To learn effectively, you need to believe in your capacity for learning. You need to believe you exert control over your skills, abilities, virtues or assets. Unless you believe that your effort can change something important inside you, you have little incentive to persevere in the face of difficulties.
The problem is, many people believe that human qualities are carved in stone. You were born with a set of genes and you can’t change it by learning.
An acquaintance of mine never sings. When I asked her why, she said- “An elephant has stamped on my ear” – Polish saying meaning, you have absolutely no ear for music – I was born without music abilities, I have no ear for music, I have a terrible voice.
– How do you know? – I asked her – Have you tried and someone told you?
– No, I never tried, nobody in my family sings or even listen to music. It is obvious for us, we do not have musical talents.
– And what about kindergarten or schools, you had to sing there?
– No, I just pretended to sing. Believe me, I sing only when I completely drunk, but it is very rare.
Maybe she is impaired, it can happen, but I would not be so convinced. If you grew in the environment with no music, if you never tried to sing, if you never listened attentively to the music – it is not hard to be a terrible singer, even for a person with reasonable musical abilities. What makes impossible to check is her belief that people are born with the capacity for music or without.
The similar belief we can have regarding something much more crucial: intelligence. When you are lucky, you are an intelligent guy (or gal). If not, you are looser, and better prepare for heavy physical labor throughout the whole life, because no effort or training will change it. Professor of psychology Carol Dweck says about two mindsets: fixed and growth.
The growth mindset is a belief that your abilities are malleable, Nothing is carved in stone, your effort and hard work can change everything. You have the capacity for changing. And because of that, you are eager to learn and to struggle and to persevere when learning something new.
The fixed mindset is the opposite: one thing you can do is to discover your real possibilities because you have it or do not have. No effort will help. You are squirrel or turkey: you were born with the ability to climb a tree or gobbling. No learning will help.
We can have different mindsets in different areas of our life. The question is: what kind of mindset you have in the area you are trying to learn? Sometimes we struggle because part of us is afraid that we are deprived of important talent and we can do nothing about it.