What’s Your Mindset?

Posted: September 1, 2011 in Monday Morning Message

I recently came across the story of a man who was passing some elephants.  This man suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg.   No chains, no cages.   It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break away from the ropes they were tied to but for some reason, they did not.   This man saw a trainer nearby and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.

“Well,” he said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them.   As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away.   They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”   The man was amazed.   These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

Like the elephants, there are many people who believe they cannot change their intelligence?  They believe that they were born with a fixed amount of talent or intelligence and are afraid to try things that they aren’t sure that they are good at because they feel that failure means lack of intelligence.  This mindset that we refer to as the “fixed mindset” leads to missed opportunities, disappointments and a discontentment with life.

But there is good news!  There has been research that has shown that there is a different way that people can choose to live and it actually improves their lives!  In Carol S. Dweck’s book, “mindset”, she shares the concept of the growth mindset which states that no matter who you are, you can change your intelligence, a lot.[1]  The idea is that people with a growth mindset believe that they can and are getting smarter.  They take on challenging tasks that they can learn from, embrace failure as a learning opportunity, and apply learnings on their next attempts.  The growth mindset is one of the key principles of thriving and one that will have a huge impact on the positive development of our youth.

The following reminders from the 4-H Thrive Master Trainer Manual will serve as a great reminder for us today of what we can pass on to the people that we wish to impact:

  1. Believe that change is possible and that anyone can change if they want to.
  2. Make your brain learn better by trying new and challenging things.
  3. Be responsible for your own growth and learning.

As you get ready to launch your new program year, remember that your attempt may fail, but never fail to make an attempt.

Until next time,


[1] 4-H Thrive Master Trainer Manual


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