As I watched him struggling to fit the last piece of the puzzle into its place, my son’s attitude shifted. He started by turning it, then forcing the piece to fit when he realized it wasn’t lining up.
“I can’t do this!” he shouted as tiny emotions erupted into ear piercing cries of frustration. Folding his arms across his chest, my four-year-old stood up and marched away from the puzzle, defeated and upset.
Witnessing this all-too-familiar scene, I sadly could relate. There have been so many times in my life where I felt over-challenged and under-prepared – times I just wanted to shout at the top of my lungs and march away, hoping someone else could magically solve the problem and find the right solution.
Walking over to my son, I wrapped my arms around him in solidarity, holding him close for a few precious heartbeats. As I felt his body relax and his anger begin to evaporate, we shared a knowing smile.
“Buddy, instead of yelling at your puzzle, what can you try instead?” I asked softly.
Holding my gaze, he simply asked “Help me, please.”
Those three words bridged the gap between accepting defeat and believing in growth. By requesting help, he shifted his mood as well as his mindset. This month, we’re focusing on the core value of growth to explore and honor all of the progress we’ve made as well as the areas where we’re continuing to develop.
Shift Your Mindset
Stanford Psychologist, Carol Dweck, studies the science of how we think about what we do – our mindset. As a young researcher, Dweck was fascinated by how some children give up in the face of obstacles, while others avidly seek challenges and become even more invested when faced with a problem.
Dedicating over 40 years of research to this question, Dweck and her team identified two core beliefs about how one views their own traits, which in turn shapes their approach to challenges: Those who have a “Fixed Mindset” believe that their abilities were predetermined at birth and cannot change, while those who choose a “Growth Mindset” believe that their skills and capabilities can be developed through learning and practice.
Let’s see how this plays out in real life. Time travel back to your high school or college years when you were studying for a big exam. After receiving a lower grade than you expected, how do you feel?
If you held a Fixed Mindset, you likely would either internalize these negative feelings and think “I’m so stupid” or even blame the test for being “too hard.” Whereas if you had a Growth Mindset, you would recognize that your level of intelligence isn’t measured by a test, but rather by how much you can learn from each experience. Maybe you even went to office hours or formed a study group to make sure you were better prepared next time.
What’s your current mindset? Take a moment to consider the following questions:
- What am I learning in this season?
- How are my assumptions being tested?
- What opportunities do I have to gain new knowledge or skill?
- What is getting in my way and what can I do about it?
We all have been tested in our ability to navigate uncertainty over the last few weeks, facing more ambiguity, fear, and isolation. And we still have the power to choose our mindset and refocus on growth.
Science has shown that we can directly influence how our brains develop and model this for our children. When we practice hard skills and learn new things, our brain actually grow larger and stronger, just like building muscles when we exercise.
So even if you’ve been in a funk or stalled out on your own growth recently, it’s never too late. Make a commitment to redeem this season and challenge yourself so you can refocus on the opportunities you have for growth. Model this for your friends and your children!