“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
I’m learning that the wisdom is in the attitude, not the outcome.
The other day, it was pouring outside and I needed my raincoat. I’d left it to dry in the bathroom the night before, but when I went to get it, I found that the bathroom had been mysteriously locked from the inside!
I had never picked a lock before.
Almost immediately, I recognized that familiar feeling I get when I’m anxious. I briefly considered leaving without my raincoat. No, I really needed that raincoat. I considered interrupting my partner Steve for some help, but then, I thought about Sal Khan.
Who’s Sal Khan? Sal Khan created the incredible Khan Academy, a free online education platform. You can read more about it’s history here.
Sal Khan is a math and science guy, but the way he speaks about learning is so poetic, expansive and inclusive. He talks about “the beauty of ideas” and is convinced that we are all capable of learning almost anything, regardless of race, background and other demographics.
Several weeks ago I was listening to this interview between Sal Khan and Preet Bharara, a well known prosecutor. The interview was quite lively between the 2nd generation South Asian men as they compared their upbringing, expectations, and how differently they approach things with their own kids.
I’ve listened to this interview several times already because it’s so refreshing and exciting to hear about coaching approaches being applied in the classroom and real life.
Preet delighted in learning about how Khan differs from him in child rearing. For example, how they praise their children: Khan never tells his kids they are smart, but Bharara says he does all the time (although he may be rethinking that now).
Khan equates “learning mindset,” with a growth mindset. People like Khan and motivation researcher Carol Dweck believe that we are all capable of learning anything and everything, as long as we are allowed to learn at our own time and pace to build a strong foundation.
Khan believes that if everyone had a strong foundation, “people would see that subjects that many tend to think of as “hard” or outside of their capabilities like calculus and quantum physics, aren’t more difficult than anything that came before them.”
To cultivate this learning mindset, he praises their struggle, learning, setbacks and approach, over their outcomes. While he uses different language, Khan talks about how our “inner critic” can show up in our early days at school and stay with us, completely influencing the course of our lives.
So back to being stuck at my door in the rain: I laughed out loud and thought, picking a lock isn’t calculus or quantum physics! I took a deep breath and told myself to be patient. I told myself that with enough time, I could figure this out.
My first attempt with a paperclip didn’t work, but the screw I found in Steve’s toolbox did! Voila, I had my raincoat! The biggest surprise was how quickly I was able to unlock the door. With that action, I had made a small contribution towards cultivating my own growth mindset.
In coaching, a fixed mindset is a big theme that shows up with clients precisely in the moment that we challenge long held beliefs, challenge self-imposed limitations, and take charge in creating a growth mindset. I’ve observed, in differing degrees, where a fixed mindset shows up with clients, friends (and their kids), my family, and even myself!
Thankfully, we can all cultivate a growth mindset from so many different angles: working with a coach, reading books by authors like Deepak Chopra and Carol Dweck, listening to TED talks and podcasts, using affirmations and practice exercises – there are never ending resources on growth mindset!
Five Questions to Develop a Growth Mindset
Where have you found your inner critic or fixed mindsets popping up? What have you tried to challenge yourself?
Try out these 5 questions below to develop your growth mindset. These can be applied for a specific large challenge, or a small every day challenge.
- What did I learn from today’s performance?
- What steps did I take to set myself up for success?
- What are some different strategies I could have used?
- How did I stay motivated when I started to stumble?
- What can I learn from others who have had more success at this?
These questions can also be applied at the beginning of the day. For example: What can I do to help ensure my day goes well?