Growth Mind-Set

Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” – Mahatma Gandhi

My mom, who will turn 83-years-old in a few weeks, just put on a piano concert for her senior living residence. It’s something she’s done since the pandemic started, trying to fill in the entertainment schedule especially for those who can’t readily leave their apartments. She has to do three performances to keep the audiences small, they performances have been broadcast over the in-house tv and she learns new music for each one.

All that is to say, my mom is a pretty confidence and very capable person. She still practices speaking Russian, a second language she learned in college and even typing out messages to her Russian friends in her What’s App phone application.

But when something goes wrong on her phone and computer, she brings it to me. Often she’s already figured out the solution but she just wants me to confirm it. Which I am more than happy to do. But it always amazes me and amuses me that she has a blind spot in her confidence.

According to Katty Kay and Claire Shipman in their book, The Confidence Code, this is not at all unusual, especially with women. Drawing on the research of Stanford professor, Carol Dweck, they describe:

“Most women think their abilities are fixed, Dweck told us. They’re either good at math or bad at math. The same goes for a host of other challenges that women tend to take on less often than men do: leadership, entrepreneurship, public speaking, asking for raises, financial investment, even parking the car. Many women think, in these areas, that their talents are determined, finite, and immutable. Men, says Dweck, think they can learn almost anything.”

The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

And the way past that fixed assessment of abilities is to adopt a growth mind-set according to Dweck. It ties with confidence because “Confidence requires a growth mind-set because believing that skills can be learned leads to doing new things. It encourages risk, and it supports resilience when we fail.”

When I first had children, I remember reading several articles about not praising your child for being smart but instead to focus on praising them for their efforts. It turns out that this is exactly the thing for building our own growth mind-set as well. When our internal dialogue is focused on effort and improvement, we reinforce the internal story that we can learn.

Sometimes we have blind spots in our abilities on purpose. We don’t learn things because our partner, friend or child can do it for us. It works fine for us as long as when life requires us to do those tasks, we adopt that growth mind-set, believe we can and then support that with the patience and praise for our efforts as we learn.

I’ve seen my mom do that in these seven years after my dad passed in the many things that were his specialties like taxes and car maintenance. Either through nature or nurture, I think my mom has a growth mind-set. I’m happy to be her computer help but notice that when I do it, she usually looks over my shoulder to see what I’m doing. Maybe by the time she’s in her mid-eighties, she’ll no longer need me for tech support.

This is my third post in the series delving into confidence. The first was I Can and the second was Fear and Confidence.

(featured photo from Pexels)

41 thoughts on “Growth Mind-Set

  1. I really connected with what you wrote about how sometimes, we don’t learn to do things, because we know our spouse/partner can do them for us. I’ve found myself wanting to learn a lot of those things lately, with my husband’s health as poor as it is. I have learned to do maintenance on and to operate much of our outdoor equipment (log splitter, weedeater, etc.). It feels great to contribute to our household in these ways, and just to be able to say that I can do it! Love these posts on confidence, Wynne 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What a lovely comment about the reality of learning things in tough situations, Grace. You have such wonderful grace about feeling great about the contributions you are making while your husband is ill. Bless you for that amazing attitude and aptitude!! He is truly lucky to have you — and I’m truly lucky to have you commenting on posts!

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  2. A thought provoking post, Wynne!
    I like, “Sometimes we have blind spots in our abilities on purpose. We don’t learn things because our partner, friend or child can do it for us. It works fine for us as long as when life requires us to do those tasks, we adopt that growth mind-set, believe we can and then support that with the patience and praise for our efforts as we learn.”
    True. I am guilty of “my several blind spots on purpose”. Partly because my family takes care of it, and partly because I am not interested in those particular abilities.
    Though, mostly, because it helped with the division of labor when we first started our lives together, started our family and our responsibilities grew.
    But somehow, this convenient, division of labor continues!

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    1. I love how aware you are of the patterns – and that they are working for you, Chaya! Nothing wrong with that because then you appreciate it more. I don’t think we have to do it all — just believe that we can. 🙂

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  3. Firstly your mother is amazing. There are so many elderly women who won’t even touch a computer because they’re not interested in learning new things.
    Secondly, how insightful you are that we women put limitations on what we’re capable of doing and learning. I LOVE how correcting those limitations with your daughter has led you to comment on her effort at something rather than if she’s good at something.
    You are a fabulous mom!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What a lovely and encouraging comment. I imagine you are doing the same with your son and all the wonderful learning opportunities he has with you on that farm! So you are a fabulous mom!

