When my oldest son was little, he impressed everyone with his large vocabulary and his uncanny knowledge of well…everything. Some people in the family were convinced he was a genius. What mother wouldn’t want to hear that kind of praise about her child? But it made me uneasy, particularly when those comments were made in front of him. I made it a point to tell my “gifted” child that being labeled a genius means nothing. What matters is sweat and hard work. Plenty of so-called geniuses do absolutely nothing with their lives while amazing things are accomplished by people thought to be ordinary. “Effort is more important than genius” , I told him. “No matter how smart you are, you can always find someone smarter than you. And that’s wonderful, because it means there’s always someone you can learn from. It keeps life interesting.”
Growing up, the poor child got a lot of pep talks from me, usually in the car driving from point A to point B. As our family increased, my other children, who were all equally interested in the world, got the same advice: hard work and persistence is more of valuable than brains, and there’s always someone you can learn something from.
It turns out that my advice to my children was pretty right on. Past studies showed that children respond better to praises that reward their effort rather than the ones that glorify their smarts. And now a study out of Michigan State University shows that the brain is more responsive if we believe that effort is more important than genetic prowess. In other words, tell your kids and yourself that hard work and grit is all that matters when working towards a goal, and your brain will respond more efficiently. The good news in all this is that our mindset can trump genetics.
Source: Michigan State University-News