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Learning Goals Keep You Positive

by Beth on June 28th, 2011

According to Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Standford University, the way people view their intelligence depends on their mindset. In her book Mindset, she explains how some people believe that intelligence is fixed; while others believe it is malleable. People who believe intelligence is fixed tend to adopt performance goals. They seek positive evaluations of their competence, wanting people to think they are smart or capable. A typical goal at work might be to get a good performance evaluation or a raise. A personal goal might be to lose 10 pounds.

People who perceive intelligence as something that can be increased tend to adopt learning goals. They desire to increase their competence by improving their skills or mastering new tasks. A typical work goal might be to learn a more efficient procedure or to attend a leadership conference. A personal goal might be to learn to cook healthier recipes or to learn a new exercise regime.

While both perspectives can lead to achievement, a learning goal orientation encourages people to attempt challenges and helps them to stay positive in the face of set backs. People with performance goals are risk averse. They avoid challenges, especially if they question their ability, because if they don’t do well they conclude they aren’t good enough, attributing their failure to a lack of ability or intelligence.

People with learning goals are more likely to attribute failure to a lack of effort or to the fact that they are still learning. If they don’t do something well now that doesn’t mean they can’t improve and do it better in the future. They stay positive in the face of failure because their self-esteem isn’t affected.

Your mindset plays a crucial role in your positivity.  Choosing to see your intelligence as something that can be increased will encourage you to pursue learning goals. This will motivate you to seek out challenges, to grow, and to keep going despite setbacks.

From → Goals, Mastery, Mindset

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