I expect this will be a recurring theme. Today, however, I only have three mindset hacks to offer.
believing you can grow means you will
I’m still reading Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, which is all about this. I’ve covered the basics in an earlier post, but here’s another quick run down. In Carol Dweck’s research she has found people are divided between two mindsets about their abilities and traits. What I suspect is the more common mindset, she called the “fixed” mindset, because it supposes abilities and traits are fixed and unchangeable. You’re smart or you aren’t. You can imagine how, believing you can’t change, you can’t improve on your ability, the incentive would be to hide your failure rather than improve. That’s just what happens. On the other hand, some people believe they can improve with practice and effort. Interestingly, simply having this belief enabled people to perform better in many, many arenas of life. In one study referenced in the book, college students were tracked during what is known to be peak season for depression and stress on college campuses. Unfortunately, I can not remember or the exact details at the moment, and as I don’t have access to scholarly journals, couldn’t view it anyway, but here’s the gist: One group of students was in, or had been put in, the fixed mindset. The other group was either in, or had been put in, the growth mindset. Both groups experienced as much depression and stress during the course of the study, however when depressed or stressed, the growth mindset group tried harder. Students in the fixed mindset, on the other hand, confronted with stress and depression, ceased to put effort into their schoolwork and many other things. The key point to observe here is that simply the belief in their ability to improve by being challenged and expending effort actually made itself true. More on how this matters in the third mindset hack.
thinking about concrete actions cures procrastination
I first read about this here, where you will find a much more in depth explanation. The gist is this: two groups of students were given a set of simple tasks such as opening a bank account and whatnot. One group was told to think about the task in the abstract; it’s relation to their lives as a whole, to society, whatever – so long as it’s abstract. The other group was told to think of the specific actions required to accomplish the tasks. Even though both groups were paid for their participation in the study upon completion of the tasks, the participants in the second group finished much sooner. In fact, some of the students told to think of the task in the abstract did not even complete the task in the allotted time at all.
remind yourself what’s important
This is an informal experiment of mine, which I invite you to try for yourself. I have set up reminders for myself around the time I wake up, when I go to my lunch break, and when I get off work. Their sole purpose being to keep in the forefront of my mind these simple principles I have learned that, both according to research and personal experience, can have profound impacts on your actions. Also, I think it’s just as valid to remind yourself of your principles, and in fact, I think this could be just as useful for autodidacts. Currently I’m only trying this with the two concepts above, phrased in a way that hits home for me. Choose what you will for yourself. Every so often I will update with how this is working for me, until I come to a conclusion. I hope some of you will try it, I would like to see how it works for others, as well.
update on reading the art of learning
I’m nearly done reading The Art of Learning, which I still think is an excellent book. However, I do think it warrants some caveats. This book isn’t for everyone. It’s got a decidedly eastern feel to it, which is fine for me personally, as a zen buddhist. While I believe the concepts explained to be valid for everyone, and I’m sure many people would find this an enjoyable read, it’s not presented in a way everyone will be comfortable with. This is a shame, because there’s much value to what’s said. The other complaint I have is that the book is focused on competitive pursuits. Much of what’s presented can be adapted to the solo autodidact, but it’s not always obvious how. In short, it’s a great book, and I highly recommend it, but only buy it knowing what you’re getting.