“You mean I don’t have to be dumb anymore?” was the quote that tugged at my heartstrings and like so many TED talks, it made my eyes blur with inspired tears and a renewed faith in humanity.
We all know the type of kid who would utter such a line. In my first grade class, he repeatedly would have earned “Red Lights” on our traffic themed disciplinary system. Perhaps in your class, he held the time-out record, or he routinely sat in the corner like a sinner indeterminately condemned to purgatory. There he lurked, stuck in labels, categorized as bad, troublesome, and uninterested in learning. Teachers merely tolerated him. Principals expected him, and parents were exasperated by him.
But this type of kid, when equipped with the right mindset, could be the next influential mathematician, the next Nobel Peace Prize winner, the next Michael Phelps…or the next Next. Mindset is that powerful.
This is the encouraging premise of Carol Dweck’s TED talk entitled The Power of Believing That You Can Improve. I looked back on my own mindset as a kid. I feared a wrong answer like wallflowers fear contact with the opposite sex. I excelled in the arts, where concepts were less likely to be labeled wrong. Biology and Algebra stressed me to the point of nausea. In my mind, working harder in these subjects meant I wasn’t smart anymore. This is exactly what Dweck calls the Fixed Mindset. Wanting to understand her concepts on a deeper level, I dove into her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
Dweck proposes that everyone has either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset (and sometimes both). In a fixed mindset, you are who you are, your intelligence and talents are fixed, and your fate is to go through life avoiding challenge and failure. With a growth mindset, you see yourself as fluid, a work in progress. Your fate is one of growth and opportunity. The good news, says Dweck, is that mindsets are not set: at any time, you can learn to use a growth mindset to achieve success and happiness. Which mindset do you possess?
The book changed my life, and I want it to change everyone’s lives. From coaches, to parents, to teachers, to spouses, to all of us as individuals, we all stand to achieve more of our potential when we approach life with a growth mentality. Once you read this book, you will overwhelmingly observe how we praise success and “natural talent.” Spend one moment around a baby, and you’ll hear adults swoon with the best of intentions, “You’re a genius! You’re so brilliant,” but you’ll be hard pressed to hear, “I’m so proud of how you persevered with that block set. You really put in the effort!”
Malcom Gladwell, the author and New Yorker writer, has suggested that, “As a society, we value natural, effortless accomplishment over achievement through effort. We endow our heroes with superhuman abilities that led them inevitably toward greatness. It’s as if Midori popped out of the womb fiddling, Michael Jordan dribbling, and Picasso doodling.”
These ideas of growth, progress and transparency resonate with me deeply. Occasionally, I look back on old blog posts, and I cringe. I want to hide these inferior attempts at styling, storytelling and photography in the dark recesses of some internet closet, but I resist that urge for perfection. This blog is a journal of my life through food, and that life is one of exploration, progress and growth. It’s also a life with the occasional brick of a cookie or failed dough, but we learn, and we grow. It takes effort to apply this growth mentality to all aspects of our lives, which is why I recommend reading Dweck’s guide to improving your mindset. I like to read while eating breakfast, so I also recommend baking this batch of granola to accompany you as you embark on this journey.
About This Recipe: Granola is surprisingly simple to make and simplifies your morning breakfast routine. The use of almond butter and cocoa yields thick clusters with layers of flavor. The unsweetened coconut adds a light hint of coconut flavor, and the coconut oil adds lots of healthy fats to your breakfast bowl. Serve with raw milk if available, or homemade almond milk. Those last sips of chocolatey milk after your last bite are a bonus treat!