“All our dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Walt Disney.
Indeed, in order to realise potential, there is a need to escape one’s comfort zone and embark on a philosophy that life will only change if we embrace a determined desire to change it. Theodore Roosevelt said: “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”
It is all about our attitude, or desire and our motivation to adopt a growth mindset that will support us to fly higher. We all have a comfort zone, a place that feels safe and familiar. There is no problem having such a state of mind, however too often we remain in this zone for too long – nothing grows there. We try to avoid tasks or challenges that take us out of comfort. Unless we move out of this comfortable space then we cannot truly learn and nor can we realistically grow.
Growth mindsets, based on the famous work of Carol Dweck, recognise that we are all malleable and that we should view setbacks as opportunities for learning. If we do this our potential to achieve becomes unlimited. However, if we remain in a fixed mindset or in our comfort zone then we subscribe to the notion that all humans only have a set dose of each ability and we may also then forgo taking on new challenges.
Raising aspirations is a mantra of mine, so too a belief in every learner that they can always achieve more, if we believe in them and if they believe in themselves as well. It is our responsibly as educators (parents and teachers) to fill our youth, our children with self-belief and to bring out the instinctive human behaviours – the desire to compete and to achieve.
I see far too often structures, procedures and philosophies that resist taking children out of their comfort zones. That culture does not give them the opportunities to develop and explore a growth mindset. We live in a world of excuse cultures, within our families and within our schools. We also live in a world where we want to do everything for our children, without allowing them the chance to try something, fail and then rethink how to do it better next time so that they learn from it.
I see parents and teachers stepping in to prevent the failure at the very first and lowest hurdle the child encounters, and I then see those same children struggling to take ownership of their own learning later in life, and inevitably they are then “prohibited” from outperforming. We often then look to blame institutions, syllabi, exam pressures etc, but in fact we as adults should look in the mirror and reflect on how often we stepped in too soon without allowing our children to learn from their mistakes.
By stepping in too soon we are actually subconsciously promoting their view of a fixed mindset, highlighting that they only have a limited ability to achieve hence we have to step in. By standing back from a distance and watching (one can always step in if the situation demands), even as they may be failing in a task etc, we are developing the notion that if they think of a solution to the problem themselves then they can achieve whatever their hearts desire. We are then promoting a growth mindset. They will also then in life be less inclined to stay in their comfort zones as they will have developed and practiced the necessary skills required to accept new and bigger challenges, ultimately leading to greater success.
It still shocks me daily how we as adults, and as parents, involve ourselves in basic tasks that our children from a young age should be able to accomplish by themselves. Packing school bags, checking that they have put their school uniform in the wash, doing their own homework on time, revising for an exam which they, and not we, are taking…the list is endless. The more we step in, the more we are telling our children that they are not capable of doing it themselves, the more we are promoting their insecurities and their fixed mindsets. These same children will struggle with GCSE demands, and even more with A-Level demands later in life. They will not be developing those necessary skills needed to develop independent learning, classroom focus, and the flexibility needed to respond to the demands of being a child growing up in our world today.
I hope that my thoughts stimulate deep reflection.
Stephen Duckitt – February 2022