrations are remarkably understanding of how even experienced people can “get it wrong”, and therefore how to mend a mistake. As an experienced knitter (I have more than 65 years of experience!), I appreciate her close observation and encouragement of how to channel disappointed or frustrated thoughts in the mind, into interested fascination with “what went wrong” – and even how to fix that error without having to start all over again. The end goal is for us all to become independently adept at learning yet more adventurous knitting. Joyfully!

    2. Hi San,
      Thank you so much for your comment! You are right to expect new techniques and patterns as a subscriber to KnitFreedom. In fact, the next post I have coming up is a basic toe-up sock pattern in baby and child sizes, which has been much-requested. For techniques, I am working on a class on reading and following charts of all kind (fair-isle, cable, knit-and-purl, lace, duplicate stitch, and intarsia).
      Occasionally I also write and post about attitude when it comes to knitting. It’s a subject very dear to me, since I see many knitters held back and unable to do the projects they dream of, because of fear of making mistakes, asking questions, or just getting it wrong. Knitting is difficult and takes perseverance! I hope to encourage my readers in their efforts when they need a helping hand or just some loving encouragement.
      Cheers,
      Liat

      1. Hi Liat,
        My niece, who teaches in the elementary grades in Kentucky, has talked about this same thing, that is, not letting the smart kids get away with not doing hard things because they think it will bump them off their perch. I always had to work hard for everything I got, but my older sister had it all come easily to her. As a consequence, she rarely tries anything new. I continue to plunge in and learn new things and I love how my brain feels when I’ve learned something I didn’t know. Knitting has been good for me. I’m self taught and just started when I retired from my career in 2011.

  12. I just received your last post about the mindset and couldn’t agree more. I learned from all your videos and that one about fixing mistakes included…

    And it’s only when I learned how to fix my mistakes that I improved the most in knitting.

    The funny thing is that in 2-3 days I received the same kind of message, one about playing guitar, and the other one about another subject. But they all end up saying the same thing: making mistakes, correcting them and learning from them, and being regular in the efforts we put in what you’re doing.

    Thanks for the reminder ;-)

    Gilles

    1. Hi Gilles,
      Thanks so much for your comment! I feel the same way about massive improvements in knitting when you start learning to fix mistakes.
      I’m glad you mentioned playing guitar – I’ve been learning for a long time but always felt that I wasn’t “good at” guitar! Hmmm..
      -Liat

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