In recent years, I have always been proud of the fact that I am trying out different ways to improve myself. I can tick off almost all the things that self-help gurus preach about and it had made such a huge impact on my life. I am hooked on that learning path. It has made me believe that our talents are not given away by birth and we can cultivate whatever skills we want to if we put our mind to it. This is the growth mindset as per Dr Dweck and a fixed mindset is believing that our talents are innate and cannot be improved beyond a point.
Recognizing fixed mindset:
When I first came to know about Carol Dweck's book Mindset, I was pretty sure that I am of the growth mindset. Surprise, surprise - I am not. My fixed mindset thought that one can have only one mindset. In reality, one can have different mindsets for different aspects of life. For example, when it comes to my skills, I know where I am lacking and I am always on the improvement journey. Writing regularly is one activity that I have been doing consistently to help me write better. On the other hand, even though I know that I have problems in interacting with people in a professional context, I try to remain in my shell saying that this is my nature and it is not going to change. This book came to me at the right time.
Stereotyping in childhood :
Let me tell you an anecdote from my childhood. My mother, who was without sons, was fond of a neighborhood boy of my age. She used to compare me with him and believed that he was more intelligent than me. It used to hurt me and I tried to outsmart him in everything. After some years, he fall behind in his studies and by that time I was already used to working hard. I don't know whether it is the pure competitiveness or just my stubbornness that made me follow that direction. Once I get to know about his wayward life when we were teenagers, I remember telling my mother that more than intelligence it is the willingness to put effort, is what matters. This "intelligence bias" is what makes girls shy away from difficult subjects thinking that it is beyond their reach and if our own families enforce such biases what can little kids do.
School Achievements :
I moved away from the growth mindset when I joined college. As Dr Dweck mentions in her book, some students who perform well in school get bogged down by failure in colleges and accept the mediocrity of their intelligence. I was one among them. Suddenly I was not the brightest one in the class and it was hard to accept. After some struggle, I stopped trying also. My aim became just to get through college and that I managed well. I wish I had tried harder to understand the subjects better. It would have made my life so easier now.
Learning Path :
There were years in between where nothing happened and I was as miserable as I could be. Something changed when I finally got the financial independence I always wished for. There was enough money to get me books and even though I didn't know it then I was slowly shifting towards a growth mindset again. Virtual friendships also made a huge impact on my life. Suddenly the world was not limited to my small town and there were people who encouraged and supported me. It is important to have such people in life. When everything goes well, we wouldn't know the difference. But it is during times of difficulty and the subsequent learning that we understand the importance of it.
It becomes clear that I have always toggled between fixed and growth mindsets. It is almost the same with everyone I believe. Now it is easier to understand the spurt of growth when I embraced the growth mindset. As with everything in life, it all makes sense when looking back. So if you haven't thought about how your mindset had an impact on your whole life, I would recommend you to introspect and put words to it.
"Simply learning about the growth mindset can sometimes mobilize people for meeting challenges and persevering."