Grow a Strong Light
“I can’t do it.”
“I give up.”
“I am going to stick to what I know.”
“I don’t like to be challenged.”
Have you ever said any of the above statements? If so, it could be that you have a fixed mindset. In all honesty, we can all find ourselves wavering with the above thoughts.
In 2006, Dr. Carol Dweck published a book titled, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” that dives deep into how our mindset affects the various human endeavors we are engaged in from school, sports, arts, or work. Our success is dependent on how we visualize our talents and our abilities. If we don’t see ourselves being able to do something we may automatically say to ourselves, “I can’t do it” forcing our capacity for growth to a halt. We may not try something new because we tell ourselves, “I am just going to stick to what I know. I don’t need to know how to do this.”
To understand this better, Dr. Dweck’s research breaks down the difference between having a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. She challenges us to consider that our mindset is something we can cultivate throughout life, Her website Mindset describes each (here are a couple highlights):
People with a fixed mindset believe that their traits are just givens. They have a certain amount of brains and talent and nothing can change that. If they have a lot, they’re all set, but if they don’t... So people in this mindset worry about their traits and how adequate they are. They have something to prove to themselves and others (Mindset, n.d., para., 2).
People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, but that’s just the starting point. They understand that no one has ever accomplished great things—not Mozart, Darwin, or Michael Jordan—without years of passionate practice and learning (Mindset, n.d., para., 2).
This animated book summary illustrates the difference in the mindsets.
It is important to understand that our mindset is a belief we have about our capacity to grow. In all honesty, I know I have had times where I have found myself in a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset.
One example I can remember is being in my doctoral program struggling with how I pronounced certain words. In the back of my mind, I would say to myself you sound so dumb or I would question myself regarding how I needed to say something. I finally realized if I tried and made an effort to learn how to say something I would be growing. I needed to take ownership of not being afraid to fail in front of others and know that I would be okay – this took a while. Now, if I receive feedback about how I speak or write I take the constructive criticism and move forward – I use the feedback to improve.
Another example is my love for recreation and sport. There sometimes is a stigma about studying or working in sport that you are simply a dumb jock and that you are learning how to throw the ball out onto the field and that’s all you know. Well, that is a fallacy. I remember feeling this way in college as a student and as a professional working with others from various disciplines. As Michael Jordan did with basketball, my goal was to learn as much as possible about campus recreation, college student development and leadership. I began that journey in my doctoral program.
During my first semester, I was told that leadership development does not happen in recreation and athletics and you will not be a professor (I had the opportunity to co-edit a book about developing leadership with a colleague and teaching as a full time professor for 9 years). This doesn’t happen overnight - effort, failure and reaching out to mentors over a ten year period is what got me there and I still have much to learn. I didn’t need to act smart, I realized I needed to find mentors in my industry and areas of discipline to inspire me and to find colleagues in various disciplines who would challenge me. I needed to step in to the uncomfortable and try new things. I am becoming more comfortable trying new things and I know that when I start something new I will run smack into failure, I will need to continue to learn, I will need to put in the effort, and I will look to those who inspire me. All of these steps will be the rich soil that will help me grow.
Are you stuck in a fixed mindset or are you cultivating a growth mindset? How are you going to Grow a strong light?
To grow a strong light take these final reminders with you:
”Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? 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 Dweck