We’ve all heard the adages: “Rome wasn’t built in day” and, “If at first you don’t succed, try again.”
And then there’s the more recent references to Growth Mindsets developed by Dr Carol S Dweck, debunked by others, discussed in cafes and classrooms in a town near you!
Dweck proposes that people can be classified by the way they approach life as either having a fixed or a growth mindset. One is clearly a more positive attribute than the other. Her findings also suggest that a growth mindest can be, well grown, meaning if you’re not naturally born with one, you can cultivate one.
Developing a growth mindset, she writes in Mindset, has benefits in the classroom, on the sports field, in the boardroom and in our relationships. Simply put, these two mindsets can shape the path of our lives.
Why bother? Because a growth mindset, while not a guarantee of “success” in any given area (and success itself is a relative term), leads to a healthier frame of mind and, at the very least, to the potential for a more fulfilling life on all levels.
It seems likely that if we can help addicts change their thinking to conquer addiction, if we can control (some) types of pain by rewiring the messages to our brain sends to the affected area, than we could similarly change our way of thinking from fixed to growth.
A classic example is those of us who go through life saying “I can’t do maths” or “I can’t draw.” It might be true that we are not as good at maths as some of our peers, that it’s not our favourite subject or that we don’t derive the same enjoymeant from it as we do from pastimes that come more naturally to us, but is that a reason to completely shelve it?
A family friend, who is also an artist, pointed out if we looked at the drawings we were made to do at school at 5 than 8 then 11, we would see a progression in our skill set. It’s just most people stop taking art at secondary school in order to focus on “more serious” subjects.
They stop trying so their skills stagnate. And that’s a shame.
There seems to be merit in pushing ourselves to learn new skills, stick with challenges and grow from the process. Sure we’re not all going to be Picasso or Tolstoy, Bolt or Hawking but it’s far better for our mental health to give things a go than limit our experiences to those we are already comfortable with and adept at.