Carol Dweck’s presentation today at the ASCD National Conference spoke to me on both a professional and personal level. I’ve long been a fan of her work having read Mindset a few years ago. If you are not familiar with mindsets, take a detour here. While reading, I recognized in myself elements of a fixed mindset and vowed to work on this. I’ve done well in some areas and still need tremendous work in others. Today, though, Dweck touched on areas I didn’t want to think about. She zeroed in on the very behaviors that haunt me and have kept me from becoming my best. Then, she invited me to give those behaviors a name.
Dr. Dweck forced a spotlight on an area that I’d been flirting with exploring but wasn’t ready to commit. She called me out and invited me to do something about it. At this point, to ignore it would be cowardly.
I pride myself on a strong belief in reinvention. Anyone at anytime can assess a situation and decide to make a change for the better. I really do believe this for every person in the world. Every person except me. For whatever reasons, I have never bestowed the same grace upon myself. I give myself one shot and one shot only to get something right. Sometimes, I don’t even allow that one shot- I don’t even try. If and when I try and fail or even think I could fail, I jump ship. I bail before the failure could be linked to my abilities. If I can’t bail, I wallow in self-doubt and recriminations. Consider it the curse of a recovering perfectionist.
This blog serves as an excellent example. I have 21 different blog posts in rough draft form. I haven’t published a single piece since November. I blamed my busy schedule, overwhelming workload, and a family move for not posting more. If that was the case I wouldn’t have 21 topics and drafts. Real talk is a fear of others reading my ideas, finding fault, and judging me as less than.
In today’s presentation Dweck clarified that fixed mindset is a part of all of us. My take is that once you’ve experienced a fixed mindset you can’t shake it as much as understand it and try to avoid it. I’m now thinking of mindset as a continuum where one continually strives to move in the direction of a growth mindset. Constant vigilance is necessary though to prevent backsliding into previous fixed mindsets. That’s what happened to me. I backslid. Much like a dieter who finally made it to goal and then found cake again. (Which, to be honest, I’ve done that, too.)
Lately, I’ve been self-assessing and realizing the toll of my fixed mindset. It is paralyzing. The unacknowledged belief that you are one screw up away from disaster kills progress. It causes angst and disengagement. I don’t want to be desensitized and afraid to be myself. I want to dare greatly like Brene Brown encourages and try and fail and try again.
To do this, I need to have a talk with Fran. Fran is my fixed mindset persona (complete with the Fran voice). She sees herself as a quitter. And, she’s a quitter because she knows what others haven’t figured out — she’s really not good enough to do this work. She can’t juggle the expectations like others can. She has managed to fool everyone, but eventually they’ll figure out her secret. When she feels doubted or has set backs, she disengages.
Fran is annoying. Most importantly, Fran is not me. But, Fran is a part of my life. She is going to require supervision and management so that I can grow, learn, and push my boundaries without interference.
I invite you to meet your Fran, the fixed mindset persona haunting your life. Get to know him or her and set boundaries in your relationship so that you can grow and flourish.
Most importantly, Fran is not me.