Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: Why bother setting goals? Why not just go shopping instead – have a bit of retail therapy?
People love to be distracted! Makeovers, new clothes, new cars or houses, holidays and other material goods or experiences can be very pleasurable distractions in the short term. But there is one big drawback which you’ll never hear about from the media. Here it is:
# As human beings we get ‘habituated’ to new things in our lives. This means that we get used to new things and the glow wears off very quickly, and we start to feel dissatisfied again.
Have you noticed how children quickly get used to having presents given to them? Have you noticed how soon you can adjust to new furniture, or a new car? Or a new relationship?
What a shame that is, after what they cost us!
Distractions are very poor substitutes for the achievement of meaningful goals! Let me explain:
# Achieving goals is a deeply satisfying activity for humans, and research has shown that our brains release a feel-good hormone when we achieve them. We have that sense of achievement for the rest of our lives – no-one can take it away from us. Each time we remember it, we feel good and we know the hard work we had to do to achieve it.
I have had the privilege for years of seeing the happiness and sense of achievement shine out of clients’ faces when they achieve their goals. For example, I have helped many students to achieve their academic qualifications, at the end of a course which has been a tough battle for them; but they made it through! I was so proud of them, and they wisely took pictures at their presentation events so they could treasure the event for the rest of their lives and show them to their families.
That warm glow lasts for the rest of our lives! And you can’t buy it on Oxford Street or on any other high street in the UK or your local supermarket.
And this warm glow is experienced no matter whether your goal is related to your work, your home life, your relationships, your academic study, your hobbies, etc.
So how can we achieve our goals?
Athletes involved in sports or other areas of life have coaches to help them achieve their goals and win competitions. They know they can’t do it all on their own. They know the value of focus and constructive feedback, and how efficient and effective it can be.
But in ordinary life, people have just as many challenges, because they face the tasks of holding down a job, and/or raising a family, managing their relationships, and/or creating a career for themselves, handling health problems, caring for other family members, organising social events and many other tasks.
They also have information being bombarded at them, 24/7, from different directions. So it can be very easy to get confused and lose contact with themselves. That’s when hiring a coach/counsellor will help you focus on:
Where you are now in your life
What you specifically want to gain or change
What you can change and what you can’t
The specific steps you can take to improve your life
How to persist with taking those steps
Models and techniques you can learn to keep your head above water.
How to create the kind of life you want for yourself in the future.
The coach/counsellor uses their skills and training to help you create a better life. With their support and knowledge of how to release your potential, you get to step out of your daily routine and figure out where you are headed. And, also to check out with yourself if this is what you really want.
You may want to change your job, or some aspect of your relationships, achieve further training, or take a searching look at where you are going in your life. With the help of a coach/counsellor you can identify the experiences you want and make changes which will last the rest of your life.
And the effects will last longer than the new hairdo or CD you bought, or that new mobile app you wanted. Your warm glow of achievement, when you achieve a valued goal, will be a treasured part of your life. And remember – you can’t buy it at Sainsbury’s!
Do you want to give it a try and find out the truth for yourself? We are geared up to work with you to bring valued changes into your life, so contact us for help and support.
Renata’s Coaching/Counselling blog: A rave review of Dr Carol Dweck’s book – ‘Mindset’ – which is about mental attitude, resilience, achievement and success…
In this blog I will explain a simple model based on the findings of Dr Carol Dweck and her university research team.
Then I will describe some of the ways in which the model has proved to be effective, plus some useful questions that can help children and adults maximise their potential and enjoy their talents and skills more.
The bottom line is this:
Most of us have been persuaded (falsely) by our educational experiences in the past:
That intelligence is innate, and fixed.
That some people are just innately more intelligent than others.
That you cannot change your intelligence level.
That ‘really intelligent’ people never make any mistakes in the process of studying new material.
That people who struggle to learn are ‘losers’ – and, the corollary – that people who we believe to be ‘winners’ never make any mistakes.
But there is no really good evidence for any of these historical prejudices! And most of them have been shown to be false by Dr Carol Dweck and her research collaborators.
