What Can Star Wars Teach Us About Growth Mindsets?
By Ian Farndon, 4th year History/English student
In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker visits the swampy home of Yoda to receive Jedi training. However, Luke swiftly becomes frustrated by his inability to quickly master the Force, leading him to gain a defeatist attitude that further hampers his efforts to improve himself. If you find yourself facing academic or non-academic setbacks, it is important to avoid getting yourself stuck in a rut, which could cause failure to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Therefore, I recommend that you don’t follow Luke’s example, and instead approach challenges, or disappointments, with a “growth mindset.”
A growth mindset involves understanding that challenges and setbacks are stepping stones on your path to success, rather than testaments to an inability to achieve desired results. For instance, while you may have had a less-than-satisfactory outcome in the first semester, dwelling on any let-downs can foster an attitude of negativity and defeatism that will certainly not help you motivate yourself to do any better in second semester. Just look at Luke – when he interprets his training difficulties in a negative manner, he loses both faith in himself, and the motivation to continue training.
Having a growth mindset is not something that you can simply switch on overnight, because re-framing your self-expectations takes time. While it’s fine to hold yourself to a high standard of performance, in regards to academics or otherwise, you should recognize that you will most likely not be able to do everything perfectly the first attempt. Rather, it’s important to accept setbacks for what they are, and think about how you will work to improve for next time. For example, you could plan to ask for help and feedback from professors and TAs to ensure you understand their expectations for course work. Or, if you recognize what you need to improve on, you could actively seek to demonstrate these improvements in the next class assignment.
Having this positive mindset will make it easier, and certainly less stressful, to work towards whatever goals you set for yourself – whether you wish to lift your grades, or an X-Wing.
Photo courtesy of Kory Westerhold under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.