Over the weekend I was doing research for the upcoming seminar Doug and I are hosting on mindset and motivation.
If you’ve ever done any reading on mindset, then you’re likely familiar with Dr. Carol Dweck’s research on a growth versus a fixed mindset.
In this particularly talk, she highlighted a school in Chicago where, students had to pass a certain number of classes to graduate, and if they did not pass a course, they got the grade not yet.
(*insert mind blown moment here)
They got a grade that let them know that learning is not finite, but a fluid, continuing process and, as Dr. Dweck says, gives them a path into the future.
(*Insert second mind-blown moment here)
What a fantastic way to think about learning and doing and just being.
For the most part, I was an A-B student in school. I had subjects I loved, like English and Literature, and others I didn’t like so well, like science and math. But it wasn’t until I took Algebra in eighth grade that the material just flat out confused me.
Mr. Lambie stood at the front of the room saying things like “if X=10 then…”
And I sat there thinking, if X=10 why don’t we just say 10 and leave the letters to other classes. (I still think that…just sayin’).
I’m not proud to admit this, but because of the sheer panic I had of getting a failing grade, I cheated. My friend Amanda sat next to me and let me copy her answers on tests. I was ashamed of cheating.
But I was terrified of failing.
As I watched Dr. Dweck’s talk on mindset, I tried to think of how my experience (and opinion) of math might be different if I hadn’t felt as though I were hanging over the fire of failure. Because that’s really what we’re talking about here.
Smart or dumb.
Pass or fail.
Good or bad.
And while I cheated my way through eighth grade Algebra, for the next three years I barely passed Plain Geometry, Algebra II and Trigonometry. The only reason I squeaked through any of those classes was my effort. I handed in my homework and tried. But I was also convinced that I would never understood the material, so while I put in effort to pass the class with a D, my mindset was already firm - I wasn’t smart in math. So I quit trying.
I did what I needed to do to survive the class.
And decided that I hated math. Because we often hate what we’re not good at.
I am trying to imagine what my mindset now might look like if someone had told me not yet.
You don’t understand the material…yet.
It’s no wonder so many people come through the doors of a gym - or even sit in the parking lot of a gym trying to muster the courage to go in - if their experience of gym class or dance class or youth soccer was anywhere near my experience of Math class.
Yet I know that there are many people out there - heck many of you reading this post - that did have that experience of exercise of fitness. And perhaps you have a fixed mindset about the exercises, the workout, the movements, the process, the results.
As a coach, I’ve become a stickler about the language I use around clients, and the language that clients reflect back to me. Because there is so much power in the words we choose. Those of you who come to the gym know that you may never tell me that you only did three sets.
You may never tell me that you just lifted 15lbs.
And it seems only fitting to include not yet into our gym (and life) lingo as well.
I can’t do a push up……yet.
I haven’t dropped a pants size…..yet.
But you will. I’m telling you now that this process can be long and difficult and filled with road blocks but it doesn’t mean you can’t get where you want to go. You might not be there…. yet.
But you will get there.
And if you can’t believe it for yourself, then I’ll believe it for you until you can.