Who is Carol Dweck?
Dr Carol Dweck is a world famous Stanford University psychologist who has done many years of research into achievement and success in learning.
At the start of her book on ‘Mindset’ she describes going into a school to do research with children.
She gave them puzzles, some of which were easy to solve, and some which became increasingly hard for the children to solve. She wanted to see how the children would handle the challenge.
She describes one child, a ten year old boy, who did the following:
“He pulled up his chair, rubbed his hands together, smacked his lips together and cried out, ’I love a challenge!’ ”
She then went on to describe another child who was sweating with the exertion of solving the puzzles, and who looked up at her and said, with a pleased expression on her face, and with authority in her voice:
“You know, I was hoping this would be informative.”
Carol Dweck was fascinated by their reactions and thought to herself, “What’s wrong with them?”
She couldn’t believe that they enjoyed learning, and didn’t get discouraged when they made mistakes.
She then went on to say:
“I, on the other hand, thought that human qualities were carved in stone. You were smart or you weren’t, and failure meant you weren’t. It was that simple. If you could arrange successes and avoid failures (at all costs) you could stay smart. Struggles, mistakes, and perseverance were just not part of the picture.”
So these children became her role models, and she created a theory based on what she found when she started investigating the attitudes of children towards learning.
The two mind-sets:
She discovered that there were two identifiable and distinct mind-sets (or perspectives) which affected how children (and grown-ups) learn. One of these mind-sets (or viewpoints) assumes that we are fixed entities who cannot grow and develop significantly; and the other one states that we are growth-organisms who change and develop through experience and practice.
And she explains that: “For twenty years my research has shown that the view (or mind-set) that you adopt foryourself, profoundly affects the way you lead your life”. (Page 6)
Here is a video of Dr Carol Dweck explaining her ideas and research findings:
What this means, in practice, is that:
(1) if you hold the fixed mind-set (regarding the possibilities of your own life) then you are stuck being the way you are today. No really significant growth will result from that mind-set. Or:
(2) that if you hold the growth mind-set (regarding the possibilities of your own life) then you can set goals and struggle persistently towards those goals, without being dragged down by the fear of failures along the way towards success!
I will now present those two mind-sets in brief:
A ‘Fixed’ mind-set means that:
# You think your qualities, skills and talents are carved in stone.
# You feel you have to prove your ability over and over again.
# You think that skill and talents should come naturally – that you shouldn’t need to make any effort. (Dweck considers that this is one of the worst beliefs anyone can have).
# You believe you have to hide your mistakes and deficiencies from others.
# You think you have to run from errors as quickly as possible.
# Basically, you are convinced that your traits are just givens: that you have a certain amount of brains and talents and nothing can alter that.
Questions that children ask themselves when they have this mind-set are:
‘Will I succeed or fail?’
‘Will I look smart or dumb?’
‘Will I be accepted or rejected?’
‘Will I feel like a winner or a loser?’
And now for the second mind-set:
A ‘Growth’ mind-set means that:
# You think that your intelligence can be developed through receiving teaching, mentoring, and by applying yourself to what needs to be learned and practised.
# You know that making an effort consistently will lead to an increase in ability over time.
# You accept your mistakes and confront your deficiencies.
# You realise that being talented is just the starting point.
How do children get these mind-sets?
Dweck and her researchers wanted to find out how these mind-sets were transmitted to children. Over the course of fifteen years of research they discovered that indiscriminate praising of children’s behaviour was unhelpful. Praising them, and telling them how brilliant and talented they were, led to the children developing a ‘fixed’ mind-set. It made them avoid and fear challenges. They didn’t want to take risks because they wanted to ‘look good’ to others.
So how can parents help children develop a ‘growth’ mind-set?
Dweck recommends that praising the process that the children are going through, as they work at developing their skills, will be very constructive for the child. So the take away message is: Don’t praise another person’s results or outcomes. Praise their approach to the problem.
