Transforming the meaning of struggle

Image courtesy of Tribesport

Image courtesy of Tribesport

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.

Albert Einstein

I am excited. My skin is tingling. I feel like all the neurons and synapses in my brain are firing all at once. I feel like there are hundreds of tiny catherine wheels exploding all over my body. I have that ‘just stepped off a roller coaster rush’ (not that I do that too often).

I had the opportunity to hear Dr Carol Dweck speak this morning. Dr Dweck is a leading researcher in the field of personality, social and developmental psychologies. She is a professor at Stanford University and is well-known for her work on mindset.

In a nutshell, a very small nutshell, Dr Dweck’s work looks at two types of mindset, growth and fixed mindset. When we utilise a growth mindset we believe skill and intelligence can be developed through effort and practice. With a fixed mindset we believe intelligence or skill can’t be changed.

Today Dweck said something that really got me thinking. She challenged us to transform our meaning of effort and struggle. Our current value system associates making mistakes and errors as something negative, something to hide and shrink from. Whereas obtaining new skills and knowledge with ease is praised and respected. There is a widespread belief that if you are smart things should come naturally.

How often have you heard comments like “You did that quickly and easily. That’s impressive.” or ” Well done, you got them all right. You must be really smart”?

What if we changed our value system and easy meant boring? What if we thought that anything we could do with ease was really a waste of our time? What would that sound like?  We’d hear things like “You did that quickly and easily. You must not have been challenged. Would you like to work on something that helps you learn and grow?”

What if we changed our value system and struggling with something, making and then processing our mistakes meant we were working on something worthwhile? What would that look like?

What if we changed our value system to reflect that struggle means we are working hard on something we value?  How would that feel?

I believe this would change everything. We wouldn’t bemoan our areas of growth. We’d share them with enthusiasm, in a collegial way, to gain understanding, insight and momentum for change and improvement. Instead of deficit thinking we’d approach our life lessons with innovation. We’d start to love ourselves a little more. We’d become more confident that we could face any new challenge with effort and the right strategy.

This concept has so many implications, for all of us. It’s got me wanting to race outside and turn cartwheels. It’s also got me wanting to process it more and work out ways to enact it in my life.

What messages have you heard recently that resonated with you?




6 thoughts on “Transforming the meaning of struggle

  1. This post resonates with me so much , in fact I have been working on the skill of ‘Getting It Wrong ‘ for some time now Shannyon and do yo know what …I’m beginning to get it right .
    I have been married to a lovely man for many years , who I know loves me , but he always seems to get things right the first time he tries them . When I try get it wrong 😁 so I give up and leave it to him . Totally wrong move 😞
    Lately I have been doing things that I would never have attempted and I have got them wrong , once , twice , three times then ⚡️💫📌 I’ve got it right .
    It has given me immense confidence and proved to my husband that getting it right the first time doesn’t always give you the best results .😉

    • Cherry, that’s fabulous to hear. I’m so pleased you stuck with it and kept trying. It really does give you a fabulous sense of achievement. My husband is very good at physical skills, rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding, surfing. I recognised that I had a fixed mindset about these types of challenges because I didn’t want to fail where he succeeded. Now, I’m more willing to give things a go because I want to have more fun and experience life more.

  2. Shannyn this really resonates with me. You don’t have to read too many of our blog posts to see it is commonplace for us to be called crazy for all the adventures, the stresses, the unusual things that we do. this of course is just an example but we feel in doing things that are hard and challenging, even though we often are not good at them, that our life is fuller.

  3. I truly love Dr. Dweck’s research. And how fortunate for you to have the opportunity to hear her speak! I’m in total agreement with her thoughts on the challenges of learning. Personally, I never feel quite as accomplished without the struggle.
    Keep doing those cartwheels–I’m right behind you!

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