Growth Mindset: Praising Effort Over Ability

Some students seem to have more motivation than others—why is this? The concept of a growth mindset can help answer this question because it helps us build confidence to work past setbacks, rather than give up and perceive them as failures. LIFE Intelligence can guide you on developing this growth mindset. My advice: don’t focus so heavily on the end goal or outcome; look at each task as a step toward progress and praise yourself for that effort!

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Growth v. Fixed Mindset

A growth mindset focuses on the key components of learning and effort, which help people become smarter because they are more focused on their progress (Khalkhali & Yousefi, 2019; Ng, 2018). On the contrary, a fixed mindset looks at the success of the outcome to judge one’s intelligence (Khalkhali & Yousefi, 2019).

Consider the difference between these two statements: “I’m proud of how hard you studied for this exam.” vs. “You’re smart so I know you will get a good grade.” The praise in the second statement is based on a fixed-mindset and getting that grade based on intelligence can be a lot of pressure for students, which causes more stress and creates a fear of failure. “Students with this fixed mind-set become excessively concerned with how smart they are, seeking tasks that will prove their intelligence and avoiding ones that might not” (Dweck, 2007). If people avoid challenging tasks, they are never able to grow, both in their intelligence and confidence in general abilities. To assist in the development of a growth mindset, it is important for the learning environment to be a high-mobility environment, which informs students that active learning behaviors are instrumental to their learning and success (Muenks et al., 2018). Some of these active learning behaviors are extra effort (i.e. motivation) and seeking challenges (Muenks et al., 2018), both of which are obtainable with a developed growth mindset.

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Praising Process

A growth mindset is positively linked to academic success because this mindset motivates persistence and challenge-seeking behaviors (Jia et al., 2021). Fox and Barrera (2020) conducted a study with 46 students, 5th-8th grade, and found that those with a growth mindset did better on standardized English and reading tests, respectively, than students with a fixed mindset. Similar results proving this academic success were seen in a study conducted by Yeager et al. (2016): high school freshmen who underwent a growth mindset intervention had a higher GPA in their core classes than students who were not involved in this intervention (as cited in Fox & Barrera, 2020).

The improvement of academic performance is possible because process praise, the key component of a growth mindset, teaches students to view setbacks as motivation to develop new strategies to solve problems (Glerum et al., 2020; Ng, 2018). When students have a fixed mindset, they inherently believe their intelligence is fixed; therefore, any perceived failure or setback becomes more personal because they believe they may not be smart enough to work past that setback. By showing students how to focus on their effort as the better attribute, rather than stressing about the outcome of those efforts, they are able to think of new ways to work around setbacks because they thrive on challenges and desire that praise to continue putting in effort (Jia et al., 2021; Ng, 2018). Essentially, a growth mindset shows that your intelligence is constantly improving with new challenges!

Mission 1.5: Develop Your Growth Mindset >

Develop Your Growth Mindset with LIFE Intelligence

LIFE Intelligence will teach you the skills to become more confident in your intelligence and ability to overcome challenges. In our self-development app, Mission 1.5 teaches you not to fear failure and to embrace those setbacks as opportunities to think of a different way to solve problems. Think of learning as a series of healthy challenges and remember that you can constantly improve since effort is key. After all, as the common saying goes, we learn something new every day!

Chiara Nicholas
August 23, 2021

Dweck, C. (2007). The Perils and Promises of Praise. Educational Leadership, 65, 34-39.

Fox, C., & Barrera, M. (2020). Beneficial Effects of Growth Mindset of Intelligence and Growth Mindset of Personality on Academic Achievement in School-Aged Children. Konteksty Pedagogiczne, 2(15).

Glerum, J., Loyens, S. M. M., Wijnia, L., & Rikers, R. M. J. P. (2020). The Effects of Praise for Effort versus Praise for Intelligence on Vocational Education Students. Educational Psychology, 40(10), 1270–1286.

Jia, L., Lim, C. H., Ismail, I., & Tan, Y. C. (2021). Stunted upward mobility in a learning environment reduces the academic benefits of growth mindsets. PNAS Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(10),

Khalkhali, V., & Yousefi, H. (2019). Students’ Persistence from the Lens of Mindset Theory: The Effect of Social-Comparison Vs Mastery Praise. Education Sciences & Psychology, 54(4), 29–36.

Muenks, K., Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (2018). I can do this! The development and calibration of children’s expectations for success and competence beliefs. Developmental Review, 48, 24–39.

Ng, B. (2018). The Neuroscience of Growth Mindset and Intrinsic Motivation. Brain Sciences (2076-3425), 8(2), 20.

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