Who had a fabulous struggle today?

‘A day of fabulous struggle’ is clearly an oxymoron for most of us. Mostly we avoid struggling. We live in an era of instant gratification where we avoid anything that feels difficult or a bit of a struggle. In parenting our kids we actually often over-protect them! We want to keep them from bumping their heads. Similarly in business we can over-protect each other. Perhaps you avoid having those real and tough conversations, or ignore raising difficult issues, in case they open the proverbial ‘can of worms’.


Here’s a great piece of research demonstrating how powerful it is to have a ‘growth mindset’. Putting ourselves to the test, being able to struggle and put in ‘effort’ will certainly get us places.

Stanford University’s Dr Carol Dweck in her Book : “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” speaks of a Growth Mindset versus a Fixed Mindset.

Here is one of the studies Dr Dweck did six times because the results were so powerful, and most importantly she wanted to check that results were really real.

Dr Dweck asked 5th grade students , to come into a room one at a time. She gave them ten problems from a non-verbal I.Q. test. After they completed the ten problems she gave each child feedback She chose one of these ‘options’ for the feedback.


No 1: Praised for their intelligence: ‘That’s a really good score, you must be smart.’ No 2: Praised for their effort: ‘Boy, that’s a really good score, you must have worked hard.’ No 3: Some kids were just told: ‘That’s a really good score.’


For the next step of the study each student was asked what they wanted to work on? Two types of tasks were offered: either …


A: tasks in their comfort zone - where they wouldn’t make mistakes, or B: challenging tasks -where they would make mistakes but learn something important.


The results were intriguing, kids who were praised for their intelligence only wanted the easy task (in their comfort zone), so that they would live up to the label of ‘intelligent’ and not make a mistake.

Whereas, the kids who were praised for effort wanted the hard task, so that they could learn something new. The latter is clearly a ‘growth mindset’!


In the last part of the research they gave all the students really hard problems. The students praised for intelligence lost their confidence. The reason being that … if success meant they were smart, struggle meant they weren’t. In addition they lost their enjoyment of the task. It’s fascinating that even when these students went back to the easier tasks, their performance wasn't great.

On the other hand, the students who had been praised for their effort, stayed confident. They saw that the problems were harder and then worked harder at solving them. Plus they remained engaged. When going back to the easier problems, their scores on the I.Q. test were higher than they had been before. They didn't find it undermining or humiliating to struggle with something new or difficult.

This research magnificently demonstrates fixed mindset versus growth mindset.

So perhaps replicate this around your dinner table tonight, or in your meeting room tomorrow. Ask this provocative question to stimulate a growth mindset: ‘What fabulous struggles have you faced today?’ OR ‘What fabulous struggles do you think you’ll face this week?’