As most of you know by now, I tend to watch TED talks while knitting. I also tend to watch TED talks about learning. I am doubly concerned with the best ways to learn, as I am both a teacher and the mother of a child with disabilities who struggles through every day of school.
Today, I watched several TED talks by Carol Dweck. Although she is discussing research about children and learning, pretty much everything she said applied to tango. I will summarize, but the talks are short and interesting if you want to watch them.
Professor Dweck studied how children dealt with learning and difficulty. She describes how your approach to mistakes and learning can help--or hinder--your learning. There are two models of the learning mindset: the fixed mindset, where the idea is that intelligence is fixed; and a growth mindset that understands that you can develop talents and abilities through practice.
Looking at learning as a pass-fail opportunity, where failing means that you are stupid, makes learning very emotionally difficult. Switching to the growth mindset, and learning with an attitude of "not yet" will give you better tools to learn. If you can't do something, that doesn't mean you won't be able to do it later; you just haven't had enough practice!
Every time you push out of your comfort zone to learn something new and difficult, the neurons in the brain form new connections and over time, you can get smarter.
Although Dweck was talking about how to teach for better student performance, as adults, I think we can all serve as our own coaches in learning process. Work on talking to yourself the way you would to someone you are mentoring.
Instead of yelling at yourself for failing, follow Dweck's advice: praise yourself for pursuing the PROCESS of learning. Reward yourself for effort. Reward yourself for progress towards your goal. Reward not giving up! Give yourself a pat on the back (or a chocolate? works for me) for perseverance. Maybe you can't do something yet, but you can see the steps you have taken, how hard you have worked, how you haven't given up, and reward yourself.
With a positive, not-yet mentality, when you encounter difficulty, that's when the neurons are forming connections: it's getting smarter time!