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I was lovingly asked to participate in a gratitude challenge for the month of November. What better time to reflect on all that I’m grateful for than the month which holds Thanksgiving? Andrea from Saving Joyfully and Melody from Her Design Life had the idea for this challenge and brought along some other bloggers. If you see any #ThankfulnessChallenge on social media you now know what it’s all about.
Mindset is the pathway to gratitude
What kind of mindset do you embrace? For me, I work really hard to have a growth mindset. If you are interested in learning what and how to embrace a growth mindset, I highly recommend the book, Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.
Check out this short talk by Dr. Dweck to whet your appetite:
Dweck talks about happiness as being constantly curious and eager to learn. A growth-minded person understands that intelligence is learned. Sadly, a fixed-minded person thinks their abilities are fixed and finite.
Dweck has devoted her life’s work to studying children, understanding where they develop a fixed versus a growth mindset. Furthermore, she runs workshops to test successful actionable steps in helping children become more growth minded.
The wrong kind of praise
We can praise a kid for their abilities:
“You are really smart”
Or we can praise a kid for the process:
“Wow, you must have worked very hard on that”
Dweck talks about how the self-esteem movement taught us that ability praise makes kids happy. She goes onto say that it does but only for a minute. Ultimately, it backfires and pushes a kid further into the fixed mindset.
When a fixed-minded child encounters a difficult problem, they become disengaged.
A child who is given process praise goes into a growth mindset. The child learns that it is the hard work which is of value.
A growth-minded child becomes more and more vigorously engaged as the problem becomes more difficult.
I grew up with a mostly fixed mindset
In many ways, I was a fixed-minded child. I’m sure there were many factors which played into this but for certain I know of a few. I was tall and people expected me to good at particular sports like basketball and volleyball.
When I tried these sports I was extremely disappointed in myself for not being good instantly.
Additionally, believing inaccurate things about myself from a young age didn’t help. I dislike writing them down now because I know these things to be the farthest from the truth. However, I believed I was:
- Not good enough
Furthermore, I thought I needed to be perfect. You can imagine how frustrating difficult problems were for me with that kind of pressure. As a kid, I often did the bare minimum to get by in school. I certainly wasn’t going to risk stretching my abilities to learn.
It’s not all black and white
I’ve identified two things that I excelled in my young life as a result of hard work.
Firstly, I love mathematics. I’m pretty certain that love was birthed in my 8th-grade mathematics class under the instruction of Mr. Lamp. Interestingly, Mr. Lamp was also my basketball coach. My eight-grade basketball career was cut short due to breaking my ankle during a layup. I wonder if that had not occurred, would I have learned to become better with practice.
Anyway, Mr. Lamp had me sit in the front row and challenged me. He encouraged me to work hard and rewarded me for my effort. I found comfort in mathematics as while life is full of gray areas, math gives me the black and white I desire.
The only courses I did my homework in throughout high school were mathematics. In these courses, I remained open and knew I could figure things out if I studied and practiced. I was mathematically curious.
Secondly, I swam competitively from the age of 5 to the age of 12. I worked really hard and went to practice every day. Why? I don’t know but I loved the water and saw the correlation between my efforts and the results. I’m not sure why I could not transpose that understanding to other areas of my life.
It’s not too late to change your mind
Here at Ms. Fiology, we believe that it’s never too late for anything. I’m happy to report that Dweck concludes that is also true for mindsets. The brain can be developed like a muscle.
In a study, they took 7th graders who were showing declining grades in math. One group got study skills classes and the other group received growth-mindset classes in addition to study skills classes.
The second group learned that when they pushed themselves outside of their comfort zones and tried something hard, the neurons in their brains formed new connections. Over time by doing hard things, they could get smarter. Kids loved this!
The results showed that the children in the first group continued to receive declining grades in math. However, the children in the second group showed improving grades.
Growth-mindedness results in gratitude
I find when I remain curious about life and learning new things, I’m naturally grateful. It just flows. We all know that life gets tough at times. Work is, well, work and by definition requires effort.
- Become smarter
- Find gratitude
Gratitude is a State of Mind
So I challenge you this month to work on your mindset and check yourself daily. Keep a journal at work and write how many difficult situations you encounter and push through. Journal about how this makes you feel.
Additionally, identify when you want to give up. Journal how this makes you feel. Then I want you to remind yourself that you can get smarter by doing difficult things. Who doesn’t like to get smarter? The mantra here is:
Do Difficult Things
At the end of the month review your journal and identify the following things:
- How many times you wanted to give up
- The number of times you actually gave up
- The total number of difficult things you did
It’s okay to want to give up, but I want the number of times you push through to exceed the number of times you give up. If not, you’ll be doing this challenge another month. 😉
I’m thankful for people who push me to get better. It was actually my boss who recommended I read this book. I’m happy to revisit it from time to time so I can continually replace the lies I used to believe about myself with the truth. Today I know that I am:
- Capable of becoming smarter
Furthermore, I don’t need to be perfect, I just need to be curiously growing.
Alright, who’s up for this gratitude mindset challenge?