Drop a frog in boiling water, and it will jump right back out. No questions asked, it’s not wasting time, it’s getting the hell out of there. Drop it in a pot of cool water and slowly increase the temperature, and we have a different story on our hands. As the water’s temperature increases from cool to lukewarm to hot, the frog is enjoying the hot tub like setting. It’s comfortable. It’s cozy. Why would it want to leave? Then, before you know it, the frog has overstayed it’s welcome. The temperature has increased to an uncomfortable level, but it can’t move. The warmth and comfort of the water are paralyzing. The water is starting to boil over and the frog is stuck there, trapped by their own sense of comfort.
I read this metaphor in a book and I immediately saw myself in the boiling frog. My life has always been comfortable, and I’ve never seen a need to create any changes that would take time and effort. I’m incredibly grateful for not having to deal with too much stress and strife in life. To quote Farrah Gray, though, “Comfort is the enemy of achievement.” Like the frog, I was content with just sitting back and not making a splash. In realizing the frog’s unfortunate fate, I found myself asking a lot of questions.
Am I waiting around for something bad to happen?
Is there an opportunity for change and redirection out there that I’m ignoring because I’m too comfortable where I am?
Will my comfort zone be my demise?
If there are things that I can change and improve, what are they?
Naturally, these questions sent me down a rabbit hole of discovery and curiosity that I’m still happily working my way through. First came the books, then the podcasts, then the documentaries. I was grabbing any content I could hold onto that could teach me how to grow and benefit from challenging the edges of my comfort zone. Finding anything that could keep me from the fate of the boiling frog was my aim. I was, and still am, never going to let what makes me comfortable blind me from much-needed opportunities for change.
Now that I’m knee-deep in it and can confidently look back and say I’ve made some substantial growth, I wanted to share what people, concepts, books and podcasts have been a fixture in my journey. Each Friday I will come to you with one piece of my ever growing puzzle and share my insights that I’ve learned from it.
For our 4th edition of Boiling Frog Friday…
Carol Dweck’s amazing and perspective changing book Mindset.
Dweck’s book was one of the first book’s I read as I started to explore my personal development. The school district that I work in provided me with a copy when I was hired. It collected many layers of dust on a shelf until I got back into this whole “reading” thing. Once I finally opened it up, I couldn’t put it down. It covers the concept of your mindset and how it affects the way you see daily tasks, your job, your relationship and the world in general. It is an amazing book for anyone looking to improve their life and how they view it. I go in depth on this review, but this book is THAT good and THAT important. If you read it with a curious and open mind it can really shift the way you see the world and how you want to live in it.
Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset
Dweck’s Mindset dives deep into what she calls a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. She takes these concepts and weaves them through many applicable settings including relationships, occupation, learning, teaching and so on. I’ll do my best to give a simple description of each:
Fixed Mindset: Someone who has a fixed mindset believes that people (including themselves) have unchanging (or fixed) characteristics and abilities. If a person isn’t good at math, they expect that person will forever be bad at math. No matter how many extra hours they put in, or how many different teachers they seek out, they will never get better at math. To quote the great philosopher Drake…..okay, I know that’s a stretch…”If you ain’t got it, you ain’t got it, the theory is brilliant”. This can be applied to all skills including athletics, musical ability, public speaking, etc. Characteristics are also believed to be unchanged under this mindset. Things like being shy, being lazy, or a commitment-phobe will forever be that way. The flip side of this mindset is how an individual that is bright, skilled, or has charming characteristics is seen: it’s innate talent. Someone who is good at something doesn’t have to work for it, because they are a “natural”. In fact, on some level, showing effort is often a sign of weakness for individuals who fall into the fixed mindset. If someone is good at something, they should make it look easy, right? Dweck writes about many studies that involve people with a fixed vs. a growth mindset. Those with a fixed mindset often avoided things that were challenging out of fear of “looking bad” or “feeling stupid”.
Growth Mindset-Someone who has a growth mindset, however, sees life and it’s daily tasks in a completely different way. For individuals with a fixed mindset, failure can be debilitating. It is a shot at the ego, pride, and general self-worth. For people with a growth mindset, failure is simply feedback. To quote Robin S. Sharma (a little more respected in the philosophical quote game, I’m sure), “There are no mistakes in life, only lessons. There is no such thing as a negative experience, only opportunities to grow, learn and advance along the road of self-mastery. From struggle comes strength. Even pain can be a wonderful teacher.” This is what allows people with a growth mindset to change and expand their knowledge. They take information, good or bad, and use it to better themselves and the decisions they make. There are no “naturals” in the growth mindset, nor are there people who can’t attain a certain skill. Any skill or piece of knowledge can be learned to some extent given the growth mindset.
Now, Dweck not only does a great job of making these two mindsets crystal clear, but she also shows many examples of everyday life that would showcase their comparison.
Education-Praising process over product
One very cool study that was covered in the book was one in which they had elementary school children working on puzzles. They started each child off with an average, easy to solve puzzle. Then they praised the students one of two ways: for half of the students they praised their product and intelligence level (“That puzzle looks great! You’re so smart to have figured that out”), then the other half were praised for their process and work ethic (“You worked so hard to finish that puzzle! Great job and great work!”). After the students were praised, they were given the option of two new puzzles to solve; one that was harder and one that was about the same in difficulty level. The students that were praised for their work ethic and process universally chose to try the harder puzzle. They were excited and engaged in the task because it wasn’t about failing. It was about trying new things and techniques and learning along the way. The students who were praised for their product almost unanimously chose the puzzle with the similar, average difficulty. Why? Because they didn’t want to be not smart. They feared that if they tried something harder, but failed, they wouldn’t be “smart” anymore. It was an incredible showcase of the growth and fixed mindsets at such a young age.
Relationships and Marriage
A lot of people look at couples that are happy and in love as being “so lucky”. It’s great that they found each other and “they just work”. There’s no effort needed and they live life happily ever after. Dweck sheds light on this and shows that it’s actually the opposite. Having a quality relationship takes hard work and some form of the growth mindset to reach its full potential. We are all human and will make mistakes, but having a fixed mindset will only make those mistakes more magnified. They become things that are unchangeable and they stunt a relationships growth. Couples that have a growth mindset approach can share openly and honestly in a respectful way so that each individual can work on themselves AND the relationship as a whole.
Dweck highlights a few top notch CEOs in the book; some of the fixed mindset and some of the growth. What she showed was that those with the fixed mindset were comfortable in their successes. If their company had a good product that was selling, there was no use in working on that product or possibly exploring different business avenues to grow with the times. This ultimately led to the demise of many companies, due solely to their CEOs stunted or fixed vision on what it meant to be a successful company. Growth mindset CEOs that were highlighted, however, showed different results. In each case, no matter how good or bad the company was doing, they were actively seeking out feedback and ways to make their company and product better. These CEOs did their jobs and did them well and their employees respected them that much more because they were willing to take feedback from anyone in the trenches of the company.
These are just a few of Dweck’s many observations and insights about the growth and fixed mindsets. She goes much further into how to tell what mindset you have and ultimately how to transform yourself into a person with a growth mindset. Since reading the book I have been pushing myself to do just that. The biggest takeaway I have from the book is the phrase “failure is just feedback”. It has been an eye-opening experience to look at mistakes I make or “failures” and simply try to take the information presented from the situation and learn from it.
I hope that those of you who haven’t read Mindset feel inspired to go grab a copy. I also hope that if you have read it or any other book that you feel aligns well with Dweck’s message, let me know in the comments below!
Have a great rest of your day people! Until next time…
Until next time…