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Change of perspective/mindset

“The ability to acquire knowledge is not some fixed attribute, but a determined will.” Robert Sternberg

This article serves as a kind of book recommendation. Carol S. Dweck’s book “Mindset” is a work that every educator, parent, or anyone who deals with future generations in any capacity should consider reading. If for nothing else, it is certainly useful for provoking thoughts, as it sheds new light on familiar things.

Based on the thoughts inspired by the book, we will explore a psychological question that is there in every part of our  lives. We have a general mindset, an attitude that fundamentally shapes our thinking and can have a huge impact on our entire lives.


The author of the book presents a brilliant analogy to illustrate the concept of the fixed mindset, comparing it to a set of predetermined playing cards, where individuals strive to reveal only their aces while hiding the less valuable cards. This mindset compels us to constantly seek self-justification and validation. Unfortunately, this is often reinforced even in schools here at home, highlighting a significant societal problem.

From childhood, we can be categorized into boxes: this child is smart, that child is talented, etc. Once such an image is formed, even if unintentionally, everyone tends to treat the individual with some bias. Teachers may be more understanding towards “normal” children than those they have had negative experiences with. Unintentionally, they reinforce the label, which can easily become a self-perpetuating process.

Unfortunately, we often accept this label – knowing our weaknesses and shortcomings – and we go on  reinforcing it within ourselves. Our beliefs have a tremendous impact on our self-image and our perception of the world, shaping our own reality.

Later on, we may want to change these prejudices by seemingly wanting to fit into another box. This wouldn’t be a problem, as it could act as a guarantee of development. However, most of the time, this is just a superficial change. We do things to appear smarter, more beautiful, or better, rather than actually striving to improve.

In this mindset, “if a person takes risks and makes efforts, it only provides another opportunity for their shortcomings to surface, proving that they are not suitable for the task at hand.” Thus, we choose passivity or avoidance instead of actively striving to solve the emerging problem. I think we all can relate to this situation – either through our own experiences or those of others – whether we think back to our school years or a particular workplace.

The biggest problem with a fixed mindset is that it can lead to a constant fragile self-confidence and self-esteem maintenance. However, confidence is not constant. It is a continuously changing psychological factor that adapts to the situation. There is no point in constantly and artificially maintaining it by choosing the easier paths.

Contrary to this, a  growth mindset involves truly believing that with effort, whether big or small, we can develop in almost every area. Nothing is set in stone regarding our personalities or physical abilities.

It may seem contradictory, but people with a growth mindset perform much better in self-awareness because to develop effectively, they need to know where they start from. In contrast, the fixed mindset tends to overvalue strengths and undervalue weaknesses.

Successful people with a growth mindset do not feel superior to others, except perhaps in terms of their hard work or perseverance. They attribute their success much more to their hard work than to any innate talent they were born with. They can be modest and exercise humility. Excellent examples within the realm of sports are Michael Jordan or Roger Federer – it’s worth familiarizing yourself with their biographies and statements.

People with a fixed mindset often feel superior. They may think they are privileged, born with talent. However, when faced with failures, they can quickly become nobodies in their own eyes because something they used to believe in  is shaken. Therefore, the fixed mindset is fundamentally an extreme, black-or-white way of thinking. In this mindset, we want immediate success and recognition because either we are capable or we are not. We do not allow room for further development.

A failure is always painful. However, the way we react – whether we collapse in shame or see it as an unpleasant but useful experience from which we can learn – is our own decision.

Let’s not spend our precious time proving our strengths and hiding our weaknesses but instead focus on genuine development!

The fixed mindset suggests that truly talented people do not need to make efforts; struggle is merely a privilege of those with lesser abilities. However, this is not the case at all. Regardless of which great artist, athlete, or scientist we look at, we rarely find peak performance without obvious, invested work.


If someone is labeled as weak in maths or clumsy in physical education, it plants a bug in the child’s ear. Negative labels trigger stereotypical thinking, which can have astonishing effects on performance. Once someone is put into a more negative box, their performance inevitably declines.

Conversely, this correlation is less valid. So, if we say someone is smart or talented, it does not necessarily lead to increased performance. In the short term, it may work, but in the long run, it can trap the individual into a serious pitfall. Because if someone has heard their whole life how smart or talented they are, then with the first serious failure, their self-image is fundamentally shaken. They might think they are not so smart or talented after all? These doubts can result in serious loss of self-confidence, fear of failure, and withdrawn behavior.

Therefore, it is not advisable to praise or criticize abilities because both lead the child towards a fixed mindset. If a problem arises, it is important to honestly discuss the issues and propose solutions. When it comes to success or significant performance, it is worth emphasizing the journey that led to it. In most cases, the invested work, time, and attitude are what truly matter.

Lower expectations cannot provide a solution either because they highlight easy success and praise for minimal effort. In real life, this is very little, and can even be harmful, as it can lead to serious disappointments. It should be made clear to children that learning is not necessary to avoid judgment or to move from one box to another. Learning is about real development that serves the students’ interests. The awareness that the right work will pay off sooner or later keeps confidence much healthier. Thus, instead of praising our abilities, we should recognize or blame our attitudes or the energy we put into our performance.

Unfortunately, the “praising-our-abilities” mentality is particularly evident in sports. An innate talent does not need to work hard, and often asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness. Due to expectations, every mistake can be perceived as a huge failure or as incompetence. In worse cases, every match or competition can strengthen the fear of failure. Hungarian sports life is typically maximalist. Victories are the most important (even at youth level), we remember the winners, and we idolize them. This attitude puts a huge burden on most of our athletes. It would be good if we could also appreciate the invested work and performance alongside the results. Going to a world event or even the Olympics is already a huge achievement, and a good placement or medal is just the icing on the cake.

“Mindset Shift” is a great book that confronts a misconception, a belief that strongly influences most of our thinking. And this has a terribly negative impact on our society. It infects the atmosphere of everyday life so subtly that we don’t even notice. Even with the best intentions, we can easily drive each other into a trap based on a fixed, mistaken mindset, which can fundamentally influence our whole lives. By changing our thinking, attitude, and mindset, we can open up these limits, with more or less effort, primarily by changing the spirit of education.

It would be good if children did not develop a mindset that someone is fundamentally good or bad at physical education – or any other subject, for that matter – but rather that some are at ‘X’ level and others at ‘Y’ level. This way, they may feel less anxious and might not hate certain subjects. At most, they might see it as requiring less invested energy for them. Moreover, this can make them more accepting towards each other because they do not start thinking in labels, but rather in constantly changing qualities and preparedness.

If we praise someone, let’s do it for their persistent efforts, the energy they invest, their humble work, or their purposeful attitude. This way, we can pave the way for real development.