• Saturday, March 02, 2024
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A lesson on having a fixed mindset


My friend narrated how she learnt an extremely sobering lesson on the above subject recently. Until then she had often told herself quite self righteously that she didn’t have a fixed mindset about things or people… or better phrased, that she was confident she guarded against having a mindset. She had related to me how her older son Joshua who tended to be quite ‘lawyerly’ often felt everything was up for discussion or debate. Naturally, this often made her impatient.

Tola said she had a house full of visiting children; she had left her house minder a list of what should be done in details, including what they should eat, snack on and do. She had arrived from her trip to find that a completely different activity had occurred – someone had changed her brief entirely. While interrogating the executor of her brief. The minder mentioned it was Joshua that had changed the brief. She said she quickly imagined how Joshua could have convinced the girl why they should have something else.

Not waiting to hear the rest she called Joshua and gave him a good spanking for daring to change her instructions; she then banished him to his room. She wasn’t deterred by his cries of ‘mum wait, just listen.’ To her mind, the cries of ‘just listen’ was his attempt at ‘lawyering his way out of this beating and she wasn’t going to let it happen.

It was her husband who explained to her later after interrogating Joshua that the minder had lied against Joshua. It was the minder herself who felt like altering the instructions. It just felt easier to heap it on Joshua, given how vocal he can be. Her husband wasn’t pleased she didn’t give Joshua a chance to be heard, specifically asked that she manages her fixed mindset about Joshua’s ‘lawyerly’ abilities.

Tola said she had to apologise to Joshua that night, making a mental note to cut down this mindset she didn’t realise she had developed.

While she was narrating, I kept thinking about how many things I had, had fixed mindset about things (or currently have fixed mindsets about) and perhaps like Tola, I was too self righteous to admit.

Flipping the coin, I thought to myself how crucial developing the right mindset is; and how differently we will receive and react to information with the right mindset.

I found the subject matter interesting enough to read up, albeit carefully as I wasn’t also looking to be confused by the tons of theories and researches on this subject. I found two thoughts I liked around this subject – having a fixed mindset vs. a growth mindset.

The growth mindset is grounded in the idea that what we’re born with is just the beginning — a foundation. With diligent effort, we can develop and build our skills — and move from ordinary to extraordinary. People with the growth mindset aren’t unrealistically idealistic, writes Dweck a renowned Stanford professor. They know we’re not all going to be Einstein’s or Beethoven’s. What they do believe is that “a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.” Someone with the growth mindset knows that working hard is the best way to tap into her potential.

A person with a fixed mindset believes that things are carved in stone, that things are always often the same way, unlike the growth mindset, she would never even consider putting in that much hard work, because she needs to be able to show results immediately, and she would interpret any failure to produce extraordinary results the first time out as proof that she’s an idiot.

Whether it’s Tola’s mindset, the vendor or the plumbers, I do think as we embrace the year, we need to review what types of mindsets we have, and make the necessary adjustments to allow for the growth we all plan for 2014… before you ask me – the vendor mindset is the one where the vendor in traffic is showing the Economist magazine to my husband and runs across to me on the other side to show me the seamstress stylist magazine – the stylist magazine where I can copy styles for dresses he reckons I need to make. I mean, the Economist being so intellectual and complex must be only for men.

Nothing beats the one a friend shared with me years ago. My friend is petite and has been a size 8 all her married life. She had been waiting for a plumber for hours and when he arrived, she opened the door and she said ‘Are you the plumber’? to which he replied – yes – please tell your madam I’m here! I mean, in how many houses are the madams a starry eyed size 8? Have a great weekend.

By: Nkiru Olumide-Ojo