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Growth mindset

This post is a two-fer, relevant to both the SCA and to my work as an educator.

We are reading a book called "Mindset" for our professional development book this year at our school. I'm at a new school this year and it was a book that was readily available and encouraged in my old school so this is actually my second read of this particular theory.  Really, I'm posting about it today because the subject of "panic!" came up in discussion.  I don't like panic. Panic shuts your brain down and stops you from making decisions. Panic doesn't help. Panic, really, just gets the heck in the way of getting things done in my life. Whenever possible, I try to not panic. It is, in general, much more beneficial for me to take a step back and instead of being upset, try to figure out how to fix whatever situation it is that is causing the upset.  Sometimes that is managing a tremendous amount of mentor activity at work. Sometimes that is trying to figure out why linseed oil varnish didn't dry.



In this way, I am growth mindset.

The basic gist of the aforementioned book is that people have two different mindsets. The first is a "fixed" mindset, where intelligence, ability, and possibility are all static and unchangeable.  The second mindset is a "growth" mindset where intelligence, ability, and possibility are all flexible and can be changed through work and over time.  People generally fall into one of the categories although they may change their overall mindset.  People may also be of one mindset on somethings and a different one on others. (For example, I am generally growth mindset but I tend to have a fixed mindset regarding my weight. Something I'm working on.)

Mindset is huge and can affect how you perceive yourself, how you perceive the world, and how you perceive others.  A fixed mindset person may feel that their worth is demonstrated only in the tangible and *successful* outcome of a project or task (for example, getting an A on a paper).  Generally, if they aren't good at it already, they don't want to do it.  Conversely, a growth mindset individual generally finds worthiness in stretching to meet the challenge even if the end result is not perfect.  This has nothing to do with actual intelligence or ability either. First, both of those are misnomers as they can be changed, but there are some naturally talented people out there with fixed mindsets who never become better or successful while their "average" counterparts excel because of pushing themselves.

There are two facets to this that really play into the SCA.  The first is very applicable to the arts. So many times, I hear artisans state how they could "never do that." Or are simply "not good" at a particular skill. The entire idea behind growth mindset is that this simply isn't true. You may not be *immediately* good or *immediately* good to the level you *want* to be, but through practice and work you can reach artistic prowess. Or any prowess. Think about how many times people say "I could never do that." or "I can't fight like they can." Or "I'm just not organized." Or "I'm awful at papers."  I've seen the fixed mindset ruin projects, stop folks from entering art-sci, and keep people from trying new things.  Generally, I tackle this as a laurel by "chunking" the pieces of whatever the task is. For example, a person who "can't draw" I will generally walk through geometric designs or let them paint a pre-drawn scroll. This provides the necessary ice breaker, as it were, to make people start to consider the skill differently. The short version of this: DaVinci wasn't DaVinci when he started. Relax, and give yourself room to grow. It's okay if you're terrible for a while - no one is actually judging you because you are, in fact, *learning.*

Growth mindset also applies to service and tasks, however. Fixed mindset people are far more likely to give up on difficult tasks, when they encounter challenges, or when they don't immediately know what to do. Their worth - or how they perceive it - is based on being successful and if they don't quickly see how to be successful at it, they generally would rather not attempt it.  Unfortunately for them, learning often means NOT being successful MANY times before you can ever BE successful at the end.  That means that failures, and what we learn from them, are as vital to becoming better at something as successes; I would argue that failures are actually MORE vital as they really teach you how to recover and what went wrong.  I'm a good reading coach. In a few years, I'll be an even better one because I've screwed up a lot in the interim.  The same applies to any task.

So what does this all mean?

It means you need to pay attention to your mindset. Whether in your career, life, or the SCA, it's important to try and go for a growth mindset. It's how we learn to be better, how we take on new challenges, and how we learn from our mistakes instead of being shut down by them.  You CAN change your mindset. Anyone who knew me in high school what with the crying over papers lower than an A will know that I am no longer like this. Thank goodness!  You may even find you switch back and forth but awareness of where you stand on things can help you alter that awareness and alter that mindset.

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