A Picasso Mindset - developing Habits of Mind

There is a fable about Spanish artist Pablo Picasso that illustrates an important principle underpinning the Growth Mindset - the importance of building a backstory of growth.

Picasso was sitting on a park bench in Central Park, New York, when a young woman came up to him and asked, “Could you draw a sketch for me, please?”

Picasso got out his sketchpad and pencil and quickly sketched a portrait of the young woman.


She beamed as he handed her the sketch. “Oh, it’s so lovely!” she exclaimed.

Before the young woman turned to leave, Picasso said, “That will be one million dollars, please.”

“A million dollars!” she said in surprise. “But it only took you two minutes.”

“Ah,” said Picasso. “I think you’ve misunderstood. You see, that sketch didn’t take me two minutes. That sketch took me a lifetime.”

This fable highlights the true value of expertise: the backstory.

"While we often place...
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Why are we still talking Fixed vs Growth Mindsets?

In her landmark book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck introduced the concept of Fixed and Growth Mindsets to the world. She highlighted the influence our Mindset has over our behaviour, and she gave dozens of examples of how students' Fixed or Growth Mindset impacted their learning.

But we must remember that Dweck was introducing her ideas. She gave examples designed to highlight the importance of Mindsets, and she made us sit up and take notice. But Mindsets don’t end with fixed and growth – there’s so much more depth and complexity behind Dweck’s ideas.

“In the real world, there aren’t two types of people. We don’t live in a world where some people have a Fixed Mindset, and others have a Growth Mindset.”

In reality, our differences are much more subtle and complex. Our Mindset doesn’t fall into one of two categories; rather, it falls along a continuum between the extremes of fixed...

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McEnroe vs Federer: A battle of Mindset

In her book, Mindsets: The New Psychology of Success, Professor Carol Dweck uses John McEnroe as an example of a person with a Fixed Mindset. I think he’s a great example for many reasons.

You can’t argue with the fact McEnroe was an extraordinary tennis player. He is ranked 6th in the list of most career match wins on the ATP World Tour – that’s more than Andre Agassi, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. He is often considered among the greatest players in the history of tennis.

A Growth Mindset is not Growth

Dweck’s use of McEnroe as an example of someone with a Fixed Mindset helps dispel one of the biggest misunderstandings about Mindsets: that you need a Growth Mindset to grow. You don’t need a Growth Mindset - it helps - but you do need to do the hard work! 

The Growth Mindset is just the understanding that growth is possible. It's an invitation to grow. But it's not the growth. In order to grow you must take action - and very specific...

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Agile Learners Choose Challenges Over Comfort

Agile Learners thrive in the most challenging and unpredictable environments. 

Whether it’s increasing the bottom line in business, responding to disruptions in the workplace, achieving academic success in schools, improving parenting skills or triumphing in any other challenging task, the Agile Learner achieves more.

Why? Because the Agile Learner recognises that they can develop their most basic abilities. They know they can increase their talents and intelligence, and they understand that becoming comes before being. In other words, they have a Growth Mindset.

More importantly, the Agile Learner understands how to translate their Growth Mindset into actual growth. They recognise that a Growth Mindset is simply an invitation to grow. To achieve growth, they develop their Habits of Mind, constantly step outside their comfort zone, challenge themselves to raise their standards and do more difficult things. They engage in what I refer to as Virtuous Practice.


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