Growth or Fixed Mindset?

“How did I get into this situation?”

I’ve pushed myself into many situations over my lifetime where I would ask myself that question. There I was, the guy with the whistle, about to signal for the kickoff of the boys big school state championship soccer contest. “What am I doing here?”

Many times I’ve pushed myself only to subsequently wonder what I’d done to myself.

I thought of that last week with my grandkids.

My grandson is just back from a tour of five European countries with 600 of his closest friends—well 600 other high school student musicians from Illinois. They toured and performed in England, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. He’s already an experienced international traveler, but he put himself into an entirely new experience at age 15.

Meanwhile his 13-year-old sister went off for a week at a swim camp (she’s a competitive swimmer) in another state. She put herself out for a new experience.

Psychology research suggests two primary types of mindset: growth and fixed. A fixed mindset happens when you believe there are restrictions on what you can accomplish. A growth mindset looks at possibilities. We all experience both types of thinking, but spending more time in the growth mode creates changes in your brain that can increase your likelihood of success.

​Studies suggest that those with more time in a growth mindset are better at goal-setting and decision-making. Additional research also appears to show that a growth mindset can build resilience that turns potentially frustrating moments into learning experiences.

It is often said that you are the sum of your six closest friends. You need to be around people who are more positive, encourage you to grow beyond what you think is possible, and provide specific positive feedback. So if you’re around too much negativity, it’s time to cut that loose.

Those with a growth mindset tend to be inspired by the success of others (rather than intimidated or defeated), and they focus on expanding their comfort zone. 

Stepping outside the comfort zone to learn, teach (best way to learn!), serve boosts your confidence and your physical, mental, and emotional growth.

What’s holding you back?

More Thoughts on The Little Things–Quality

I wrote about how little things matter Friday. Then I received my weekly newsletter from Vitaliy Katsenelson, CEO of an investment firm who also calls himself “student of life.” He wrote this:

Just remember, little things matter; on their own, you may not notice them, but they all add up. Walt Disney once said, “You can feel quality.” Quality is the result of doing all the little things well, and with heart and soul. 

I also receive a fitness newsletter five days a week. This morning they told of many responses they’ve seen over the several months since this newsletter began of people applying the 1% better approach. Just try for 1% better at something every day. Some people began the training with 15-lb. dumbells and are not at 30-lb. A little at a time. I encourage my granddaughter every time she posts just a little better time in her swim meets. At the end of this season, her times are remarkably better than at the beginning.

You think you cannot read something motivational or educational and meditate/pray every day for 30 minutes. But you start with five minutes you grab with early morning coffee. Soon, 30 minutes is nothing.

It’s The Little Things

Little things matter.

The small, almost incidental, decisions accumulate and lead to habits.

Teach yourself to be aware of little things you do, usually without thinking. Have you done them three days consecutively? Is it now a habit that will degrade your health–physical, emotional, or spiritual?

Think of the little things.

Making your bed when you get up. That begins the day with discipline and you are rewarded with a freshly made bed at night.

Flossing after brushing your teeth.

Not absent-mindedly scrolling through social media.

Having a good book laid out ready to read when the moment happens.

A smile and greeting to everyone you meet.

The little things accumulate. When you reflect at the end of the day, you’ll be amazed at the good.


Can You Think?

OK, I never thought I’d ever quote that famous behaviorist psychologist B.F. Skinner, but this thought was too good to pass over without, well, thinking about.

The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do.

If I took Facebook as an example of the level of thinking in the world right now, I’d be forced into skepticism about the ability of humans to think. Perhaps other forms of communication, as well.

Some people are worried about artificial intelligence technologies such as ChatGPT taking away our ability to think. On the one hand, I wonder about our ability to begin with. On the other hand, I have heard teachers explain that ChatGPT can be used along with thinking. 

How, you may ask. Have the student (or you can try it) think and devise a topic sentence. The big question. Then write three or four supporting statements. Then turn ChatGPT loose to research and write some paragraphs. Then go back and rewrite that prose into English (or whatever).

My first geometry teacher told us that we’d learn about shapes and angles, but also that mostly what we would learn was how to think. Solving proofs of theorems is a great model. I use it to this day.

Try thinking sometime today. Read something. Think of possibilities. Not just one interpretation. What if the writer meant this? Or that?How did the original readers take this? Go sit in a park or by a pond or river and just think.

This reminds me of a story I heard many years ago. This could have been about me at 10 years old. It seems a little boy was sitting in class in school. He was staring out the window totally oblivious to the class. The teacher noticed and stopped talking. Soon, all the kids were staring. He realized something was up and his attention returned to the classroom. “What were you doing?” asked the teacher. “I was thinking,” was the reply. “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to think in school?” she said. When the entire class burst out in laughter, she realized what she said.

But, too often it’s true in school and at work—we’re not supposed to think. 

Be that little boy. 


Smooth Is Fast

I heard an interview with a former US Navy SEAL. He left me with a phrase that repeats in my mind.

Slow is smooth; smooth is fast.

This relates to other advice I’ve received and to my life experiences.

Once I rushed through everything trying to do three or four things at once. I was frustrated with progress as well as tired. Driving in traffic, I’d speed up only to be stopped at the next traffic light in the slow lane passed by the cars I’d just passed.

Rushing didn’t get me anywhere faster. Maybe just a speeding ticket.

I’ve not only learned that phrase, I have also learned to embody it.

I concentrate on one thing at a time. That doesn’t mean that a hundred thoughts don’t pop up. They do. But I’ve learned to move past and come back to task. 

Don’t rush the conversation. 

Allow time to get where I’m going. If circumstances make me late, well, then I’m late. That’s life.

Even eating. Chew more. Swallow less. Slow and smooth.

Even working out. Some things require intensity, but don’t rush through (well, unless you’re doing sprints!). I look at the dumbbells. Select the weights. Raise slowly to extension. Lower slowly and smoothly. Do my sets. Amazingly the workout is done before I know it.

In your spiritual life, it’s the same. When you read–read. When you meditate–meditate. Allow the time. Savor it even.

Are You Doing Significant Work?

Or…are you merely busy?

Seth Godin has released a new book I highly recommend…The Song of Significance: A New Manifesto for Teams.

We are all doing some sort of work. It might be in the marketplace, or an organization non-profit or religious. 

What we should be doing is creating significance for someone else. Whom are we serving?

Or, are we merely busy?

Are you merely a manager who orders the group, team, organization into compliance to run as smoothly as possible?

Are you a leader bringing significance to a team of committed and passionate individuals creating change and changed lives to others?

If you work for the first, perhaps you should quit and find the second sort of team.

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