There is something about me you'd be surprised to learn, given my personality and interests. I never learned to play chess. Fortunately, this has been corrected by a close friend with weekly lessons. This new adventure has brought out a long-forgotten feeling; the fear of seeming stupid. At some point, I began believing that since I'm "smart", things should not be difficult, and when they are, it means I'm not as "smart" as I believed. Such a limiting belief.
I've not always been able to so accurately articulate this fear. I've been reading a book titled "Mindset", by Dr Carol S. Dweck, which made me realise that I'd been veering more towards the fixed mindset than the growth mindset. If you've been alive for more than 10 minutes, you've heard comparisons between these two mindsets, usually concerning careers and work, but it's so much more than that. Here's a snippet from the book written by the inventor of the IQ test:
... Wasn't the IQ test meant to summarize children's unchange-able intelligence? In fact, no. Binet, a Frenchman working in Paris in the early twentieth century, designed this test to identify children who were not profiting from the Paris public schools, so that new educational programs could be designed to get them back on track. Without denying individual differences in children's intellects, he believed that education and practice could bring about fundamental changes in intelligence. Here is a quote from one of his major books, Modern Ideas About Children, in which he summarizes his work with hundreds of children with learning difficulties:
"... A few modern philosophers ... assert that an individual's intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protest and react against this brutal pessimism. ... With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgment and literally to become more intelligent than we were before."
Who's right? Today most experts agree that it's not either-or. It's not nature or nurture, genes or environment. From conception on, there's a constant give-and-take between the two. In fact, as Gilbert Gottlieb, an eminent neuroscientist, put it, not only do genes and environment cooperate as we develop, but genes require input from the environment to work properly.
Funny, right? The modern usage of the IQ test locks in potential and deems it unchangeable. This is the mindset propagated by our culture. People are often lauded for being "naturally" gifted, even when they worked for many years developing those skills. We are obsessed with the fairytale of someone sitting at a piano for the first time and playing a whole concerto. That is entirely antithetical to the definition of potential; if it was a quality already possessed, we wouldn't call it potential.
Potential. adjective; having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future.
As soon as these feelings began coming up, and I'd attained the language to name them, I moved in their direction instead of away. Why would I be good at chess if I'd never played before? Isn't the first step of sorta being good at something sucking? And you know what happened? Ease and joy filled my heart. I felt like a child struggling over a puzzle just outside their limits; I felt the joy of growth instead of the fear of being forever defined by my current abilities.
What if we carried this mindset into the rest of our lives? How would this change our relationships, the limiting beliefs we've long accepted about ourselves, and that often over-indexed part of our lives, our careers? What if shame and fear no longer hold you back?
Be you, don't believe what you think, and be great! Talk soon 👋🏼