You might agree that attainment grades in school or for that matter quantitative outcome at a workplace may not be the sole indicator for evaluating one's probability of success. What is that which is more fundamental than attainment? The first thing that comes to our mind is “attitude”. What is actually “attitude”? Probably it means a lot of things because it is this attitude that determines the how part of the journey. How sincere one is; how much effort one puts into; how well one collaborates; how one perceives the work and explores ways to become efficient or organised; shares knowledge with others; learns from how many possible avenues or how ethical one's approach is. The core is the attitude, probably the mindset, the thinking, the meaning, the views one holds on the subject.
It is the mindset that determines the way we do things. Would you agree that if we have to influence the behaviour, we have to influence mindset? At the same time, I guess no one will disagree that influencing mindset is the toughest job. But if you can do it, you can guarantee genuine change and repetitive desirable outcomes in line with what success is. So how can we influence mindsets?
Mindset leads to behaviour, and behaviour results in outcomes. Let us look at it in a reverse way. For the outcomes that we want what are the behaviours that are desirable? Can we develop those behaviours? Say we devise a way to develop them. Then those behaviours or the habits will become the default way of doing things. They will happen automatically. Something happens automatically, simply means that they have got rooted in our minds. These roots grow over time and change our minds in the desirable way. We start doing things in the desirable ways with a desirable mindset. This may not appear to be true to some of us, but it can be tried and tested.
It is easy to identify the behaviours we want, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. The challenge is to make those behaviours happen. Say for example we want our kids to be the ambassadors of their learning. They should know what they want to learn and reach out to all possible avenues to get answers to what they want to know. Asking questions is the habit we want them to have. Not being shy, getting proactive and asking even the silliest question is a behaviour that we want them to have. The teachers and the parents both want this. Asking questions shows the attitude of the kid. But is there a way to develop this? Yes, there is. We all can influence it. How?
No matter how many times we may tell them "you should ask questions, it is the only way to learn”. We know it well, it does not work. To make things happen, we have to play with emotions. We need to create an environment of learning, a pull system. It should be like, for moving to the next stage there is no way other than asking questions. The focus has to be given to what is that next stage that they would want to go to. The tiny things that they would like to do. Suppose the teacher wants to see who among the group is hungry to learn and does more challenging stuff than others. The teacher may provide difficult sets of questions, saying that they are optional and wait for that particular kid to approach him. He knows they can’t solve all questions without his support so if they are not approaching him may mean that they are not trying or they are not hungry enough to learn. But this may not be true. Would you agree that there is still a possibility that there is someone who is doing them and is interested? Also a possibility that many can be influenced even though they are not attempting.
The point is we have to create the environment for the kids to ask questions not just give them targets and expect they will come and ask questions to achieve those targets. Simple things like asking the kids to raise their hands when they do a challenging problem on their own can be extremely encouraging. The teacher needs to create that opportunity for the child to raise his or her hand. This is very positive, and the kid would want to do that. The child would feel motivated to see his or her name on the board for attempting such questions. Remember he or she is doing it voluntarily. Discussing those problems in the class and giving the opportunity to individuals to showcase their unique ways by which they cracked the problem will surely make them feel excited. Equal opportunity, applauding tiniest efforts, opportunities to let them share among peers have tremendous emotional appeal. They would want to do more, want to learn what they do not know. They will ask questions among each other and come to the teacher when they can’t find themselves. Why, because they have a reason now, a quick pull, something that is exciting. They want to do those things, the positive things of sharing in front of their peers, helping each other. It creates a community. Learning becomes fun when it is done playfully rather than making it a burden by letting the child struggle alone. If the focus is on designing this fun, rather than repeating and telling them to ask questions, we will ultimately trigger the habit of asking questions. They will be motivated to do so. As they continue to ask questions, they will realise the benefits of that. Our conscious mind is working all the time. Positive outcomes coming from those habits will ultimately tune our mindsets towards those behaviours. Thus changing mindsets is possible and it needs designing environments that encourage positive behaviours that are actually driven by those mindsets.