When children in a Chicago school were unable to pass a unit, instead of the grade saying ‘Fail’, it said, “Not yet.” This kept the child on the learning curve. They had not been classified as ‘a failure’, but rather as ‘still learning’.
A question she recommends that parents ask their children round the dinner table is: “Who had a fabulous struggle today?”
She recommends that if the process of learning is valued, and acknowledged, then struggling and making mistakes is accepted as a crucial part of the growth process.
So she contends that a ‘Growth’ mind-set:
allows students (or learners) to embrace learning;
helps them understand the role of effort in creating intelligence, and:
also helps them maintain resilience when they are faced with setbacks, instead of running from their mistakes.
An experiment conducted with 7th grade students in the US.
Carol Dweck describes, in her presentation to the Royal Society of Arts, in 2013, an experiment conducted with 7th grade students, who were assigned to two different groups:
#Group 1, the ‘Growth mind-set’ students, were given eight sessions of study skills.
They were also given one session on the growth mind-set which involved them reading an article entitled, ‘You can grow your intelligence’, which described facts about how the brain works and how the brain can be developed like a muscle.
Then they were assigned a task e.g. ‘Write a letter to a struggling friend using a growth mind-set’.
# Group 2, the control group, were given eight sessions of study skills, without the extra session on the growth mind-set.
After the input to the two groups, the maths grades of the two groups were tested and analysed. The results were as follows:
The control group, who had only had study skills tuition, continued to have declining maths grades. But the students who had the study skills input plus the ‘growth’ mind-set session, showed a sharp rebound in their maths skills.
This is one example of the value of using this approach, and Dweck mentions other research studies in her presentation, which also confirm that the students’ learning is powerfully enhanced by teaching the growth mind-set.
How can Dweck’s theory and her research help children and adults?
Children have a very tough job of developing their skills in the hothouse of a school environment, with the spotlight of the teacher and their peer group on them most of the time. Who can blame them for forming (closed mind-set) limiting views of their abilities, when they are surrounded by judgments and constant evaluations of their progress (rather than their efforts and persistence)?
But they can be strengthened in their resilience and determination if the teacher and/or their parents use the growth mind-set when asking the children about their school work.
Here is a visual summary by Nigel Holmes of the two mind-sets and their differences:
For adults, the rewards of experimenting with the growth mind-set would mean that they persist in the face of difficulty, and keep going until they learn a way forward. Instead of seeing their errors during learning tasks as something that they have to flee from, they would see their mistakes as something that they could learn from.
They would give up rating themselves as a winner or a loser on the basis of the fact that it takes time to learn new knowledge and skills.
They would come to see the belief that we are a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser’ (during the learning process) as a dysfunctional belief based on a lack of understanding about the way the brain-mind actually works.
Here are a few questions which can develop our own ‘growth’ mind-set, which are suitable for children and adults:
“What can I learn from this result?”
“What can I do next time when I am in the same situation?”
“What opportunities are there for my growth today?”
“What do I need to do to maintain and continue my growth?”
I strongly recommend Dr Dweck’s presentations and books, and hope you find them very useful for yourselves.
If you feel stuck in a situation where your current skills and knowledge will not take you forward, and you have the fixed mind-set, then you can’t make any progress.
Unless you figure out how to develop the growth mind-set, you cannot move forward. I can assure you, despite what you have been taught, that you can grow and change and develop. If you need help with that process, I can point you in some productive and constructive directions!
Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: A ‘Rave Review’ of Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance by Dr Angela Duckworth
In this blog I want to explain to you why I think this book – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – by Angela Duckworth is a great book, and show you how her research can help us in our daily lives, as we try to achieve our goals.
Dr Angela Duckworth is an Associate Professor of psychology, at the University of Pennsylvania. When she was in her second year of graduate school, she started researching the achievements of highly effective people in different areas of life: business, the arts, journalism, medicine, athletics, the law, etc.
She wanted to know if there were any common features that successful people, at the top of these various fields, shared. And so she interviewed the leaders in these different occupations and discovered something which she found of great interest. There was a distinctive way of behaving that they all shared. When they faced failure, in one form or another, they just kept going!
