…a person with a growth mindset would be willing to keep working on maths problems, even if they failed at first. They have learnt to embrace failure and setbacks as indicators that they should keep pressing on evolving their skills, rather than a signal that indicates, “I am no good at this.”


I think anything is possible if you have the mindset and the will and desire to do it and put the time in. – Roger Clemens.

I have become obsessed about mindsets recently that I can’t stop thinking about them because as a scientist and an engineer, I am programmed to get to underlying causes of situation and devise methods to fix them.

In my recent travels, the glaring differences between our environment and that of the various countries that I visited jarred at me greatly. It is easy to accept and say that things would always be this way, and to go along with accepting the status quo until something pushes one out of complacency.

My wake-up call was a picture of one of the ruling leaders in the United Arab Emirate at the Abu Dhabi airport, who was a visionary focused on using education as a tool to lifting up the people of that nation to create a nation that they could all be proud of and be prosperous in.

I got rejuvenated by the validation of my belief that education is a tool for revitalisation. And a key component of this pertains to the mindset of the people involved in this process.

The mind is a powerful thing. The things that one believes about oneself can either prevent change from happening or allow new aptitudes to flourish.

Part of my research as an educator has been focused on the relationship between our beliefs and our behaviours. In my studies, nothing has been as instrumental as the work undertaken by Professor Carol. S. Dweck. She is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Dweck is well–known for her work on “the fixed mindset vs. the growth mindset.” She summarises the difference between these two mindsets and how they impact thinking thus:

In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.

I am convinced that the root cause of the issues we deal with in our nation are due to the fixed mindsets that people deploy in most situations. It is holding us back because the fixed mindsets are preventing important skills development and growth, which are sabotaging the entire nation.

I have practical examples of this as an educator, as I have seen students who vow and say: “I’m not a maths person” then use that belief acts as a cop out to avoid being good at math. Indeed, the fixed mindset enables people save face from their fears short term but in the long–run it hinders their ability to learn, grow, and develop new skills.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, a person with a growth mindset would be willing to keep working on maths problems, even if they failed at first. They have learnt to embrace failure and setbacks as indicators that they should keep pressing on evolving their skills, rather than a signal that indicates, “I am no good at this.”

Due to this, people who have a growth mindset are more likely make the most of their potential. They tend to learn from criticism, rather than brush it aside, to overcome challenges rather than avoiding them, and to find motivation in the success of others rather than feeling threatened.

This is critical for the minds of the young people that will Nigeria around. This is the sort of mindsets that we should be creating all over Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

It is possible; the UAE created this mindset for it’s young ones which led to the renaissance we see there. South Korea did the same; also Singapore, China, and India.

It isn’t rocket science.

DO IT NOW.

We can create children who are more creative, more intelligent, more athletic, more artistic, and more successful by focusing on the process, not the outcome.

We should commit to the process of training them to be champions.

As champions they will rewrite the destiny of Africa.

Adetola Salau, Carismalife4U@gmail.com, an advocate of STEM education, public speaker, author, and social entrepreneur, is passionate about education reform.