Today I attended a workshop on “Growth Mindset”, and I want to spend some time to address one crucial point.
A growth mindset adopts the attitude that one is fluid and able to change. Compared to what we were taught in the past, where IQ is immutable, and our brain neurons remain fixed, a growth mindset relates to some studies that show that we can still form new networks in our brain after we mature. This mindset is a much more empowering thought than thinking that nothing you do will ever change who you are. I am not sure if it is related, but governmental policies have shifted in this direction as well, such as reducing the emphasis on CEP, known as “Current Estimated Potential” and jovially known as “Career-Ending Point”.
Knowing that one can change and improve is empowering. However, some like to flip it around and assume that one does not work hard enough when one fails. This belief diminishes compassion and empathy, not only for others but, most importantly, for oneself.
Success is often a confluence of different factors which involves personal hard work. However, it does not necessarily mean that you will succeed if you work hard. Environmental factors, history, time, situation and even luck all play a part in this.
For the individual, you must understand that while you may still fail if you work hard, not working hard means that you will most probably not grow. We should focus on what we can change and work towards that direction. For the most part, it is ourselves. We need to remember that humans are not immutable, and we should not grow to be like that elephant tied to a small rope.
For others, when we are evaluating someone, I think we need to caution against oversimplifying the equation of growth and success. We describe others who have failed as “unfortunate” in the past”. Today, we call them lazy, unmotivated, not trying hard enough.
As a former delinquent, I am a walking testament to the fact that people can change. However, I am a little different – I always believed that I would win eventually, at least for my earlier history. It was a stage of “not knowing what you don’t know”. As a young male teenager, my confidence was overflowing, even when I was doing very poorly in school. That confidence has brought me some success, which induced more success. The triumphs continued for a while until I fell hard and started doubting myself. It took a long time before I bounced back, and with that experience, I think I have a better perspective on life today.