tehgeekmeister’s blog

May 29, 2009

some mindset hacks (and other stuff)

Filed under: Uncategorized — tehgeekmeister @ 12:15 pm

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.


  1. I saw your blog on the planet haskell feed (I think) and started reading The Art of Learning because of it. Great book, and I agree with your criticism of it. A lot of it resonated with me and my learning style, although I will never be either a chess master or a martial artist of any standing. I’m an engineer and as such have an urge to do things that are useful in some way, so it is difficult to appreciate chess for it’s own sake.

    I’ve just started in on Mindset, and it looks interesting so far! Thanks for the good additions to my reading list.

    Comment by Matt — June 3, 2009 @ 8:21 pm

    • It was probably on planet haskell, most of my readers come from there for the moment.

      The Art of Learning is great, I just wanted people to be aware what they were getting into if they bought it.

      Mindset is a good one, too, but I’m not as impressed with it. Examples are nice, but I think there are almost too many in it. I was hoping to get more of the meat of the research. Nonetheless it’s a great book, and I’ll look into the research behind it afterwards.

      Comment by tehgeekmeister — June 4, 2009 @ 2:31 pm

  2. As a follow up…

    “Much of what’s presented can be adapted to the solo autodidact, but it’s not always obvious how.”

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on adapting TAOL techniques for the solo autodidact.

    Comment by Matt — June 3, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

    • This will require some time and thinking, but I’ll do it over the summer. I was already sorta planning on it, actually, but it’s great to know someone wants to read it. =]

      Comment by tehgeekmeister — June 4, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

      • This is still an ongoing project of mine, but it’ll probably be a while before you see anything of this. But don’t think I’ve dropped it. =D

        BTW, the blog is now at tehgeekmeister.com.

        Comment by tehgeekmeister — September 24, 2010 @ 10:05 am

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