I just finished a wonderful book by Dr. Carol Dweck. It’s called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, and it is about how we as humans approach our lives. It explains how we can change the outcome of events by the way we think. People who think that intelligence cannot be changed—that they are either smart or not so smart—tend to give up easily. They do not challenge themselves to learn more, especially after what they consider a failure. This is true even if what they are calling a failure is just a lower grade than they wanted to get. They blame their "failure" on others or the fact that they are not smart enough to succeed.
On the other hand, those who view intelligence as something that can change, tend to work harder at tasks. They enjoy challenges and see "failures" as a way to figure out what they need to work on.
The important thing for parents and teachers to take away from Dr. Dweck’s research is that even simple words we use when we praise children can make a huge difference in their success. We should never say, "Wow! You did great on that worksheet. You are very smart." This does harm because if they make a low grade on something, they assume they are dumb!
Instead of saying they are smart, we should praise their effort. We should say, "Wow! You did great on that worksheet. You must have worked a long time on that." By making this slight change, you are setting them up to see that they do well when they work hard, and a low grade on something does not mean they are dumb. It simply means they need to figure out why they did not do well, and then do something about it.
These are the two mindsets Dr. Dweck describes—a "fixed mindset" where how smart you are cannot be changed, and a "growth mindset" where how smart you are can be changed by working very hard. This applies in school or at home. It applies any time a person is trying to improve something about themselves. The improvement comes because they are working on it.
What’s the bottom line? Ordinary people can do extraordinary things if they spend enough time working at it.