As a child of the 80s and 90s, mindset was never a “thing.” Whether due to the times, being raised by a generation of Baby Boomers, or a cultural byproduct, there was clearly a pattern revolving around school that was repeated until I reached university. I can remember how I was praised when I did well (“You’re so smart!”), compared to others when I did poorly (“You know, your cousin is a straight-A student when it comes to math”), and reminded constantly of my natural talents and told to stick to them (“Numbers just aren’t your thing, stick to English instead.”) And it wasn’t until my early adult years that I became aware of another way to look at success—that trial and error was totally fine, answers weren’t always clear at the start, and that (gasp!) I could get better at those damn numbers if I tried another way.
That’s not to say I had a horrible childhood: mindset studies didn’t really come to the forefront until the early 2000s and what parent didn’t want their child to succeed, however misguided their intent? If anyone is knowingly nodding their heads at this point, then welcome to The Growth Mindset Redux: Its Not Just for Kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love that children are learning about developing their talents through hard work, good strategies, and helpful input from others rather than keeping to the more fixed mindset (aka, talents are innate gifts) from the days of yore. But I also think it’s important for adults to have a refresher every now and then for us, especially if you experienced a similar situation like me. And to also remember how much this applies to all aspects of life.
One of the biggest things that shifted the fixed mindset I grew up on was the type of people I started to connect with. These were colleagues, family members, friends, and mentors who gave their time when they said they were available, listened and honoured my experiences as my own, and gave constructive feedback when I asked. It wasn’t about empty words, blind encouragement, or resignation in order to get a quick fix. In short, these were people who were supporting my process; helping me uncover the solutions I needed to grow and respecting the time and effort that was put into it.
Like many others, I was hit pretty hard when COVID happened in 2020. I had to take the time to mourn because I had loved the life I had worked so hard for and knew that it would never be the same again. But it also gradually became an opportunity to slow down, learn new skills, revisit old hobbies, and develop new talents that I didn’t even know I had in me. And it seems like the world shifted its mindset too: we were staying connected and supporting each other, new businesses cropped up from old (and new!) passions, the importance of mental health came to the forefront, many took the time for personal development (and some even changed careers in the process), and the collective pause brought some breathing room and the realization that Hey, this slower pace feels much better for me. It reinforced the idea that when we are removed from a fixed mindset, the possibilities can become endless—that even though we are frozen by sadness, frustration, and fear, we can still grow from any experience. It’s never too late to learn something new. And as a new parent I really hope to instill that in my daughter through showing by example.
My current trajectory is entirely different than what I envisioned out of my post-secondary education and beyond. I didn’t end up being a teacher in an academic setting, but became a yoga and meditation teacher instead. I focused on myself and spent less time with people who fed me comparison despair and more time with those who celebrated and appreciated my accomplishments with me. My workplaces are happy places because they support constant growth and are not about projecting perfection. And those dreaded numbers I hate so much? I ended up taking an Accounting course and crushing it. Even though they’re still not my favourite things, me and numbers get along much better now.
So who knows what the future will bring? Whatever it has in store, I’m less afraid and cheering you all on as you continue your journeys too.
What areas of your life have you grown and whom can you celebrate those successes with?