The Growth Mindset: Part Two of “A Week’s Worth of Insights”
What if everything that happens is perfect for us, exactly as it is? What if the faults we see are never with reality, but with our limited ability to see how things could fit together in the larger scheme of our lives?
My fingers are twitching to run with this idea. That’ll have to wait until next week, though. I mention it today because, around 5am this morning, I apparently turned off both alarm clocks; walking across the room and reaching for the alarm on top of a wardrobe without ever waking up enough to remember any of it. Does that make me an amateur sleepwalker? I’m not sure about that, but it made me feel like a failure. Especially in light of what I wrote yesterday about getting up early.
But was it really a bad thing? Another way of looking at it says: It’s perfect material for today’s post:
Waking up 45 minutes too late, I felt guilty and weak. That whiny inner voice said that I’d been working too much, and that I wouldn’t get anything done today, and that I really deserved a break…
I also told myself that I’d never had a great, productive day if I’d failed to get off to a good start.
Magic word, coming to the rescue:
I’d never done that, yet.
Long story short, instead of tossing the towel, I now asked myself what I was willing to do that would be heading in the general direction of a good day. I sat down and started writing about ways to turn things around when the momentum is going the other direction. Things improved, step by step, and this is turning out to be an alright day. Far from the best. But still much more productive and mellow than any good day from, say, a year ago.
Progress, not Perfection :-)
Simple, small shifts in perspective, huge results:
Did you notice the only thing that really changed?
Right: My perspective.
But there’s a catch:
Had I tried to go straight down the positive thinking route of telling myself “You can do it”, I would have yelled ‘Liar, liar”, given myself the finger, and crept back into bed.
Instead, I made the smallest possible shift: Can’t do it -> Haven’t done it, yet.
That’s believable, even if I’ve failed a hundred times before. Remember Edison? 1000+ instances of not having invented the lightbulb, yet. Kept him going alright, didn’t it?
Once I shift my perspective enough so I can see a small step that I’m willing to (reluctantly and grudgingly) act on — like writing anything that comes to mind about shifting momentum — I’m already halfway home. Two, three of these small steps – and the flow will take over and pull me onwards.
Simply rephrase whatever you’re telling yourself about your limitation so that it transforms into:
I’m not like that, yet.
I can’t do it, yet.
I haven’t figured it out, yet.
This isn’t right, yet.
You get the idea.
Hang on. If it’s so easy, why do we so often maintain perspectives that cause suffering and keep us stuck?
I’ll dig more deeply into that later this week, when we take a closer look at pain. For now – would you rather figure it out and keep it theoretical, or would you prefer to apply?
Why does it work? The Growth Mindset:
People with a “growth mindset” believe that they can acquire any given ability provided they invest effort or study. Dweck argues that the growth mindset…
Speaking of theory: Carol Dweck hit a home run with her work in Positive Psychology; coining the term Fixed vs. Growth Mindset for the principle you’re (hopefully) applying:
Shifting the locus of control in our lives from external to internal.
See, when we grow up we either learn that our results are predominantly due to talent (Fixed, external: You’re a smart kid, of course you got good grades.) or due to effort (Growth, internal: You’ve worked well, so you earned good grades).
I’ve included a reading list at the bottom of this page to get you started on the background, if you’d like to dive in. But I’d ask you to proceed with caution: I boiled it down to the essence for you, and everything you need to use it is here. Don’t make the same mistake that I made and learn so much theory that you can’t see how simple the practice is.
In related news, there’s a strong, very interesting and extremely useful link between the fixed mindset, perfectionism and a victim perspective. I invite you to puzzle this one out for yourself without reading anything about it. In a couple of days, I’ll post my take on it, and then I hope to compare notes with you :-).
Acting on It
I’m sure you’ve got the principle down pat: Change your perception of the situation in a way that makes positive action possible. Then find a feasible first step headed down that road:
Can’t save the world? All we can really know is that you haven’t saved the world, yet. And maybe it doesn’t need saving, but, while we’re at it, you could work on that every morning, couldn’t you? Could you get up three minutes earlier than today? Go to bed just a little bit sooner? Do some quick world-saving brainstorm tomorrow morning?
And could you do it again tomorrow? And again? And again? I’m no math genius, but I’m fairly certain that comes to a 90 minute shift in wake-up time in 30 days, and it would be stable, sustainable change instead of gung-ho heroism. The latter is cool if you can keep it up, but it’s rarely worked for me, and usually turned out costing me a lot more than I bargained for. In terms of results and lifetime cost, small & steady offers really great deals!
Then again, if you wanna be all Sparta about it, you could go for five minutes every day :-D
So – please pick one thing you wanna change, something you thought you couldn’t or wouldn’t do, add yet – and please take the first step NOW :-)
Bonus Magic Words: I can’t vs. I don’t
Wanna stop eating sugar, surfing the internet, or something else along these lines?
Notice the difference in feeling when you read these:
I can’t eat sugar.
I don’t eat sugar.
Try saying it to yourself in front of a mirror a couple of times. Look yourself in the eyes until you notice that it begins to feel true.
If that doesn’t work, the shift you’re trying to make is too large. Start with a smaller subset:
I don’t surf the internet before noon.
I don’t drink Coke.
Growth Mindset Reading List:
If you want a quick overview, Mark Joyner offers an excellent summary of Carol Dweck’s Book. It’s gonna cost you an email-address, though. If that’s not your thing, there’s more than enough below: