The premise of Dweck’s book is that if we believe we can change and improve then we will try to change and improve.
If we don’t believe it, we will never even try. Ugh.
It sounds so easy but of course believing something isn’t an act of will is it?
It’s the elusive result of understanding something at an experiential level.
I think my own biggest hurdle in life around this has been the moments where my beliefs about myself were so subtle or so engrained that I didn’t even see them as beliefs, but instead as the fabric of reality. Double ugh.
Pop spirituality aside there are some very convincing sources that demonstrate pretty well that what we believe, is what we observe and that what we observe is our reality.
I guess I wasn’t exactly wrong, but I wasn’t exactly right either.
I know I wasn’t right because it took me way too long to even begin to have an idea of how to be happy, and that’s kind of the point; most of us haven’t a clue how to get happy.
Modern consumerism thrives on this; MUST. FILL. THE. VOID.
We don’t know how to manifest better health, more money, a happy marriage, stress-free living, and we believe something outside us will magically make it all work out.
Intellectually, we know it’s not true, but we still deeply believe it.
Are We Good?
Do we believe that we are intrinsically good and capable of improving or do we believe we are stuck?
The ability to change how we see ourselves and our world; to change what we believe, is effectively the stuff dreams are made of.
So just what is it that allows us to believe we can or can’t change?
For that matter, what is it that underpins any belief?
From the perspective of Eastern spiritual philosophy there is no reality and no non-reality and therefore nothing to believe.
We are nothing but the consciousness that we identify with; that seer who peers out at creation through the windows of our eyes, endlessly ranking, ordering and labelling the world “outside”.
That’s good. Nope, Bad. Love it. Hate it. Meh.
The quality ascribed to these perceptions is often relative to who we think we are at any given moment.
The conundrum is that what we believe we are, and what we see around us, is completely relative to our state of mind (mindset) in that moment.
A fairly obvious example of this is, you just brushed your teeth and then drank orange juice; is the juice actually less sweet or did your perception of it change?
But the “reality” of our perceptions is infinitely subtle and complex. The “me” we work so hard to preserve could be summed up as no more than a string of memories strung together on the illusory thread of past, present and future.
Have I gone too far?
OK, well the point is that we determine who we are and more importantly who we could be, moment by moment based on how we perceive the world around us.
The “flavour” of this perception comes down, at least in part, to our mindset.
Enter Paddington Bear
If you’re not familiar with Paddington, drop what you’re doing right now and go and watch Paddington 2. Seriously.
Paddington Bear is all about the growth mindset. He takes tough situations and tough people and turns them into blessings and friends.
When Paddington is around, everyone is happier.
He does this entirely through one sublime characteristic he has; and it is the secret to the growth mindset.
Paddington Bear likes himself.
Yep, that’s it, I swear. He’s not righteous, he’s not condescending, he’ just feels his own feelings honestly as they arise and as a result is gracefully and sincerely compassionate, tolerant, patient, diligent and wise.
Does that mean it’s easy for him? No siree, it does not. But his code of honour is rooted in respect to self and other, allows him to uphold his ethos no matter how hard his “present moment” gets.
And that brings me to the point.
I believe that our mindset is utterly dependant on our self-worth.
And the only way to find the true value of ourselves is through our own hearts.
If we grew up in a childhood that was less than perfect, then we may need to deliberately, and dare I say religiously, reignite the natural loving warmth in our heart centre; first for ourselves and then for others.
Are we able to deeply feel our own feelings? If not, then try as we might to “do” good in the world, our actions will be disconnected from the fabric of truth and will not work.
Self-kindness is not self-indulgence, laziness, or hiding our fears; it is feeling the whole damned experience of being here in the now, feeling the sweetness and the sorrow of this world with our timeless open hearts and accepting it, just as it is.
I don’t want to minimize the fact that there are a great many people in this world right now, living wealthy powerful lives who lack even a notion of compassion and there are a great many more people in the world who are destitute but utterly full of heart.
The question we need to ask is not which among them look happier based on their status and goods, but who among them is actually happier?
The fact that we are not what happens outside us is a bitter a pill to swallow, but happiness is an inside job and “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Is It Corny?
Maybe but if we cannot receive love, we cannot give it and we definitely can’t be happy.
When we nurture ourselves with self-compassion our life blooms; we remember that learnt to walk by falling and forgive ourselves for real and perceived failures.
These are heart lessons and cannot be learned through study, intellect or pedantry.
Real wisdom is the result of experience alone and so we are invited to dive into the present moment and feel our way through guided by the belief that we will be better off for it.
The growth mindset is possible when we learn to trust ourselves enough to imagine that a better world is possible with a little intention and effort.
And there’s never been a better time to put our money where our mouths are don’t you think?
If personal development books are your jam then don’t miss this: Readitfor.me App Is the Best 12-Minutes Or Less You’ll Spend This Year… Maybe.
MK is a mobile game industry veteran with a big heart. As a life-long student of Tibetan Buddhist meditation she spends a lot of her free time discussing, reading and writing about what makes a life meaningful. She’s also working on a mobile app to help people heal.