I can’t sing. I am not a musical person. My friends are musical people but I was not given that gift.
I can art…sometimes. People tell me I can art but I won’t attempt to draw something that I’ve never drawn before because people might look at it and realize I’m not very good at arting after all.
I am as good of a Christian as I am ever going to be. I have a certain ability to understand and experience God and I should be content with where I am.
These were statements that I believed about myself about a week ago which I am currently being forced to question due to Dr. Hayse’s annoying habit of actually making his students think.
In Honors Seminar we are reading Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck in which she asserts that qualities such as intelligence, artistic ability, athletic ability, leadership, and relational ability are not fixed, something one has a certain amount of or none of, but are rather able to grow and develop in a person.
She calls this the Growth Mindset.
Basically if I believe that I am fixed with a certain amount of smart then I will back away from anything that would be challenging because failure would mean a forced identity redefinition. However, in my growth mindset, I see my intelligence as something I can grow by challenging myself, seeking to collaborate with others, and working my butt off.
The book helped me to realize that in the area of intelligence, I was following right along with the growth mindset. If I had read only the first three chapters I would have been totally fine.
But Dr. Hayse made us read the whole book.
The rest of it went on to say that the idea of seeking new challenges, collaborating, and having a good work ethic could be applied to sports, art, music, management, parenting, and teaching.
I was caught in my “I’m not good at music” mindset and despite having a beautiful guitar and a love of music, have stopped trying because I believed the amount of musical talent I had was all I will ever have. If I believe I can grow this ability by challenging myself, asking my musical friends for help, and working at it, perhaps I can enjoy playing again.
Probably the most fascinating aspect was her thoughts on relationships. I’ll use Quinn (Quinndonesia, Quinnifer Aniston, Bi-Quinning, Quinntervention, To inQuinnity and beyond, the Quinncredible Hulk) as my example.
If I believe that relationships are either good or bad then the moment Quinn and I have a fight I would think that our relationship was inherently bad and thus would avoid any and every possible disagreement for fear of proving our relationship wasn’t as “good” as I had thought.
She called out fairy tales for making “good” relationships look like if they weren’t “meant to be” then they were bad. While I believe that it is true that God has people planned for us to marry, I don’t want to get trapped into thinking that the relationship with my God ordained man will be perfect.
With a growth mindset for relationships, disagreements and fights are seen as opportunities for improvement.
If I have a fixed mindset I may think that some annoying habit Quinn has is unfixable and thus a deal breaker while a growth mindset would refuse to define Quinn by this hypothetical habit and be willing to communicate my feelings about it.
I can’t cognitively imagine having a relationship with anybody without this mindset yet I’ve fallen into the trap of it several times. Luckily by the grace of God and Quinn a fixed mindset has not prevailed.
The book did not address spirituality but I feel as though I must because it is the area in which it hit me the hardest. I was raised in a Christian house, went to every Sunday school, every VBS, interned at my church three times, and now am a Theology major. Despite all of this I catch myself feeling so depressed about my spiritual life sometimes.
After reading this book, I began to wonder if I think of my Christianity as something fixed. “I can only experience God so much” or “I can only understand so much of the Bible”. If I start letting myself think “I’m about as good as I can get” then I stop trying to get better, stop digging, stop looking for challenging material and stop asking God to come into my life.
I don’t want to get stuck in that mindset.
I want to want to grow. I want to seek new ideas and a deeper experience. I don’t want to be afraid to dive into difficult ideas in the Old Testament or spend hours of my day in prayer.
I don’t want to view others as judging if I am a good Christian or not. I want to view people as allies, fellow travelers in mutually helpful relationships.
I think that is the point of me being in the Honors Program: to grow an intellectual passion for learning, not only in academics but in all areas of life.
To relate it to video games: you have to actively seek the growth mindset mushroom in order to grow to your full potential, and even when you fail and feel small again, be willing to keep seeking again.
What I’m praying for this week:
That a growth mindset will be fostered in both my own life and in the lives of others in regards to passionate intentionality in walking with Christ. We can decide to give all we can to growth in Christ with the knowledge that where we are not isn’t where we are condemned to always be.