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Songs of Praise: How Rewarding Effort Changes the Game

In our latest article outside the world of adaptogens, we look at the power of praise in rewarding effort over ability. In understanding the work of Carol Dweck we can transform behaviour in the student and athlete.

In the world of education and coaching, the approach to providing feedback can significantly impact the development and performance of students and athletes.

Among the various feedback strategies, the praise of effort has emerged as a particularly effective tool.

This article looks at the benefits of praising effort compared to providing no praise or praising innate ability (often referred to as praising intellect), backed by scientific studies and expert insights.

The Concept of Praising Effort

Praising effort involves acknowledging and commending the hard work, perseverance, and strategies that individuals employ to achieve their goals.

This form of praise shifts the focus from innate abilities or outcomes to the processes and actions that lead to success.

Benefits of Praising Effort

  1. Fostering a Growth Mindset

One of the most significant benefits of praising effort is its ability to foster a growth mindset.

Carol Dweck, the prominent psychologist, introduced the concept of growth vs. fixed mindsets. A growth mindset is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work.

In contrast, a fixed mindset is the belief that abilities are static and unchangeable.

In her research, Dweck found that children who received praise for their effort were more likely to embrace challenges and persist in the face of difficulties.

She states, “Effort is one of those things that gives meaning to life. Effort means you care about something, that something is important to you, and you are willing to work for it” (Dweck, 2006).

  1. Enhancing Resilience and Persistence

Praising effort encourages individuals to view setbacks and failures as opportunities for learning and growth rather than as indicators of their limitations.

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology demonstrated that children who were praised for their effort displayed greater resilience and persistence in challenging tasks compared to those who received praise for their intelligence (Mueller & Dweck, 1998).

  1. Improving Performance and Learning Outcomes

Research has shown that effort-based praise can lead to better performance and learning outcomes.

A study in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that students who received praise for their effort outperformed those who received praise for their intelligence on subsequent tasks.

The former group was more likely to adopt effective learning strategies and exhibit a greater willingness to tackle difficult problems (Kamins & Dweck, 1999).

Comparison with No Praise and Praise of Intellect

  1. No Praise

Providing no praise at all can lead to a lack of motivation and engagement.

While it avoids the pitfalls of ineffective praise, it also misses the opportunity to reinforce positive behaviors and encourage a growth mindset.

Without feedback, students and athletes may struggle to understand what they are doing well and where they need to improve.

  1. Praise of Intellect

Praising innate abilities, such as intelligence, can have counterproductive effects.

It often leads to a fixed mindset, where individuals believe their abilities are unchangeable.

This can result in fear of failure, avoidance of challenges, and decreased resilience.

Mueller and Dweck's study (1998) highlighted that children who were praised for their intelligence were more likely to choose easier tasks and avoid risks to protect their self-image, compared to those praised for their effort.

Practical Implications for Teachers and Coaches

  • Specific and Genuine Praise: When praising effort, it is crucial to be specific and genuine. For example, instead of saying, "Great job," a teacher or coach might say, "I really admire how you approached that problem and tried multiple strategies until you found a solution."

  • Encourage Process Over Outcome: Emphasize the importance of the learning process rather than just the final result. This helps individuals appreciate their efforts and understand that improvement comes with practice and perseverance.

  • Modeling a Growth Mindset: Teachers and coaches should model a growth mindset themselves, demonstrating how they handle challenges and setbacks. This provides a powerful example for students and athletes to follow.


The praise of effort is a powerful tool in education and coaching that can foster a growth mindset, enhance resilience, and improve performance.

By focusing on the processes and actions that lead to success, rather than innate abilities, teachers and coaches can help individuals develop a love for learning and a willingness to face challenges head-on.

The scientific evidence is clear: effort-based praise not only motivates but also cultivates a mindset that values growth and improvement, setting the stage for lifelong success.

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