She found that highly successful people were remarkably persevering. They were really hard-working and could bounce back after set-backs. And they knew where they were headed. They were passionate about what they were doing and this drove them on.
In her book she states:
“No matter what the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in 2 ways. Firstly, these exemplars were unusually hard-working and resilient. Secondly, they knew in a very deep way what it was they wanted. They not only had determination – they had direction.”
Gradually, as the interviews with these highly successful people progressed, she was able to create a series of questions. These questions tried to gauge the extent of someone’s ability to keep going in the face of obstacles, and how passionate they were about their chosen activities.
With these questions, she created a questionnaire called the ‘Grit scale’, and she decided grit – meaning passion and perseverance – was the outstanding feature of the successful people she interviewed. In the scale, she has several questions about perseverance and also questions about passion.
She describes passion as: “…a compass – the thing that takes you some time to build and tinker with and finally get right, and that then guides you on your long and winding road to where, ultimately, you want to be”.
Angela Duckworth starts her book with a description of the training of new recruits to the United States Military Academy at West point. She describes highly capable and dedicated cadets, who, in order to be selected, have had to produce excellent high school grades and demonstrate top marks in physical fitness tests.
They have to undergo seven weeks of initial training, which is very rigorous and demanding, and hence is called “Beast Barracks”.
These cadet trainees had applied in their junior year in high school to join the West Point cadets, and although 14,000 apply, this number is cut down to 4,000 who then have to get nominated (by a member of Congress, or a senator, or the Vice-President of the United States). These 4,000 are then reduced because fewer than half will meet the strict academic and physical standards of West Point.
From this group of approximately 2,500, there is a final group selected of 1,200 who are enrolled and admitted into the academy.
What fascinated Angela Duckworth was the number of trainees who didn’tmake it to the end of the training course and she wanted to find out why. During this 7 week training, (which is very strenuous, with no weekends off and no contact with friends and family), there is a drop-out rate of 1 in 5 cadets.
Why was this drop-out rate so high with young recruits who had worked for years to achieve their dream of becoming a West Point cadet for the United States Military?
To find an explanation, she used her own ‘Grit scale’, which I mentioned at the start of this blog, to see if the results achieved by cadets (prior to their training) gave a clue as to who would drop out of the 7 week training, and who would complete the training course successfully.
She administered the test in July 2004 to 1,218 West Point cadets and discovered something remarkable. What she did was to compare the scores on the ‘Grit scale’, which the cadets had achieved, and their ‘Whole candidate scores’.
These ‘Whole Candidate scores’ were the test and exam results that had been collated during the cadets’ lengthy admission process, starting from junior high school onwards. These scores showed the levels of academic ability, physical fitness, plus military fitness predictions.
When she compared the scores for the ‘Grit scale’ and ‘Whole candidate scores’, it became apparent to her that no matter howgifted a cadet was, this was no indication of their Grit level.
Here is a sample of her Grit scale (all of which can be found on page 55 of her book):
She saw this same pattern (of lack of correlation between talent and grit) repeated in the later scores when she gave the test again the following year. This was her conclusion, based on the results:
The only thing that could successfully predict that a cadet would get through the “Beast barracks” initial training programme was their scores on the ‘Grit scale’, and not their high school rank, or their academic ability, leadership experience, athletic ability or their ‘Whole candidate score’.
She continued her research into the power of grit in the sales profession, which can be a very strenuous training ground. As they try to sell their goods, salespeople constantly get rejection from other people, and have to manage their reactions to this, and keep motivated.
The ‘Grit scale’ predicted the people who stayed the course, in the sales industry. She states:
“No other commonly-measured personality trait – including extraversion, emotional stability and conscientiousness – was as effective as grit in predicting job retention”.
She also used the test at the request of the Chicago Public Schools Services, and she discovered, through administering the Grit Scale to the students, that the level of grit of the students was a more revealing measure of whether they would graduate or not.
Their level of completion of academic work, or how much they liked school or felt secure in the school environment, was not as good an indicator as the Grit score.
