Spring has arrived in the northern hemisphere, and along with it signs of rebirth and renewal. For Christians, the weeks leading up to the celebration of Easter act as a lens to focus on the death and resurrection of Christ. Death and rebirth. For the next four weeks we’ll look at how this time of rebirth can help us renew our commitment to self-care—to stay on course with MAPS.
“If you could be any age again, what age would you want to be?” my student asked as she walked into class.
“The age I am now,” I answered without hesitation.
“Really?” Her shocked expression amused me. She shook her head in disbelief. “I want to stay 17 for the rest of my life.”
I laughed. “Really? Why?”
“Because I’m not yet an adult with grown-up responsibilities, but I’m not a little kid anymore.”
Other students nodded in agreement. I shook my head. “Growing up shouldn’t make you scared. Just think of aging as an opportunity to keep getting better.”
“Like cheese?” one of the kids mumbled.
I laughed. “Something like that. When I look back on myself as a 17-year-old, I realize that I was pretty shallow.”
“What does that mean?” someone asked.
“I didn’t have many deep thoughts because I thought mostly about myself, my needs and wants. People probably thought I was boring because I was so self-involved.”
“But you’re not that way now,” another student assured me.
“But I’m pretty old and I’ve changed a lot.”
“No, you don’t act old,” a student assured me. “You act young but you have wisdom.”
“Exactly. I changed and grew up; I kept learning and expanding my mind. In fact, every year I learn new things about myself and try to improve. Which leads us to today’s objective.”
The groans confirmed my suspicions. Spring fever had hit my students, and they’d try any gambit to get out of the day’s learning objective.
Grumpy, Dried-up Grownups have a Fixed Mindset
Spring fever aside, this conversation made me think of people I knew who seem generally dissatisfied with every decade of their lives. The older they get, the more desperate they became to live up to some invisible expectation. Failure weighs heavily on them.
They often say things like, “I’ll never be as good as you are at _____.” Or perhaps, “I can’t seem to figure anything out. You’re so lucky that you’re good at _____.” On the surface, those statements seem like compliments. In reality, jealousy lurks behind the words.
To help me understand my students’ dilemma and the psychology behind the not-so-complimentary compliments, I decided to read up on growth mindset. According to Carol S. Dweck, Ph. D., everyone approaches life with one of two mindsets: fixed or growth.
A ‘mindset’ doesn’t indicate that you can’t change, it simply explains a way you see the world and your place in it. When a person adheres to a fixed mindset, they believe that they’ll have to cope with the hand they’ve been dealt for their entire lives.
If a person makes mistakes, they blame it on their personality or lack of knowledge. Their mistakes validate their beliefs that they can’t learn or change.
Likewise, a person may believe that their successes prove that they have above-average intelligence. They seek success because it validates them as a human and proves that the story they’ve told themselves holds true.People with a fixed mindset see life as a competition to maintain their status quo. #comparison #growthmindset #selfcare Click To Tweet
In both cases, the person with a fixed mindset doesn’t want to take risks because failure would fail to affirm their beliefs about themselves. People with a fixed mindset see life as a competition to maintain the status quo. They gear their attitudes, behaviors, and expectations around their limited beliefs.
Forever Young Grownups
A growth mindset works in the opposite way of a fixed mindset.
“This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way—in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments—everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.
People who have adopted a growth mindset see the world as full of possibilities—not place-affirming competitions. They believe that they (and everyone else) can learn, change, adapt, and grow.Adopting a growth mindset frees us from competition and the comparison game. #growthmindset #comparison #selfcare Click To Tweet
Adopting a growth mindset frees us from competition and the comparison game. Instead of seeing other people as threats to our talents, accomplishments, and successes, we see them as fellow travelers. We don’t have anything to prove to anyone else when we have a growth mindset, because we don’t need success to affirm our intelligence.
Having a growth mindset allows us to view failure differently from people who have a fixed mindset. Failure simply means that we have not yet accomplished what we set out to do. It doesn’t mean that we, ourselves, are failures. When we see failures as opportunities for growth, we discover freedom to try, fail, learn, and succeed. And that attitude constitutes the best form of self-care out there!When we see failures as opportunities for growth, we discover freedom to try, fail, learn, and succeed. #failure #growth Click To Tweet
The good news about growth and fixed mindsets might shock you. You choose your mindset. If you find yourself operating out of a fixed mindset, you can actually change this limiting belief and adopt a growth mindset.
You don’t have to fear failure.
An Epic Failure Seen Through a Growth Mindset
Think about that Friday so long ago in Palestine. Jesus, the man some believed had come to save the Jews, hung on a cross between two common criminals. His mission had failed. He had neither rescued the Jews from Roman oppression nor saved the world. The sign that hung above him, “Jesus, King of the Jews,” mocked his mission.
By the world’s standards, Jesus failed.
But by heavenly standards, Jesus succeeded. In fact, his mission—salvation of mankind—has never died.
Jesus didn’t die for us so that we could continue in our same old rut. His death on the cross and resurrection invites us in to a new kind of life—one where we partner with him to become the best version of us (Titus 3:4-5).Jesus didn't die for us so that we could continue in our same old rut. #Easter #growthmindset Click To Tweet
We can see ourselves as set in stone and unable to change, or we can see ourselves a fertile soil, ready for cultivation (Matthew 13:1-23). In fact, God talks about this very condition in the Bible. In Ezekiel 36:26 God promises to perform the necessary change within us:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.God
Carol Dweck may have articulated what followers of Jesus have known all along. With Christ, we are a new creation. We can change our set-in-stone and fixed mindsets to ready-to-cultivate growth mindsets—because with God, all things are possible (Mark 10:27).