We are in that phase with our seven year old son that anything that he is not good at right away turns into a moment of breaking down and giving up, “I’ll never be good at math, NEVER!” Even as I type this though, I can picture adults that maintain that same mindset - can’t do it right away, then it isn’t worth doing. So as we (mostly my wife and her teaching degree) agonize over reading the words “script,” adding 8 + 2, and not forgetting to punctuate a question, this is the moment that we have to establish the foundation of a growth mindset with him. And this week, it is a perfect chance to review some mindset truths:
Firstly, and most importantly we want to teach him growth. I don’t need him to get all A’s, to get every answer right, that is not only unrealistic, but adds a lot of pressure unnecessarily. What we want him to do is get better each time, to learn from incorrect answers, and limit the times he gets a specific skill wrong. In our daily lives, we are not often put into a professional situation that we are expected to be handed a job/task/skill and then get them right every time from that moment onward (and if that describes your job, you are either getting paid handsomely enough to deal with that stress or you are miserable at work). We put our new knowledge to practice, figure out strategies for efficiency and improve with each repetition - which is why you know what 8+2 is. Therefore, growth from mistakes is skill one.
From growth, I have found one of the most vital skills that naturally comes next is competition. No, not with comparing yourself to Bob in sales who has the brand new car, mansion, and jet skis - that is never going to work. When we compete from growth it is with ourselves, push ourselves intrinsically to be better than you from yesterday. Self competition is the only healthy version because as soon as you catch up to Bob, have the car and the girl, you will discover that Roger has it better than Bob and now you have a new shallow person to aspire to. Chasing goals, especially superficial ones, hardly ever works for more than a short period of time. However, when you compete with yourself then it is healthy growth, you find fewer excuses - I was able to do x yesterday, no reason I can’t do x and now z today. This becomes our second lesson today - compete against yourself for growth.
Finally, embracing the failures is our third mindset lesson today. Do not read into that incorrectly, embracing failure does not in any way mean accepting it as truth, but rather accepting that failures will happen so embrace it and then move forward. Once we can get Keegan to realize that he will not win every time, that along the way he will stumble and lose, and that those are the lessons to be learned for growth in avoiding the same failures over again. Such a simple concept, but probably the most difficult because in our culture we do not like losing. It is instinctive to get angry when we lose whether it is a card game, being passed up on a promotion, or a significant other leaves us. I am not saying don’t get angry, we certainly can’t help our reflects, but after the anger there are lessons to be learned, ample growth to embrace from such losses. Making embrace the failure as lessons for growth our final mindset for this week.
Recapping, we are doing our best to teach Keegan that after his initial meltdown over his homework to try and learn mindsets that will become habits for life...we hope anyway. By teaching him the value of personal growth, competing against yourself, and then embracing the failures as lessons he can get more from school than how to read and write. Same for ourselves, if we don’t currently practice these mindsets, take some time this week and think on how to create the habits necessary for growth - it will help reduce stress, improve your skill set, and make life overall more enjoyable. Good luck with the positive, growth mindset this week...and wish us luck with Keegan’s homework.