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A Blossoming Growth Mindset

By Byron Athene
Mindset Coach coach

20 October 2020

Mindset Coach

I’ve got niece, Eliza, who’s transitioning from her six year old 'pink, unicorns and rainbows' phase to a more serious seven year old 'just started year 3 at school' phase.

She likes computer games and I've bought quite a few for her that we played together when she visits. I’ve detected a very competitive streak but nothing too concerning.

Although my wife and I feedback that she ‘tries hard’ instead of ‘has talent’, I noticed that she only plays games that she’s good at.

I shared this observation with my wife and I planned to reinforce the idea that winning isn’t everything – true value comes from being able to enjoy the game despite the outcome.

Eliza stayed with us over the weekend and we spent a lot of time playing other games. There’s a game called Nex Machina, which is punishingly difficult.

I suggested she play this one knowing she wouldn’t be as good at it as she wanted to be. After dying a couple of times, my wife noticed a tear rolling down her cheek.

She tried again but the next time she died she got very upset and went upstairs to cry in private.

My wife and I went up to console her but made it quite clear she wasn’t in the most receptive of moods so we left her in peace. She was due to leave in a couple of hours and my wife said it would be a shame if the weekend ended on a downer.

I thought what have I done?

I wondered how is it I'm able to easily help managers develop their growth mindsets easily but here I am feeling challenged by a 7 year old. Am I going to be able to turn this into a teachable moment that could impact on my niece’s life in a significant way?

When she came back downstairs, she sat next to me and I said it’s okay to die multiple times – the game plays like it was designed to be harder than most because that would encourage players to keep trying so they would improve.

My wife told her that she died just as much when she first played the game. I definitely did. I added that if she gave it another go, it was possibly going to be the best game she’s ever going to play because it’s going to make her not care as much about losing lives in games so she’s going to enjoy playing games more as a result – dying won’t be the negative event it seems to be now.

It worked!

She agreed to play the game again and she didn’t seem to mind dying.

It looked like she was starting to see every ‘failed’ game as an opportunity to improve and within a few games we had beaten the first stage’s final boss.

She was due to go home after this but instead of wanting to go home, she wanted to continue playing the game.

She left soon after and gave me a hug that seemed to last a little longer than usual.

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