The Tortoise and the Hare
“There once was a speedy hare who bragged about how fast he could run. Tired of hearing him boast, Slow and Steady, the tortoise, challenged him to a race. All the animals in the forest gathered to watch.
Hare ran down the road for a while and then paused to rest. He looked back at Slow and Steady and cried out, “How do you expect to win this race when you are walking along at your slow, slow pace?”
Hare stretched himself out alongside the road and fell asleep, thinking, “There is plenty of time to relax.”
Slow and Steady walked and walked. He never, ever stopped until he came to the finish line.
The animals who were watching cheered so loudly for Tortoise, they woke up Hare.
Hare stretched and yawned and began to run again, but it was too late. Tortoise was over the line.
After that, Hare always reminded himself, “Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!”
Aesop’s famous children’s fable, ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’, is a perfect example of the battle between having a fixed versus growth mind set. Instead of believing that he was too slow for the race, the tortoise challenged himself to put himself forward against the Hare. This is what a growth mind set looks like.
The hare, on the other hand, was arrogant about its capabilities and took them for granted thinking that he would definitely win the race. This is what a fixed mind set looks like.
Taking this story into context, and reflecting introspectively, if someone were to ask you if you had a growth mindset or a fixed mindset, what would you say? Are you one to charge for self-improvement despite challenges like the tortoise, or are you stuck and limited by your abilities and capabilities – reluctant to stretch beyond that like the hare?
Growth v.s. Fixed Mindset
The concept of a growth and fixed mind set was first introduced by Carol Dweck, a Psychologist at Standford University, and stands as the pillars of her powerful ‘Mindset Theory’. She first proposed mindset theory as a way to better understand the effects of the beliefs that people hold of their own intelligence, which has implications on learning.
Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that their qualities (such as their intelligence and who they are) are fixed traits that cannot be practiced or developed. They also believe that failure is permanent.
On the other hand, individuals with a growth mindset believe that effort and practice can change their abilities and traits to be able to learn and grow. They believe that failure is a chance for improvement.
Many studies have found the varying implications that mindsets can have on different domains in our lives.
For instance, those with a growth mindset, tend to be more successful in life, and that they are 58% less likely to develop symptoms of anxiety, depression, or aggression as compared to their peers with fixed mindsets.
The powerful effect of understanding growth mindsets was even seen in a single-session intervention. The teaching of growth personality mindsets was seen to have reduced known risk factors for anxiety and depression in adolescents experiencing or at risk of developing these disorders.
Additionally, a growth mindset also had positive implications on learning abilities. A study with middle school students looked at the effect of a fixed versus growth mindset on achievement in mathematics – a subject that most students would normally find challenging.
It was found that students with a growth mindset earned higher grades overtime compared to students with a fixed mindset.
Having a growth mindset has implications on neurological activity as well. It was found that participants with growth mindsets had more neurological activity happening in the brain when mistakes were made on a performance task than those with fixed mindsets.
Specifically, there was enhanced brain signals that reflect conscious attention to mistakes.
Therefore, because individuals with a growth mindset had enhanced attention towards errors made, subsequent performance on the task increased since they were more able to understand and correct their mistakes.
What can I do to Cultivate a Growth Mindset?
There are many things that we can do to help cultivate a growth mindset.
Learn to Appreciate the process of doing things rather than just focusing on doing it for the end result.
For example, in the simple case of wanting to get into shape, instead of solely focusing on wanting to ‘lose 5kg’ or fit into an old pair of jeans again, appreciate and enjoy the little steps that you are taking daily to reach that goal. (i.e. gym sessions, making healthier choices) Take the time to learn more about yourself as you go through the process
See failure as a means for improvement rather than a means to an end.
It’s easy to be disappointed when you fail in something – especially if you’d been working hard at something. However, there is merit in Thomas Edison’s (the inventor of light bulbs) famous quote – ““I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”. Had he given up the first time he tried, we might never have known light for what it is now!
Believe in the payoffs of self-improvement and learning.
Self-improvement and learning is something that we can never be too old for. Be it picking up a hobby or learning more about something that interests you, don’t underestimate how much more perspective you can gain about the world by prioritising personal development and growth.
Ultimately, making a conscientious effort to tell yourself to see things in a different light in whatever situation you are in is a simple and effective way in cultivating a growth mindset. To help you with this, we’ve put together a few things that you can tell yourself in the given situation that can help you.