I was laying on my mother’s couch on Christmas day reading the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success when I heard a knock at the door. I found my cousin on the other side with a raw turkey in hand. “I came over to fry my turkey” she said.
I cracked a smile, “Come in, my mom didn’t tell me you were coming, but I’ll get things set up and do it for you.” I am now the family turkey fryer on Holidays, just so you know.
The conversation quickly went to how she was doing. “I don’t know Ebony, I’m sad a lot and I stay to myself more than I ever have.” She had lost her mother earlier this year, had a relationship end unexpectantly and her doctor told her that she needed to lose weight or start taking diabetes medicine. That is definitely enough to cause a bit of depression, but I was impressed with her response. Instead of waiting to get diabetes, she started walking around the track, eventually joined that gym and has now lost 42lbs in a matter of months. She told me of triumphantly how she conquered the elliptical.
“When I first went to the gym, I would only walk on the treadmill and go home, that is all I could do. Then I got on the elliptical for 7 minutes, then 15, then 30 and once I passed 40 minutes, I knew I could do an hour.”
She went on in an emphatic tone. “By the summer time, all of this will be gone” pointing to the bulge in her stomach. She went on to talk about how she has been investing in her relationship with God for peace and strength, doing some soul searching to figure out who she is and what she wants to do. “I’m even thinking about going back to school, the boys are both over 18 and it’s time to do me.” “Amen” I said.
My cousin exhibited the epitome of the growth mindset I had been reading about when she knocked on the door. The premise of the book is that ability, skill and intellect are not fixed, with time and hard work, we can grow if we learn from failure and not let it measure who we are. When things weren’t going right, instead of feeling stuck and giving up and in, my cousin decided to grow and put some effort into becoming the person she wanted to be. The elliptical story is a classical example, she went from walking around the track to an hour of rigorous cardio.
This made me think about my own life, where I had given up on things because I wasn’t strong in them, though my ability was fixed and/or didn’t want to do that hard work. I distinctly remember saying to a friend “I do not like to do things that I am not good at.” I realized I was just afraid of failure, afraid to put hard work and effort into something. I just wanted to be good, without the work. Of course this is not true of most areas of my life, but I’ve always felt my sports and artistic ability was fixed. Last year, I took up swimming, it was one of the hardest things I have had to do, being bad at something for a sustained period of time. It took a lot of tenacity to begin to chip away at my fear and improve my skill. I am by no means a good swimmer now, but I can do more than I started out doing. I even had a setback when I freaked out and had to be rescued while swimming in open water. Now I am thinking about going taking some more classes so I can swim unafraid in the ocean.
I think Richmond as a city is beginning to have a shift in mindset, from apathy to the desire to realize its full potential. I’m glad I get to be present for it, to watch and participate. People hear that we are 92 out of 100 of the top cities in the area of public transit and with a little encouragement from folks like me, they are beginning to see that it is possible to change that. I wonder what would happen if more people took on the mindset of growth, learned to get better from failure and thought that it was possible to improve. I wish more people, institutions and cities would have a growth mindset, saying to failure, negative statistics and loss, and we can learn from this, we can grow, we can put in the time and effort and we can become better.
The book points out numerous examples of athletes, business leaders and everyday situations, where people looked at disappointment as a challenge and put in the energy to improve, people we think of as naturals like Michael Jordon. I don’t want to be Michael Jordon, but I do want to put in the hard work to be the best and truest version of myself. I have an inkling there are many things budding inside that need time and persistence to fully bloom.
The beginning of the year is a good time for me to have read this book. A new year is a good time to set goals and intentions, to take on a new mindset even and allow that to transform my life. Sometimes we don’t necessarily need to change a lot in our lives, but we need a new way of thinking in our lives. I pray for new eyes to see, new ears to hear and a new mind to learn and grow. The author points out, “maybe we cannot be anything we want to be, but we can be and do a lot more than we think.” Touché
This reminds me of Paul’s words to the Romans, “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Happy New Year!