She also completed 2 extensive samples of American adult students, and found that adults who were ‘gritty’ (meaning having high scores on the grit test) were more successful in their academic studies.
Angela Duckworth then initiated a collaboration with the US Army Special Operations Forces, known as the Green Berets. After a very difficult training period, (which included a boot camp, 4 weeks of infantry training, 3 weeks of airborne school, and 4 weeks of day and night land navigation) the recruits then do a Selection Course which she describes as, “Making Beast Barracks look like a summer vacation”.
On the selection course there are daytime and night time challenges, runs and marches, obstacle courses etc. And simply to be chosen for the selection course was an achievement in itself.
However 42% of the candidates that she observed, pulled out of the training of their own free will before the selection course had finished.
She found that a high score on the ‘Grit scale’ predicted who would make it through the Selection Course. So grit in candidates was the best predictor of future success – not talent.
She states: “Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another”.
After a number of years teaching, Angela Duckworth could see very clearly that “talent was not destiny”, and she decided to leave teaching for psychology, as she wanted to get really clear about the role that effort made in achievement.
In her book she mentions that Darwin considered that the factors which make up achievement are hard work and enthusiasm, and that they were fundamentally of greater value than intellectual ability.
But she discovered from surveys conducted in America over many years, that, although many people state, and seem to believe, that hard work was more significant a characteristic than intelligence, in fact they actually believed the opposite.
People who were ‘naturally gifted’ were rated more highly than people who were very hard workers. She therefore considered that: “We have an ambivalence towards talent and effort”.
When people rate talent so highly, this means that other factors are considered much less valuable. And this further means that other abilities, including grit, are not valued (or are downgraded).
Angela Duckworth gives examples of the value of grit in two case studies, and I will summarise the example she gives of the progress of Scott Kaufman. Kaufman is a psychologist who now has three degrees and plays the cello for fun.
When he was young he was considered to be a slow learner. He suffered a lot from ear infections and this affected his ability to process information. He was put into special education classes (because of assumed low ability to learn) at school, and had to repeat third grade.
After a nerve-wracking interview with a school psychologist, who gave him lots of tests, he performed badly and was sent to a special education school for children with learning disabilities.
When he was fourteen one of the specialist teachers decided to ask Scott why he wasn’t in a more demanding class.
Scott told Angela Duckworth that up until that time, he’d always assumed that because he wasn’t talented, there wouldn’t be much that he could do with his life.
The fact that he met a teacher who believed in his potential was a huge revelation for Scott. At that time he found himself wondering, ”Who am I? Am I a learning disabled kid with no real future? Or maybe something else?”
So what he did then was to try to find the answer to those questions! He enrolled on as many demanding school activities as he could. He joined the choir, and the school musical, and the Latin class. He wasn’t the top in everything, but he learned in the classes.
“What Scott learned”, said Angela Duckworth, “was that he wasn’thopeless.”
As Scott’s grandfather had been a cellist in the Philadelphia orchestra for 50 years, he asked his grandfather if he would give him cello lessons. Scott started practising for 8 or 9 hours a day, not just because he really liked playing, but because:
“I was so driven to just show someone, anyone, that I was intellectually capable of anything. At this point I didn’t care what it was”. (Page 32)
He was so good on the cello that he managed to get a place in the High School orchestra. He then increased his practice even more, and by the end of his second year, he was the second-best cellist in the orchestra; and awards from the Music Department were given to him regularly.
Scott’s classwork marks improved and his enthusiasm and curiosity about new subjects expanded. But he was dogged by his low IQ scores from childhood.
This restriction continued until the day came when he decided to apply to the Carnegie Mellon University. He was fascinated by the concept of IQ and he wanted to study intelligence, so he applied for a cognitive science course.
In spite of the fact that he had very high grades for his work, and lots of achievements from his extracurricular activities, he was rejected. It was apparent to Scott that it had been the results from his SAT scores that had kept him from being offered a place.
