There’s an idea that’s been floating around the Smucker household in the past few months or so, and that is the idea of a Growth Mindset versus a Fixed Mindset. You can find an article about it here.
The basic idea behind it is that someone with a fixed mindset believes that their qualities, such as intelligence or talents, are fixed traits, whereas a person with a growth mindset sees them as areas where they can grow. A person with a fixed mindset tends to turn away and give up when he approaches an obstacle, whereas a person with a growth mindset sees it as a learning experience.
Obviously, a growth mindset is the mindset that we want to have, and it’s the mindset that successful people tend to have.
I, unfortunately, tend to drift towards a fixed mindset. I think part of the reason behind that is that, growing up, I was always viewed as smart, and school came naturally to me. I just figured that when you were smart, schoolwork was easy and you didn’t have to work that hard.
Having a fixed mindset really came back to bite me when I started college. There were suddenly all these people around me who seemed way smarter than me, and the classes were harder than anything I’d done before. I wrestle with feeling inferior and stupid because I haven’t yet mastered the art of working at learning instead of just getting through it by being “smart.”
An example of this came in the form of trigonometry. I’ve always been naturally good at math, so I was expecting to breeze through trig, but when the teacher started bringing up concepts I had never heard of that didn’t make any sense to me, I felt stuck. I was stumped on my homework, and I didn’t even know where to begin trying to sort everything out. I didn’t understand a thing, and it made me feel like an idiot. Eventually I figured out that if I wanted to learn what I was being taught, I had to work hard, study the textbook more than I felt like I had to, practice problems, and ask questions, even if they felt like stupid questions. I still don’t have trig figured out, but I’m getting it better now that I understand I’ll have to work at it.
Thankfully, mindsets are not set in stone, and I’m working at developing a growth mindset. I have to remind myself that having to work to get knowledge doesn’t mean I’m stupid, and when I’m surrounded by future engineers that all seem to know how all this stuff works and I have no idea what’s going on, it’s okay, I’m here to learn, not already know.
It’s really hard, though, to try to change your outlook on life. It’s hard to see things as learning experiences when they feel like huge obstacles, but I’m beginning to discover that it is possible.So don’t be discouraged if you’re in a situation where everyone else seems to know what they’re doing and you don’t. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it’s just a potential learning experience.