"The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it's not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives." -Carol S. Dweck
A couple of months ago, I posted on IG and Facebook that I was reading a book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Several of you chimed in that you would like to know my thoughts on it when I finished. Well, I don't think a book review would do it justice and most of you wouldn't read it anyway. Instead, I wanted to weave it into some more personal stories in hopes that you might gain a more complete view of how important I think the ideas in this book are and why it will be one that I'll revisit over and over again.
The book talks about the differences in people who orient toward a fixed mindset and those who are more inclined to have a mindset of growth. The latter is one who approaches everything as a process. It's the thought that you can develop yourself in any capacity. Intellectual ability, talent in music, art, or sports, and approaching personality and relationships--all of these are subject to change in those of us with the growth mindset. On the other hand, folks with a fixed mindset have thoughts that more closely resemble these:
"This is just the way I am."
"I've never been good at math. I don't see that changing."
"Some people just have a natural talent for music, but I didn't get that gene."
The work of Carol Dweck shows that the above comments simply don't have to be true. Now, don't leave me if you're drowning in laundry, the kids have chocolate smeared on their faces already at 9am, and you're barely keeping everyone's head above water. I'm there, too so hear me out. Lately, I've read and come into contact with so many people who kept preaching, sharing articles on Facebook, and holding meetings about not merely surviving but thriving and honestly I wanted to punch them all in the face. After all, they have no idea what I'm going through. Their kids aren't as close together as mine. They don't have as many as I do. Their kids are older. They aren't dealing with special needs. They don't know. While all those are probably true, they also don't matter. I'm not competing with anyone, but myself. And who says I can't get better at being Mama? Or being a wife, friend, daughter, writer, or an underwater basket weaver, if I so choose?
"In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail-or if you're not the best- it's all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they're doing regardless of the outcome"(Dweck). Much of our climate and culture is focused on a fixed mindset. What's the line from that movie I don't think I've ever actually watched in its entirety? "If you're not first, you're last." While I don't think participation trophies are helpful, I also don't believe that we should demonstrate to our children that because they weren't first in a foot race that the experience was wasted. Instead, we should encourage their effort and praise their ability to work hard and grow in that specific area. I know that I have good days and bad, but I also know that I can make small decisions every day that will push me toward becoming a better, well-rounded individual.
This talk makes me think of former President George W. Bush and his currently developing artistic abilities. He woke up one day and decided he wanted to paint our nation's heroes as a tribute to them and so he took classes and worked hard and became a painter, an artist. He had no prior experience. That's incredible.
The growth mindset can be applied to anything even relationships and friendships. People in the fixed mindset need validation so sometimes they will put you down in the process. They'll point out where they think you're lacking and sugar coat it with a smile all because on the flip side, they do have that part of their life in order and need to be validated on it because so much of the rest of them feels inferior. Shortly after learning that Abel was deaf, someone said I must have formula fed him (I didn't) and that caused him to get many ear infections and lose his hearing. She is an "all natural everything" type mom (which is great!) and so I suppose that helped her validate herself. Another situation that comes to mind is the time an older, well-dressed man asked me for money for gas. While I was filling up his tank, he took the time to insult me by laughing that I had wasted my education by staying home with my children. He must have been embarrassed that he forgot his debit card and needed to remind himself and me that he was an important man with plenty of money, experience, and worth. If I was in a fixed mindset, I would let these situations bother me greatly. The old Kacy certainly would have dwelled on instances such as these, but growing in my mindset allows me to see them more objectively. Just last week, a friend told me that her husband didn't care for me much. I do not have a problem with him and would've considered him a friend, too so that wasn't something I was thrilled to hear, but it's fine. A couple of years ago that would have killed me. I would have thought about what in the world I did wrong, how I could try to change it, etc until the cows came home. It would have hurt. This growth mindset allows me to just take it for what it's worth. I'm no less because of it and neither is he. I still have an opportunity to grow myself as a friend and can focus on relationships that are worthy of that growth. There's nothing to prove.
There are nuggets of wisdom throughout the work of Carol Dweck that can be applied in so many situations. Depression, marriage, parenthood--she hits on all of these. The resounding message is one of determination. And that's one I want to reiterate over and over for my children. When I started out reading this, my main focus was Kinley. He seems to be very fixed in his mindset. He needs validation constantly. As I continued to read, my thoughts shifted to Abel, who has an incredible opportunity to approach life with a growth mindset and show the world how much he can learn and adapt to a hearing world. Mostly, though, I think the book has changed me. I set out to teach my kids this type of thinking and I had no idea that my thinking was what needed tweaked.
I think you should check this book out. It is certainly redundant, but it's also chocked full of information, research studies, personal stories, and quotes that will help you change your mind, too.