Junior High School was a breeze for me. I waltzed through all my classes and assignments without much effort and still aced all my classes. Well, with the exception of Twi and Pre-Technical Skills which seemed like a bore to me. I had no need to pore over my Social Studies notes and when I did study for a Science test, it was to simply skim and not really study. I came out of Junior High School with the proverbial flying colors and gained admission to my first choice senior high school.
Here, the small fish in the big pond syndrome started. In a pool of some of the smartest teenagers in Ghana, I had to find my weight around. I was no longer the eager beaver who finished his tests before the rest of the class. Pursuing science as my area of concentration showed me how much I had overestimated my intelligence. I could no longer sleep, wakeup in the morning and pass an exam without putting in the effort. I could no longer smile at the end of an exam and say “I passed it without even studying for it”. The only world in which that would have been true was where I was able to stretch my already long neck out of its seams to peep in on the work of the guy sitting in front of me. That made learning Science very hard for me.
You might be thinking Science was hard for me because it is not the best fit for me. I thought same too. That is the reason why I pursued Economics once I got to the university. In no time, the same thing happened. First semester of my first year was facile. I was legitimately enjoying demand and supply. The course was something I could relate with. Second year? Not much. The math came rushing in. it became more and more challenging. And what did I do? I sulked. I slipped back into my shell. I could not bring myself to apply the amount of effort needed to succeed. In my mind, if it did not come easily, it probably is not meant for you. Here I am now flirting with writing because I think it comes easily to me but in reality, I am not being challenged yet. Maybe the same thing would happen once I have challenging writing needs to meet.
Why am I going on and on about myself in a review that is meant to be about a book without me as a character? Reading this book, Mindset, put a lot of what I described above into perspective. This book is a powerful read to help you condition your mind into one that inures to your benefit and growth.
Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset, categorizes the types of mindset people have into two. One is the Fixed Mindset and the other is the Growth Mindset. As the names suggest, one is focused on growth and the other is not. But it goes way beyond that. Understanding these two mindset is key to dealing with challenges that come your way and getting to where you want to be.
In the fixed mindset, people crave instant gratification. They are happy to be labeled as smart, talented, winners. They like to look good. So they avoid challenges. When something comes up across their path that threatens the labels they have been accustomed to for so long, they retreat. They are better off without those challenges. That was me when Science got tougher. When titration and mechanics came way, I figured I was better off easing my way into a course of study that did not threaten the you are so smart compliments I had grown up with. When integral calculus popped up in Economics, I figured I was better off in a Political Science class which would have been easier. Thing is, training your mindset to be growth oriented does not mean doing things you do not love yet are challenging. It means appreciating the challenges that comes your path. Figuring out what you love is hard. What is relatively easier is conditioning your mind to excel at the things that seem harder.
The growth mindset sees everything as a learning opportunity. If something is hard, then it provides you with a chance to learn. To see the obstacles as things that need figuring out and not stumbling blocks that prevent you from progressing. If I had the growth mindset, I still might have made the Science to Economics switch. What I would not have done at any point in time is to have seen the challenges as things that need to be escaped from. So even if I had decided to make the switch, it would not have been because I was not excelling at Science. It would have been because I had genuinely found something I loved more. Not something I thought was easier. The growth mindset believes in the process. It cherishes effort more than results.
These mindsets can be applied to almost every endeavor in life. For a teacher, a growth mindset means a test score does not say anything about the potential of the student. At best, it only speaks to what the student is capable of in that very moment. I vividly remember a classmate of mine back in JHS who out of the blue became one of the best math students in our graduating class. Prior to that, he was a back bencher who was never considered amongst the “smart ones”. There are several mates of mine who were classified as “dumb” back in JHS (for want of a better word) who I later met in the university. They embody the growth mindset. They did not see the negative labels as true of their worth. They took the criticism, which was poorly put across, and worked assiduously at it.
For a couple, mindsets mean the key to a fruitful relationship is effort. You do not assume that if it is meant to be, it would be. They lived happily ever after never happens. What happens is They worked at living happily ever after. But even before you get to the point of working at living happily ever after, you need to put in the effort to get the lady or guy you want. Like Bob Marley famously said ““If she’s amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you wont give up. If you give up, you’re not worthy. … Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.”
I wish I had read this book years ago. I wish I had stumbled upon it while my studies in the Sciences were excruciating or when I was on the verge of flunking my courses in the final year of my studies. This book is almost the holy grail of unlocking the key to your potential. It would give you the right mindset to do just that. It was worth my 25 cedis.