The Power of “Not Yet”

The Power of “Not Yet”

Recently my two-year-old son started to learn the alphabet. Part of his learning process has been due to his playing — he loves to play with two toys in particular that help children learn their letters (one toy from each grandmother, respectively!). He has been playing with the apple the past few days, the one featured in the picture. With this particular toy, he is not only learning his letters but also the associated phonics. It’s a lot of fun to watch and listen to him; the letter “y” seems to be his favorite (we have been hearing “YAH!” a lot more lately 🙂 ).

 

Watching Gabriel learn reminds me of what Carol Dweck, Ph.D. says in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. I finally listened to the audio version of her book through a service I use (Scribd.com); in all seriousness, this was one of the most important books I have ever read. It has fundamentally changed the way I view my life and how I function in the world.

 

Pretty strong statement, right? Allow me explain.

 

In her book, Dr. Dweck explains the differences between the “growth mindset” and the “fixed mindset” (previous posts that explain these concepts are here: Your Mindset is Important and Mindset and the Art of Learning.) Very quickly, a “fixed mindset” means that we believe we have a finite amount of intelligence or ability (and wind up defending or proving that in our endeavors), whereas “growth minded” individuals go through life thinking that they can always improve and learn more. Essentially, growth minded individuals focus on the process of learning and essentially don’t pressure themselves into thinking they only have so much ability or intelligence — that ability and intelligence are not necessarily innate.

 

In her book, Carol Dweck explains how we do not expect a child to know how to speak or read yet; however, we do expect a lot of ourselves as adults in terms of what we think we should know. Interesting, right?

 

I know that I have berated myself over the years if I had difficulty mastering a subject immediately (ie tough subjects like organic chemistry!). I would condemn myself and get so angry (at myself) that it did not come to me as easily as it did for others in my classes.  I had this fear that I must not really be that smart if the Pre-Med students seemed to so easily consume the material.

 

For a number of years,  I was always working to improve myself, or master a new skill, but there were times I feared I wasn’t really that smart during the learning process, as if I had a limited amount of intelligence and that I had to “prove” that I had intelligence. I have always worked very hard, and I wondered if working hard meant I wasn’t smart if I didn’t know or understand a concept immediately.

 

Perhaps I had a bit of “fake growth mindset” for some time, which Carol Dweck speaks of in this outstanding video). With “fake growth mindset,” I believed that others could learn and improve (hence the coaching and mentoring I did through my various job roles), yet I did not apply that belief consistently to myself. As discussed in the video, many people are a mix of “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset;” sometimes we operate where we believe we can improve, whereas in other areas we think we either “have it” or we don’t.

 

So why am I bringing all this up? Because I know so many of us (including me for most of my life) operate predominantly with the fixed mindset. I believe I actually impaired my learning because I spent so much energy and time being upset that I didn’t know something the way I thought I should. What is so interesting about Carol Dweck’s book (and the video link above), however, is that her words are quite freeing. She explains that we should think “I have not learned or mastered this yet.”

 

It may sound overly simple, but such words are quite profound. I know that those words have changed the way I look at everything. For instance, I’m fairly new to blogging seriously, building up an author platform, online business, etc., and yet I’m trying those things. In fact, I signed up and am currently taking Jeff Goins’ Intentional Blog course, because I really felt I needed to learn and improve. Instead of looking at other people’s blogs and thinking “oh I’m a terrible writer and blogger…look at what they can do” I took a different approach. I thought “I’m new to this and I can learn. If they can do it, so can I. I just haven’t mastered it yet.”

 

There is also the caveat that sometimes we don’t necessarily have to or want to be the best, but maybe good enough is enough. That’s an incredibly hard viewpoint for a perfectionist. I was able to grow out of my perfectionism as I improved my prioritization skills; it came down to deciding how I want to spend my time, particularly only spending time on things that matter the most to me and things that I want to get better at.

 

Change is not easy, however. Though my “growth mindset” has been increasing the past few years, I am definitely not where I’d like to be as far as how I regard my progress and learning. But, I am trying to embed the words “Not yet” in my brain so that I can immediately acknowledge and address those self-deprecating thoughts when they pop-up!

 

And the last issue to address is dealing and managing with other peoples’ expectations (that can be a whole book, actually!) The past year has been very enlightening for me. I have had to cope with significant amounts of criticism for the new things I have been trying and learning, particularly when my book came out earlier this year. People felt that since I did not have an English degree, I wasn’t suited to writing/publishing. Or they wondered why I was spending my time that way instead of only working on chemical engineering.  But, I wanted to start somewhere and see what the public thought, the true test (which so far, the reception by people I don’t know has been fantastic actually! I have found the self-publishing and entrepreneurship circles to be extremely supportive and welcoming; I was even invited to several private facebook groups).

 

Maybe one day I will address managing others’ expectations more deeply than I did in my book or here. The bottom line, though, is that it is a red flag when someone has an expectation about your abilities. If someone thinks you can’t do something, it’s because they have a fixed mindset in general. They don’t feel you can improve or get ahead or they are fixed on the idea that you need a degree. But as I’ve been studying success a lot more the past few months, I have noticed that some of the most successful people are college dropouts! Look at Elizabeth Holmes, the number one self-made female billionaire; she dropped out of Stanford University or Chandler Bolt, a 21-year-old college dropout who started a self-publishing school and is on his way to 7 figures this year. It goes to show you that dedication and hard work, while having a growth mindset at your core, are really critical traits. They figured out what they needed to learn to get ahead.

