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Mindset: A Summary
dr. Carol S. Dweck was challenged by her student to write a book about the results of years of research. dr. Carol S. Dweck took this opportunity and wrote this book, “The Midset: The New Psychology of Success and How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential” in hopes of helping the common human being understand that life is what you make it, not what it is. it was given to you at birth. She wrote in simple language giving examples of ordinary real people like herself and her students, artists like Picasso, athletes like Michael Jordan, basketball players and John McEnroe, tennis players, Marina Semyonova, a great Russian dance instructor and CEOs of various companies. name a few. In the third paragraph of her introduction she writes, “… you will learn how a simple belief about yourself… guides a large part of your life… In fact, it permeates every part of your life…” This is how she draws the reader into the book, making the reader one of her real-life examples, because the reader finds himself in these examples.
In the first part of the book, Dr. Dweck introduces two types of mindsets, the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. She writes that she learned from ten-year-old children that failure can be turned into a gift if you have the right mindset. By giving them difficult puzzles to work on, the children developed their intellectual skills through effort and did not give up. These children became her role models in her search for whether human qualities are things that can be cultivated or are things set in stone. Each person has a unique genetic endowment, but experience, training and personal effort guide them the rest of the way.
Twenty years of research by dr. Dweck showed that the attitude you adopt about yourself has a profound effect on the way you lead your life. She writes that if you believe that your qualities and traits are set in stone and cannot be changed, then you have a fixed mindset. And if you believe that cherished qualities and traits can be developed and cultivated, then you have a growth mindset.
People with a fixed mindset believe that an individual’s intelligence, quality, and traits are a fixed quantity that cannot be increased. If they do well in school then they are smarter than others who don’t do well. If they do well in sports, then their talent was given at birth. They spend time to prove that they are superior in the qualities assigned to them just to prove that they have received a healthy dose and are not flawed. If something doesn’t work for people with a fixed mindset, they always blame it on something else.
Growth-minded people work hard to always be better. They don’t sit back and see their achievements as the end goal. There is always room for improvement in their minds. They don’t have time to sit around and see themselves as the best or better than others. They don’t have time to sit around and think they have a special talent. They are busy thinking about how they can make it better and what changes they can make if something goes wrong as expected. For them, if something doesn’t go right, it’s not a failure, it’s a challenge to find ways to make it happen.
In the second part of the book, dr. Dweck, takes us through her fixed mindset research journey and growth mindset journey through several sets of eyes. It shows how these two mindsets make or break people in their daily lives. In individual sports, he exemplifies the fixed mindset of John McEnroe in tennis. He was a brilliant player who believed in talent rather than effort and hard work. When he didn’t win, he blamed it on something else. Like when he blamed the system for not liking the game anymore. He wouldn’t take responsibility. On the other hand, Michael Jordan has a growth mindset. If he missed a goal, he would go and practice for several hours trying to figure out why he missed it. In team sports, the author cites the example of Couch John Wooden, who was tactically and strategically average, but won ten national championships. Coach Wooden reflects on growth, tells us he’s been good at getting players to fill roles as part of the team. He cared about the players’ feelings. A fixed mindset like coach Bobby Knight chose players for talent. He was a great coach, but he used a dictatorial approach to win. The victory was short-lived and broke the character of individuals in the process.
In corporate companies, the author uses the CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, as a fixed mindset who managed to humble himself into a growth mindset and as he grew in his mindset, the company grew at the same time. Lee Iacocca whose fixed mindset is good for taking a company to the top in a hurry, but then you have to get rid of it before it ruins it. Ford Motor Company did just that and Lee Iacocca was not happy. Leaders with a fixed mindset are more concerned with being the hero and putting their ego before the good of the company. The author cites the example of Enron as a company that broke the fixed way of thinking of the high echelon of smart people in their hands. Enron hired smart, talented people and paid the maximum price to shut down the company. Enron is a good example of groupthink where executives get carried away with their own brilliance and superiority and make disastrous decisions.
In love, these two mindsets can make or break a relationship. In his research, dr. Dweck, found that a fixed mindset feels judged and marked by rejection in a breakup. They also chose revenge as a means of getting back at the person who hurt them. A growth mindset is deciding to forgive, learn from it, and move on. The author cites Hillary Clinton as an example, who forgave her husband and resigned in order to save her relationship. It takes time and effort to cultivate the emotional skills needed to maintain a relationship.
dr. Dweck, concludes this third section with the impact that the thinking of parents, teachers, and coaches has on the children in their care. In her research, she found that children interpret caregivers’ words of support and encouragement in a fixed way of thinking. This sets them up for failure. For example, “… You learned that so fast! You’re so smart…” is interpreted as “… If I don’t learn something quickly, I’m not smart…” She explains that parents, teachers and coaches should refrain from giving praise that assesses their intelligence or talent, but instead praise them for the work they put in. She goes on to say that parents, teachers and coaches should give equal time and attention to children regardless of their initial skills. Children in turn will give everything and flourish. The author points out: “…As parents, teachers and coaches, we are entrusted with people’s lives. They are our responsibility and our legacy…”
In the fourth part of the book, dr. Dweck engages in the most satisfying part of her work, watching people change. People are not conscious or aware of their beliefs. Dr. Aaron Beck, a psychiatrist, found that he could teach them how to work with these beliefs and change them. And cognitive therapy was born, one of the most effective therapies ever developed. Dr. Dweck used the workshops to examine how people with fixed mindsets dealt with the information they received. She found that they gave a strong assessment of each piece of information. Something good led to a very strong positive label, and something bad led to a very strong negative label. People with a growth mindset are also constantly watching what’s going on, but their inner monologue is not about judging themselves or others. They are sensitive to positive and negative information, but attuned to its implications for learning and constructive action. dr. Dweck also held a workshop for students. Workshops require a large number of personnel to deliver materials. Thus, the workshop material was placed on interactive computer modules. The teachers lead their classes through modules and called it Braintology. These mindset workshops put students in charge of their brains.
It is interesting to note how a simple characteristic like mindset affects decision-making across a wide spectrum of the population. Kindergarten student, director of a billion dollar company, surgeon at work in a hospital, athlete in training and on the field, chef in a top hotel, selection of dance students and sports team. Students drop out of class or drop out of school because of a fixed mindset. A growth mindset helps you learn to deal with anger and deal with stereotypes about racial and gender discrimination. It’s quite fascinating.
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