• Jennifer Meliton

Don't get fixed.

Today I have the opportunity to speak to students in the education department at California University of Pennsylvania. Here in PA we like to name towns after states to confuse people. We have Indiana, California, Washington, Nebraska... somehow it doesn't sound strange when you grow up with it.

Which is what I would like to impart to the students today.

Don't get fixed and don't stay fixed! That's not to say we are broken-quite the opposite. author and researcher Carol Dweck, from Stanford University, has published a great body of work on "Fixed vs. Growth Mindset". A fixed mindset is one that asserts itself as being either good at something or not. It believes that we know what we know, we can do what we can do, and we pretty much stick to that.

"Nahhh, of course I believe I can learn things, that's not me."


How many times have you caught yourself claiming one of these lines:

I suck at math.

I can't spell my way out of a paper bag. (And really what does that even mean?)

We are all bad cooks in my family.

Our brains are designed for homeostasis. That is to say, our brains like it same (homeo) and steady (stasis). Don't rock our world, don't pull the rug out, and do NOT replace our Heinz with Hunts (that's just common sense).

Dweck writes about the need to identify in which mindset we are working. A fixed mindset does not recognize that it may not, in fact, be correct about things all the time. Now that we've opened that door, let me push you through it. We're not right all the time. I'm going to venture to say that we might be wrong quite a lot, we are just really terrible at admitting it. School is a perfect place for reminders about this; kids are the best teachers.

We assume an awful lot based on our tricky little brain, that paints a full scale masterpiece out of a little gold pencil of information. Instinct is amazing and we should hone ours so that we learn to listen to our most basic instincts. But how often do we get it wrong and miss the chance to learn?

It's so easy to emerge from the world of university with confidence intact and pride unbounded. I have to tell you something. There is a slight chance of maybe 99% that there are going to be a lot of people with experience who want to temper that sense of awesome for you. And like steel sharpens steel and fire refines iron, we need it. We need to remember that people are out there doing it better than we can. We have to find those people and learn from them. An idea we have might be just super off. Wrong, even. Bad. Please, hear that and allow your mind to grow.

Look at every relationship, every opportunity, and every situation as something from which you can grow...even if you are pretty sure that you're right. Because what if you really are wrong about something? And someone schools you to do it better. You know what you'll be when that happens? Smarter. You'll have grown.

Even the standardized test industry is pushing for students to show performance over perfection, and that's a leap. So fix your mindset on this----- stay open to growing, and assume that you might not be totally right. It will make you the smartest person you know.

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