Art & Development

2012: grow your intelligence

Psychology professor Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton shares a nice thought about the optimism and pessimism of learning to carry into the new year. (Via Greater Good Science Center)

A key aspect of the “grow your intelligence message” is the implications it has for the experience of difficulty. If one believes that abilities and intelligence are fixed or wired in us, then experiencing difficulty on a task can only mean one thing: that one must not have the correct wiring, genetic makeup, or inherent ability to succeed at that task. It’s very easy to come to this conclusion in the face of failure: I received a message from a student of mine the other day who apologized for not doing well on an exam, and she remarked, “I must not be cut out for this.”

However, if one believes that intelligence is malleable and can grow with practice, then the very psychological meaning of difficulty changes: It now suggests you are activating your intelligence, that you are flexing and practicing your skills. Difficulty is to ability like water is to a growing plant; as such, you become resilient in the face of trouble.

[Note to self: Practice making art. Experiencing art. Having patience. Being kinder. Enacting principles. Reaching goals. Taking risks. Embracing adventure. Being grateful.]

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