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The Growth Mindset: Life-Changing Thoughts from the Therapy Pool

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Chapter 3 of Carol Dweck’s book Mindset is titled “The Truth About Ability and Accomplishment” and in it she lays out the premise that through effort (growth mindset) nearly anyone can accomplish nearly anything.  Ability may play a part in our accomplishments, but effort plays a much greater role in our eventual success.

In our Twitter discussion (#Mindset13) yesterday about this chapter, I tweeted this in response to another participant’s wondering about perceiving people with fixed mindsets as people who don’t want to work or put in the effort:

… perhaps they work hard in areas they’re good at, and simply don’t do things they’re not good at. #notanathlete

I didn’t think much about my response at the time, but today, when I was working out in the therapy pool to provide some relief for my arthritic knees, I started to think about myself and the totally fixed mindset I have about myself and my athletic abilities.  The hashtag #notanathlete was written quickly, but sums up my vision of myself with regards to any sports or athletic anything—I don’t engage in those things because I’m not good at them, and I don’t enjoy them (probably because I’m not good at them—a vicious circle).  I started to wonder if my fixed mindset about my physical self is part of why I haven’t even tried to do many physical things in my life.  I tend to enjoy intellectual pursuits, but sit on the sidelines and watch (happily) as others play games that require physical skill and endurance.

This train of thought was triggered by a comment that another woman in the pool made to me as I was concentrating on doing an upper body workout.  She said, “Wow! You’re really working hard today!”  My mind jumped to our discussion yesterday about effort and the growth mindset, and I realized that I was making an effort to change the current state of my body (painful osteoarthritis in both knees) in order to regain the freedom of movement I had always enjoyed before my initial diagnosis last summer, and the ensuing months of pain and limited activity that have followed.  In all other areas of my life I have a fixed mindset about my physical self and my abilities, but here in the therapy pool, I know I can put in an effort that will have the effect of changing my life.  The greater the effort, the more I know I will be able to impact the quality of my life outside the pool.

I still consider myself #notanathlete, but that moment of realization in the pool made me think that I can change who I am physically through my own efforts.  This is the first time in my life I have really thought that way.  I can move out of the fixed mindset that I have about myself and put in the effort required to do this!  It was an eye-opening moment for me, and for a few minutes, I felt like an athlete in training for an event.  The event: my pain-free life outside of the therapy pool.

Now on the mornings when I would rather turn over and get a few minutes of extra sleep, I’ll be able to remind myself of the importance that making an effort—having a growth mindset about my physical abilities—can have on my life.  I’ll make the extra effort to get to the pool before I go to school, in order to make the changes necessary to have the life I want to have.  Just hoping that I’ll have a pain-free day isn’t enough—I have to act on it to make it happen. 

I don’t know the name of the woman in the pool, but I’ll be sure to thank her next time I see her.  Her friendly comment may have just changed my life!

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To Blog or Not To Blog? A Leap of Faith…

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The idea of writing a blog wasn’t even on my radar screen until last November when I started to use Twitter for professional development.  I am fascinated by all of the great thoughts and ideas that people share on Twitter, and by reading the many blogs that are posted daily I’ve been able to deepen my knowledge and understanding of countless topics through the reflections of other educators and learners in my PLN.  Over the months since I’ve been on Twitter, I’ve often thought that I should start a blog.  Sharing my ideas in 140 characters is great, but I often feel that I want to write more—share my ideas with more depth, more detail. 

Despite my best intentions, and the strong encouragement of the bloggers in my PLN, I’m still not sure if I really am ready to write a blog—posting my innermost thoughts for all the world to see is frankly a little intimidating.  And even though I know that it won’t really be “all the world” (in fact I’ll probably be lucky if even one or two people actually read this at all) I’m still intimidated.

I’ve been reflecting on this feeling for several days, and think that part of what’s holding me back is a matter of trust.  When I’m engaging in a verbal conversation with others, I know who the people are who are hearing my message, and can judge the impact my words may or may not have on them.  If I know them well and trust them, I might be more forthcoming with my thoughts, but if I’m speaking with someone I don’t know as well, I am naturally more guarded with what I share.  A blog is meant to be reflective, but for me, my reflections are very personal—not something I choose to share with a wide audience, at least not with people I don’t know or trust. To put my words out into the world is for me a huge leap of faith.  I don’t want to be guarded with what I write, but I’m not yet comfortable just spilling my guts for all the world to read. 

Another thing that’s holding me back is a fixed mindset.  I’ve had the good fortune this summer to be part of a book study about Carol Dweck’s book Mindset (#Mindset13), and I’m learning a lot about myself as a person and as a leader through that experience.  Even though I think I have a growth mindset about my students and staff, and even myself as a leader, I am discovering that I have a fixed mindset when it comes to who I am as a person.  In my reluctance to blog, I haven’t been able to give myself permission to be less than perfect—or to show my less-than-perfect self to the world.  Instead of taking the opportunity to improve by trying something new, I’ve been afraid to be judged as less than smart. As Dweck says in Chapter 2: “The fixed mindset does not allow people the luxury of becoming.  They have to already be.”  I’m afraid that by blogging people will see that I don’t know everything about everything (which sounds silly even to me!), or that I won’t have a well-enough-developed opinion about something to be able to share it.  My challenge: to move past this fixed mindset, and try something new and difficult in order to grow.

So.  Here I am, ready to take a leap of faith—to trust that my words in the world will be well-received, and when they aren’t, to be prepared to learn and grow from the experience.  I am determined to blog—to take my learning to the next step, and to join the 21st century as a leader and a learner.  Wish me luck on my journey!