 

If you are very hard on yourself, or if you did not realize that your potential really is limitless, that it’s just a matter of “not yet,” then I highly encourage you to check out the following links. If you don’t have time to read the book, try checking out some of these videos where Mindset was at the center of them:

 

Video: Carol Dweck on Inside Quest

Video/podcast: Tom Bilyeu with Lewis Howes on the School of Greatness Podcast

Book: Mindset: The New Pyschology of Success

 

I wish you all the best, and I sincerely thank Dr. Dweck for her life-changing work!  🙂

Why Everyone Should See The Lego Movie

Recently, The Lego Movie has become a new favorite of mine. The article below will help you see why. Additionally, what I find very interesting is the idea of the mind being a “blank slate.” Without spoiling the movie, there is a message that comes forth from the character, Emmet, who has a “blank slate” mindset. Instead of having to unlearn negative/fixed mindsets (see blog post http://www.optimizebooks.com/mindset/reframing-and-perspective/), he has such an open mind and is able to use that to his advantage.

It’s an interesting idea — because I’ve noticed that many of us are trying to unlearn a lot so that we may increase our chances for success!

That’s my two cents…check out the article AND the movie!

By the time The Lego Movie ended, I not only wanted to see it again to examine any subtle nuances I missed, but I was also grappling with several central questions of human existence — mainly, how I, one human being in this world of millions, can contribute something important.

Source: Why Everyone Should See The Lego Movie

Reframing and Perspective

When we feel overwhelmed or stressed, it is sometimes best to reframe the situation in our minds. We can also refer to that in terms of changing our perspective. For instance, if we were to take an aerial view, as if we were suddenly looking down at an issue from an airplane at 30,000 feet, we would feel less stressed because we would physically be in a position where we could not do too much about the issue; we essentially removed ourselves. This teaches us that managing situations can be helped by our mindsets. In Optimize for Victory: A Simple Approach to Overcome Challenges and Achieve Your Dreams, I discuss this concept in terms of identifying the System vs the Surroundings, as we typically do in engineering. You can basically draw a box around yourself — the system — and recognize that everything outside of the box is not necessarily within your control; all you can do is decide how you can be your best self. Identifying what is in your surroundings is sometimes a great stress reliever — you instantly realize you are not responsible for someone else’s actions but can only be responsible for yourself.

Earlier this week we started to think about mindset, especially in terms of the benefits of having a “growth mindset” (Your Mindset is Important). Connecting the concept of a growth mindset with the aforementioned reframing technique can be very powerful for us. Each has its own benefits, but the combination of having a base mindset of growth – that you can develop yourself for success – in addition to using the techniques of reframing situations in your mind when challenges arise – optimizes your chances for success!

Mindset and the “Art of Learning”

In yesterday’s post, I introduced the concept of having a growth mindset, as described by Carol Dweck (Your Mindset Is Important). Building on that, I would like to share a TEDx YouTube video that features mindset as a topic. Interestingly, the speaker, Eduardo Briceno, Co-Founder and CEO of Mindset Works (www.mindsetworks.com) uses Josh Waitzkin as an example of someone who has a growth mindset. If you remember the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, Josh Waitzkin (played by Max Pomeranc) was the main character depicted in the movie. Do not let the movie fool you — Josh Waitzkin is not only a Chess Champion, for he went on to become a World Champion in Tai Chi Chuan — mainly because of his growth mindset. I actually read Josh Waitzkin’s book a few years ago: The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence and I hope to read it again soon. Paraphrasing the book description, he essentially explains that achievement is a function of a lifestyle; lifestyle fuels a creative and resilient growth process. Such interesting stuff! Enjoy the video!

Your Mindset is Important

Welcome to the first official post for OptimizeBooks.com! Each blog post will focus on a particular area of achievement. Today’s focus is the importance of your mindset.

The word “mindset” has been bandied about a lot recently, but many people do not realize the short and long-term impacts of one’s mindset in life. Perhaps one of the best experts on the topic is Carol Dweck, Ph.D., the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Her research has focused on things like why people succeed and how to foster success — ideas that she described in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dr. Dweck’s website, mindsetonline.com, offers the highlights of what she has studied; it explains the importance of one’s mindset. In particular, Dr. Dweck explains that there is a difference between “fixed” and “growth” mindsets. A fixed mindset essentially means that you believe that everything is a given — that success is dependent on traits and qualities you either have or don’t have. On the other hand, people with a growth mindset believe they can develop and mold their abilities and talents, especially through effort and dedication [What is Mindset].

Though there is not necessarily a “right” or “wrong” type of mindset, we can leverage Dweck’s research for our own benefit. For instance, instead of having a fixed mindset, where we may try to prove ourselves over and over (because we think we have a finite amount of certain success traits), it might be more prudent to spend that energy and time on developing ourselves in a particular area, especially to work on our goals. Logically, we can optimize and maximize our chances for success if we focus our energy on personal development.

In Optimize for Victory: A Simple Approach to Overcome Challenges and Achieve Your Dreams, the ideas of optimizing yourself – particularly spending energy and time on what you can do, on how to achieve your goals, is a major premise of the book; in fact, it depends on your mindset. Given Dweck’s research, we can then realize how critical it is to develop a growth mindset and maintain the spirit of “optimizing” ourselves!