Thanks to SuperBetter's author Dr. Jane McGonigal's references to Dr. Carol Dweck's work - I was motivated to pick up a copy from my wonderful local library and gobble up her life-time's worth of research into the power of Mindset.
Dr. Dweck - one of the foremost researchers on personality, social psychology, and development psychology - has spent her career focusing on the powerful influence exerted over virtually every aspect of our lives by our mindset. Mindset seems to also be another one of these traits where whether due to nature or nurture you land in the world with a propensity towards one or the other - but unlike handed-ness - you can at any moment in your life - such as this one for instance - choose to adopt a mindset that offers you the most benefit. Dweck essentially splits the world into two: those who have a fixed mindset (they value natural talent, innate ability, believe that test-scores and accomplishments are the bees knees and that we are defined by these things ... some have it - and some don't) vs. the growth mindset (which in contrast - effectively views natural talent and innate ability as myth and instead focuses on embracing challenge, developing skill, and sees any score, test or accomplishment as a snapshot at most). Dweck has spent decades researching the impact of these two contrasting world views on pre-schoolers, kindergarten children, elementary students, athletes, professionals, parents and organizations. I've only read through this book once and I just finished Sunday night - but I did not read of a single instance in which Dweck referred to the fixed mindset as beneficial in a meaningful way when it comes to expertise, learning, or happiness.
Dweck believes people change - that they not only change but that they can even intentionally change in the direction of their choosing. She believes - based on her decades of experience in the plasticity of the brain - as well as the force of human will - and has narrowed in on mindset - either fixed or growth - as being at the root of whether we face our challenges and grow better or bitter. She has participated in and led so many studies in her pursuit of parsing out why some rise above what seem to so many to be insurmountable limitations - whether height, IQ, gender - or whatever other factor anyone ever narrowed in on as a limiting factor - and why some - with what seemed like vast oceans of enviable early talent seem to fizzle out and drift away from the lime-light. According to Dweck - whatever fuels your soul - if you can approach it with a growth mindset - you have the capacity to accomplish great things. In fact - Dweck suggests in her TED talk (check it out here) - that the 98% of humanity that lives between the genetically disabled and the genetically genius - can all learn to ... be "matheletes", "natural musicians, talented athletes, ... basically ... awesome humans.
The number one thing that stops nearly 100% of us - including some of those who are actual factual genetic geniuses - from achieving that illusive "greatness" are all the ideas that say maybe we just haven't got and collectively weigh us down to the point of giving up on applying any effort. To Dweck - it's not about talent - it's all about effort - and most importantly - learning to love the effort. She quotes 4-year olds who when faced with tasks "too hard for them" would excitedly exclaim "Yes!! I was hoping it'd be hard!" with truly pure joy. She wants to act as something of a brain-GPS guiding us back to the initial, insatiable, voracious learners and unstoppable challenge-embracers we all were when we were born - and began happily and enthusiastically set off on conquering the stunningly daunting challenges of talking, walking, and learning everything - and LOVING it. Once upon a time - you ADORED being challenged - and were full of explosive energy at the thought of sharing your conquered challenges with those most important to you. They went on your fridge. You told everyone about it. You wanted more of that please and thank you very much.
You may have noticed a theme in some of my reading lately ... it's not really a lately though. When I read books like Mindset or Grit or SuperBetter - the thing about these sorts of books that most peaks my interest is directly tied to the Salty Speech project - as well as my long-standing passion to understand everything I can about how we can transform as fully as possible into the person Jesus saved us to be. I also want to be as fully equipped as I can be in engaging with college and university students - who are in one of the last and greatest transformative periods of their lives - and as skillfully as possible support God's transformative work in their lives.
I can remember sitting on Naugahyde church pews and hearing preachers saying things like "if you want to reach altitude you need the right attitude" ... I remember hearing sermons on optimism, faith, hope and I took all of that heart. My journals are full of dialog between God and I on what was working and what wasn't and why - or at least attempting to understand why. And - I'm still thinking daily about that little country hospital that was failing until the whole staff started embracing some key changes - and according to the staff themselves - foremost among those key changes was the way they intentionally chose to speak about disease - and how they intentionally self-censured all speech related to violence, because "healers don't use the language of violence".
I've listened closer to what's been said in the last few years and especially in the last few months than ever before. I'm a notorious info-dumper - do not willy-nilly ask me for a "bit" of info on one of my pet topics ... you'll end up getting an avalanche - which to me is a bit! Yikes!! I'm working on this. But far worse than info-dumping on some poor unsuspecting person are the growth-stifling things I might unwittingly say ... the cynical attitude I might caustically rain on someone's parade, or the God's-Grace denying dark and dreary outlook I might let fall on someone's budding enthusiasm just because I'm inattentively having a bad day. These tendencies started to crack with the Grace Habit - but I've come to the conclusion - that Grace lovers don't speak judgement, doom, gloom or despair. I'm still the same person with the same tendencies - but the less I thoughtlessly speak them - the more overwhelmed by joy I am.
Whether we want to talk about Dr. Duckworth's grittiness, or McGonigal's gamefulness, or Dweck's growth mindset - as a Christ follower - I firmly believe in the limitless power of God - so vast that He can even transform me. I am passionately curious about the transformative work experienced by some fringe-of-society types that a homeless Rabbi called to follow Him - who then left the security of their homes, businesses, friends, family and farms to wander all over the middle-east on foot with zero security. They grittily hosted picnics for thousands with zip to eat - just a sack-lunch. They gamefully went on pleasure-boat-cruises in life-threatening weather ... and all of that "fun" seemed to be for the express purpose of toughening them up for the incredible times ahead when nearly all of them would be so growth-focused in their mindset regarding their calling that they'd give up their lives. I've met students who wanted to give up on God because "he didn't answer my prayer". There have been times when I was that student. Can God's people be too gritty? Gameful? Growth-minded?
Some might lay all the blame on the culture, the music, the games, TV, social media ... but I don't believe any of these pressures are actually harder than the pressures that faced the first Christians - they're just different. I believe Jesus still speaks just as powerfully - to crowds, teens, fringey-types, storms and rulers as He ever did. I just want to speak as He spoke to the bruised reeds and smouldering wicks of the world - for their sakes and mine.
Thank you for stopping by. Thanks for reading.