Lessons From The ‘Gritty Little Lamb’
by Dan Allbaugh
When I was a kid my older sister was better than me at everything. She always beat me in checkers, was faster in a footrace, and played the clarinet when I couldn’t even carry a tune. She also bested me at every new thing I tried. I didn’t like the feeling of failure so eventually I stopped wanting to try new things. At the time I didn’t understand that older siblings have an inherit advantage. I just thought that I wasn’t as good as her and that’s the way it was because, as a naïve child, nobody took the time to enlighten me about the power of ‘YET’. I unknowingly struggled with a fixed mindset.
As I aged, that mindset ossified. In college I tended towards the path of least resistance and chose ‘easier’ subjects because I thought getting an ‘A’ was the important thing. My belief was that my success was dependent on my intelligence and I interpreted poor grades as confirmation I wasn’t quite smart enough. This mindset eroded my motivation, wore down my love of learning and restricted my potential. It wasn’t until adulthood that I learned about the power of having a growth mindset – the belief that one can improve with effort – and I wish I had learned sooner in life.
My childhood experience is validated through research conducted by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth which shows that children who believe that success lies with the genetically blessed are quicker to give up, believing that they can’t do something because they aren’t smart enough, creative enough, good enough, or whatever enough. Conversely, children who have a growth mindset are more likely to keep working hard towards a goal, believing that all that stands between them and success is the right amount of effort. Growth mindset is the belief that you CAN do it, just NOT YET.
A growth mindset begins with grit ─ a combination of passion and perseverance; an attitude that failure can be overcome; a willingness to conquer challenges, instead of avoid them. Grit is a driver of achievement and success, independent and beyond what talent and intelligence contribute. A 2007 study by Duckworth concluded that grit was the leading determinant of life success. Absent grit, talent may be nothing more than unmet potential.
As parents, we desire to see our children not only reach but exceed their potential. We want them to know that they are infinitely capable of all that they dream of and hope for but we also have to give them the necessary tools, and that starts with communication. We must teach kids that the beginning is always the hardest part, that practice makes perfect and greatness takes time. We must reshape failure as a learning opportunity. We must inform our children that we will all face challenges in life but our response to those challenges is more important than the challenges themselves.
We need to teach, model, and cultivate grit because although grit is a personality trait, it is also a skill that can be learned. A simple first step to rewiring our kids brains is with the addition of a simple adverb and changing language from saying, “I can’t do it” to, “I can’t do it YET”.
MEET DAN ALLBAUGH
Dan Allbaugh is a husband, father of two boys, and author of the growth mindset children’s picture book The Gritty Little Lamb ─ a fun, inspiring, and relatable rhyming story about games that teaches children the value of determination and the power of ‘yet’. The book is available to purchase at THIS WEBSITE.