Put on Some Comfy Shoes, We’re Taking The First Step Towards Cultivating a Growth Mindset!
What is your driving force? I don’t mean a 1985 Ford Tempo with a rusted-out floorboard and a partially functional braking system (which may or may not be the first vehicle I ever purchased). I mean, what motivates you? Perhaps it is financial incentivization. Maybe it is something intangible such as spending quality time with loved ones, or the simple pleasure that comes from achieving a hard-earned sense of self-satisfaction. It is also entirely conceivable that you, like myself, have your eye on a prize that fluctuates on a regular basis, such as tacos today and sushi tomorrow. Keep in mind, there is no right or wrong answer to the question “what motivates you?”; what inspires one person may not even be a consideration for the next. That is part of what makes personal motivation so fascinating, the fact that is just that: personal.
For some, a life of fame and fortune is the ultimate benchmark for success. I’m talking about the: Cher, Beyonce, Prince, Sting, and Adele (anyone else famous enough to be known only by a single moniker) type of celebrity. For others, this particular kind of notability is akin to torture. Many individuals equate someone’s level of success with how much money they have in the bank, or what kind of car they drive. There are also people who determine success by the number of good deeds someone has done, the inspiration they have provided, or how they have positively impacted society. In one of these scenarios, Jeff Bezos is a tremendous success, in another Malala Yousafzai (one more individual who is recognizable by only a singular designation) is more accomplished than most people two and three times her age.
Just as every unique human has their own distinctive motivating force, so too does each individual have a varied approach and level of commitment towards achieving their own personal version of success. Our physical, mental, and emotional traits are all as widely varied and numerous as the blonde, black, brunette, red, or rainbow-colored hairs on our heads. But one thing that all truly successful people have in common (no matter how that success is defined) is a growth mindset. This blog post is the first in a multi-part series wherein we will explore how we can foster a growth mindset in ourselves.
Dr. Carol Dweck (who quite literally wrote the book on Growth Mindset) sums it up like this: “The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments, everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
Perhaps it would be easiest to showcase what a growth mindset truly entails by offering some specific, real-world examples. I’ve never excelled at math; I’m more of a words kind of person; when numbers are involved, my brain just seems to shut down. All throughout elementary school and junior high, I struggled with even the most basic mathematical concepts. It wasn’t until well into high school when I had a teacher who took the time to sit down and work with me, to help me cultivate that skillset so that I was able to better understand and solve the mystery of math. I still struggled, but she helped me realize that math was something I could do, whereas prior to sitting under her tutelage I had convinced myself that I would never get anything other than a barely passing grade in the subject. It was hard work, it was frustrating work, it was utterly miserable work for me, but I managed to raise not only my grades, but my self-esteem in the process. Was it worth it? Absolutely! Was it easy? Definitely not! Conversely, I have a wonderful friend who was doing complex equations when she was ten. I’m talking about the types of mathematical problems I couldn’t even solve in college. Yet this friend struggles with vocabulary and spelling and has to put much more effort into crafting a simple email than I do. She and I were born with completely different talents, and we have both had to work hard to achieve what seemingly comes naturally to the other.
But regardless of how “naturally gifted” someone is, simply being born with an innate talent isn’t enough to truly succeed. Misty Copeland didn’t become the first African American Female Principal Dancer for the American Ballet Theatre because she was simply “born to dance.” She trained tirelessly for years, sacrificing, and honing her skills until she was undeniably one of the best in the world at her craft. But here’s the thing: although it was her drive, her perseverance, and her relentless pursuit of excellence that got her where she is now, she did not make it on her own. No one, not even those “self-made” individuals have gone it alone.
The truth of the matter is, one of the most important aspects of cultivating a growth mindset is realizing that everybody, EVERYBODY needs help! Misty Copeland wouldn’t be where she is without the individuals who fashioned her ballet shoes and dancewear, the instructors who taught her proper form and technique, the construction crews that built the stage she dances on, and the people who invented the bandages in which she inevitably wrapped her tired, blistered, wounded feet night, after night, after night. Jeff Bezos wouldn’t be where he is without the brilliant masterminds who brought the internet to life, the shoppers who flock to Amazon daily, or even the farmers who grow and pick the food he eats. And Malala would not have been able to inspire millions of individuals around the world were it not for the doctors and other medical professionals who tended to her, the authors who the books she read, or the people who encouraged and supported her along her journey.
We all come from different places in life (both literally and metaphorically speaking). What some of us take for granted (such as clean drinking water and indoor plumbing) are advantages to which many others are not privy. But we all have one thing in common: None of us can learn, and grow, and achieve our full potential without standing on the shoulders of what others have achieved, done, and built. Not you, not me, and certainly not Jeff Bezos. So, let’s put on some comfy shoes, work together to take this growth mindset thing one step at a time, and take that first step towards cultivating a growth mindset by accepting help when we need it, so that in turn, we can help others when they need it as well.