;;For the longest time, I believed intelligence was fixed like a cement statue. I was reasonably intelligent and above average, I did well in school, and did not really have trouble getting good grades. I suppose I had a growth mindset at some points in my school career. Just in general, as a person, my openness to learning and growing varied a lot from subject to subject, as well as life. Essentially, I came to learn that having a growth mindset is important to have in all situations, so join me now on a brief recollection of mindset failures.
As I was growing up, my mindset around being able to learn and grow depended on the context. For the most part, I always felt like I could improve and do well in school. I did, however, have a fixed mindset about school and intelligence; I believed intelligence was something that cannot really be changed. I was certainly wrong about that. Well, there are certain aspects about our biology and neurology that are fixed, but experts like Carol Dweck has shown us how life experience can help us change, grow, and become better with age.
So other than school, I felt like I was naturally a clumsy person. I was not good at sports, I was uncoordinated, I was not in the best of shape as a kid, and I was kind of a nerdy guy with glasses. I had this idea cemented in that I was not good at sports or athletic, and it did not matter how hard I worked. Most of the coaches I had in sports preferred to work with kids who had some “potential.” So for someone like myself, it was do your best with the implication that you suck. Well, I discovered martial arts when I was 13. Even though I went into it as someone who was not very physical, powerful, or athletic and coordinated, I loved it. I worked hard, stuck with it, and persevered. The fact that I liked martial arts even though I was quite terrible in the beginning helped me to not only stick with it, but get better. I had a great teacher who was very positive and encouraging. He also challenged me to get better always. That was frustrating at times, but my experiences in martial arts taught me how to master physical endeavors. It also did wonders for my athleticism, power, strength, flexibility, and hand eye coordination. I become more like a well conditioned athlete thanks to my experiences in martial arts. So even though I had a fixed mindset at one point, working hard and having a positive and encouraging teacher helped me to make positive changes.
Fast forward to college. I did not have confidence in my ability to continue as an engineering major. I did well in Calculus but struggled in Physics. Well, the average grade in my Physics class was 40%. To give you perspective, there were 500 people in my undergraduate physics course, and more than half the class had a 40%. Clearly, it was not just my lack of aptitude. However, my lack of confidence at the time lead me to internalize this belief that I was not smart enough to be an engineer, so I switched to Psychology. I am glad I majored in Psychology. It is an amazing subject. I was wrong about myself. If I had a growth mindset at the time, I would have worked hard to be awesome at Physics.
After college I struggled for a few years. I was a struggling college graduate from 2008 to 2011. I could only find part time work. After struggling for a few years, I went to graduate school for my teaching credential and masters degree. Afterwards, I moved to China, where I have now lived for 8 years.
During the years that I was teaching, sometimes, I had a growth mindset, and sometimes I did not. I had a lot of different ideas on how I could be a revolutionary teacher, but I never felt like I had the opportunity to try them. That really stemmed from deep seeded confidence issues. I did have trouble listening to new ideas while I was in education. I was resistant to change, learning, and growing. I became resentful because I felt like no one would give me a chance to try, to fail, and to grow. There were many factors, though, that led to my frustration. Over time, I grew to hate teaching more and more. The longer I stayed in education, the more fixed my mindset became. I am not blaming teaching for this. I was struggling to manage my stress and was imploding. My stress and frustration became so bad that I had stopped learning and growing as an individual for several years. I was a wreck, until…
A friend of mine introduced me to essential oils. He saw the passion I had for health and fitness and saw potential in me as a leader. My friend had an amazing mentor, and he helped me greatly to improve my confidence, manage stress, work on my emotional intelligence, cultivate a strong belief in myself, and live everyday with a growth mindset.
I am happy to report that I work hard to try and have a positive mindset, to be committed to my progress and growth, and resassure myself that I can learn, change, and grow. I can have a growth mindset! It is like Bruce Lee once said, “Be like water my friend. Water is formless, yet has form. If it goes into a cup, it becomes the cup.” Ok, so that quote might not be super accurate, and he was talking in a martial arts context, but the Daoist philosophy he was so fond of also resonated with a growth mindset.
So be like water my friend!