      I suppose in the spirit of a growth mind-set I should say instead – I love how hard you are working at parenting and how it’s paying off. 😉

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  4. Confidence is also one of the most attractive qualities! We stand a little taller, we speak more clearly… you become a leader, because people gravitate to those who are authentic and sure of themselves! Thank you for sharing!!

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  5. This subject about women and confidence is really important. It’s a significant reason why the percentage of women in engineering and computer science stays low; they think they aren’t good enough unless they have 95% in math whereas much young men assume they can do it with a 65%. The great unknown is whether this is more due to societal nurture or nature. Thanks for reminding me of this continuing issue.

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    1. Isn’t that so interesting? When I was studying Electrical Engineering, there were only about 10 women (maybe less) in my group of 140 students. And your question about whether its nature or nurture is such a good one but sometimes it seems when a girl says they aren’t any good at math, people just accept that instead of challenging her as to whether that is really true! Thanks for continuing to educate us in the hard and soft sciences, Jane!

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  6. Kudos to your mom! I have a growth mindset and believe that I can learn whatever I put my mind to. I do not consider my lack of competence with the latest Smart Phone and computer technology as “a blind spot in [my] confidence.” There are just other areas of my personal and professional life that demand more attention.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I have a growth mindset, but I also know that many things make no sense to me. Like how computers or cell phones work. I memorize patterns to get them to do my biding, but after that I don’t understand them. My husband is my tech support. I don’t know if that’s being a wise woman who focuses on things that matter to me– or a copout.

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  8. Kudos to your mom. How wonderful to still be learning and growing into the 80s and sharing that learning with others.

    Focusing on effort for sure is a great way to foster and encourage growth mindset. It infers that learning is fluid and that we are not fixed at a certain spot.

    Enjoy being the tech support in the meantime! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I liked this post. It is a reminder to everyone at any age to keep learning. In the header of my blog it says “An old dog can blog” and it referred to the fact that I am still learning and I am no longer a puppy! LOL

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  10. Wow Wynne! So much encouragement and positive in one post! I love all the comments too, for each one speaks to the many awesome points you made!

    One thing I learned from a friend who had been in a wheelchair for more than 20 years as a result of a car accident and who was determined to teach her legs to walk again: “Nothing is set in stone!”

    Years ago we were taught that intelligence and abilities were predetermined and weren’t changeable, so when women and men were told they had limitations based on gender, for the most part they believed it! A few brave souls pushed themselves and pushed the limits but many were chastised and punished for their efforts.

    Now years later we see they were right all along! The limitations are in our minds! We can do pretty much anything that we set our minds to do!

    Back to my friend who went through equine therapy to teach the muscles and synapses in her legs to learn to refire and to function again. She also did modified yoga poses, sometimes on her back to strengthen her muscles. Guess what? She was successful! She did something that her doctors said would never happen!

    Setting our minds to be open to learning is the first step to becoming capable of doing it. Efforts and persistence fill in the blanks over time and help us to develop the skills we seek to do!

    Your mum is an inspiration for us all!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love your comment, Tamara!! So hopeful and illustrated with an amazing example from your friend. That is wonderful! I especially like “Setting our minds to be open to learning is the first step to becoming capable of doing it. Efforts and persistence fill in the blanks over time and help us to develop the skills we seek to do!”

      Yes, yes yes! Thank you for adding your amazing positivity and experience to this conversation!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you, Wynne, for sharing this wonderfully rich post! I loved the quote by Mahatma Gandhi and also learning a little bit more about your mother. I think it’s so true what you’ve mentioned about blind spots. We can settle into our apparent roles and then feel lost if a partner or friend is no longer present to perform them for us. So many circumstances can teach us that we are wise to continue to grow, as your mother is demonstrating. My mother went through that, too, at the age of fifty, when my father’s body-mind suddenly passed. My mother, who had been the choir director at the church we attended, also played the piano at her apartment building, for gatherings in the common room for many years.

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