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Why a Growth Mindset May Be Your Ticket to Musical Mastery - Part 1

Growth Mindset Part 1

Katie Hone Wiltgen, Chief Education Officer

March 5, 2024

Fixed Mindset
Growth Mindset

We get it… Learning music can be challenging! You always focus on correct technique, style, and phrasing. Learning to read music and understand music theory can be like learning an entirely new language. The more you learn, the more you discover there is to learn!

Thankfully, there’s one common element that sets all successful musicians apart (and it has nothing to do with “talent”):  a Growth Mindset.

Carol Dweck, one of the world’s leading researchers in the fields of personality, social psychology, and development psychology, literally wrote the book on the power of our mindset1. She says that a Growth Mindset is the belief that our basic qualities can be cultivated through our efforts.  If we believe that we can improve our intelligence and our abilities, we understand that effort makes us stronger. Therefore, when we put in extra time and effort, we see higher achievement.

People with a Growth Mindset know that their intelligence and abilities can be developed, which leads to a desire to learn and a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, and see effort as the path to mastery.  They embrace the idea of constructive criticism, learning from criticism and finding ways to move forward, and they find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.

On the other hand, a Fixed Mindset assumes that our qualities are set in stone. If we believe that our intelligence and abilities are static, it leads to a desire to look smart and naturally “talented,” leading us to avoid challenges, give up easily, and see effort as fruitless or worse. People with a Fixed Mindset often ignore useful negative feedback and feel easily threatened by the success of others.

Thankfully, our brains are malleable. When we practice, our neural networks grow new connections, strengthen existing ones, and build insulation that speeds transmission of impulses. We really can improve ourselves through good learning strategies, asking questions, and practicing effectively.

While music may be complicated and challenging, a Growth Mindset in regard to your musical study will lead to increased motivation and achievement. The challenges music presents will be welcome, and you’ll meet them head-on, excited to tackle the tough stuff and learn more.

A Forte teacher can help you develop those successful learning strategies and effective practice techniques, and they’ll always be there to answer your questions!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series for tips on developing a musician’s Growth Mindset.

1 Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (New York: Ballantine Books, 2006)