However, he was very determined. “I had grit”, he said. “….I’m going to find a way to study what I want to study”. He applied for the Carnegie Mellon Opera programme of study. This was because they didn’t look very hard at SAT scores and focussed on musical aptitude and expression.
So in Scott’s first year he took a psychology course as an elective, and then added psychology as a minor. Then he transferred his major from Opera to Psychology. And then he graduated at the end of the degree course with a high scholastic distinction, in psychology!
Scott Kaufman then went on to earn several more degrees, and to work in an American university as a psychologist. Angela Duckworth shows empathy towards Scott for the following reason:
“Like Scott, I took an IQ test early in my schooling and was deemed insufficiently bright to benefit from gifted and talented classes. For whatever reason – maybe a teacher asked that I be retested – I was evaluated again the following year, and I made the cut. I guess you could say I was borderline gifted.”
She considers that focussing on the amount of talent an individual has, is a distraction from something of equal value and she considers that “As much as talent counts, effort counts twice.”
She quotes Nietzsche’s views on why societies place talent over the hard work ethic.
“Our vanity, our self-love, promotes the cult of the genius. For if we think of genius as something magical, we are not obliged to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking.”
He wanted people to think of very high achievers as crafts(people). He wrote this:
“Do not talk about giftedness, (or) inborn talents! One can name great (people) of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became geniuses…they all acquired the seriousness of the efficient crafts(person) who first learns to construct the parts properly before they venture to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole”.
So what can we take away from Angela Duckworth’s investigation into the concept of ‘grit’? She concludes the book by explaining that you can grow your own grit – and she considers that there are two ways of doing it:
She suggests that you yourself can decide which interest you are going to put your precious time and energy into, link up your work with a wider purpose that benefits others, and learn the value of hope, when situations look bleak.
You can also give yourself daily challenges to develop your skill levels. She describes this as “Growing your grit from the inside out”.
But you can also grow your grit level “From the outside in”. This is done by having support from parents, coaches, teachers, bosses, mentors and friends. They can make a great difference. Where would Mozart have been without his musical father? And where would Bill Gates be without a wealthy lawyer father, and – from 1968 onwards, as an 8th grader – unlimited access to a computer terminal at his private school? (So grit is very important, but so also is external support, and ‘door openers’ [or people who ‘allow you in’]).
How does knowing about the Grit Scale help us? It means that there is solid research that shows that talent can only take us so far. And there are things that are more important than talent as determinants of success.
With a great start in life, having supportive and encouraging parents, for example, we can develop our natural talents to a high level. But at some point, unless we develop gritty behaviours, we will not develop our talents fully.
The really good news is that if we practice these ‘Gritty behaviours’ shown on Angela’s scale, then we’ll reap the rewards in terms of completing the courses of study we undertake; and achieving the necessary qualifications; so that we can create solid careers for ourselves.
Or, we can create a richer and more satisfying life for ourselves if we follow our interests with passion and perseverance, whether we earn a wage for it, or not.
Finally, in Angela Duckworth’s book, she describes the findings from journalist Hester Lacey’s interviews with very creative people. Each of them was asked, “What was your greatest disappointment?”
The responses she received to this question were almost always identical:
“Well – I don’t really think in terms of disappointment. I tend to think that everything that happens is something I can learn from. I tend to think, ‘Well, okay. That didn’t go so well, but I guess I will just carry on’.”
A pretty gritty response!
I strongly recommend Angela Duckworth’s TED talk,
and her book, which has lots more interesting things in it (including a generously-shared account by Angela of her own use of grit when a tutor for her degree course advised her to drop the cognitive psychology course she was studying because they didn’t think she was capable of passing it)!
But this is the longest blog I’ve written, and I didn’t want to include any more, as it would be straining your grit muscles too far.
In fact, if you’ve got this far – well done for sticking with my review! And if you do the grit test, it will give you valuable self-knowledge. If you share what you’ve learned about grit and the grit test with someone in your family or a good friend of yours, who may be struggling with a challenge they are facing at the moment, it can really be very helpful for them. The scale shows clearly how you can develop your grit muscles.