In her book ‘Mindset – how you can fulfill your potential’, Stanford professor Dr Carol Dweck talks about two kinds of mindsets which people can bring to their lives. One is a fixed mindset, which assumes that ability is inherent – you’ve either ‘got it’ or you don’t. Someone with a fixed mindset can be quite brilliant, as long as life is going well. However, they don’t tend to bounce back from setbacks very easily, and can often end up blaming other people, or circumstances, for their lack of success.
The second type of mindset Dweck calls a growth mindset, which assumes that there is always room for improvement. Someone with a growth mindset will actively seek out help and advice, as they realise there is a lot they can still learn. They enjoy being challenged, and don’t feel threatened being around people with superior abilities. When something goes wrong, they will feel upset, but will also learn from the experience and work towards resourcing themselves better for next time.
I used to notice this when I taught piano and oboe. A student would come in and play a piece which wasn’t quite polished yet, and then wait for my feedback. Some students hoped that I would say, ‘that’ll do, let’s move onto the next piece’, and didn’t like the idea of doing more work on the piece. Another type of student knew that the piece wasn’t quite ready yet, and was looking forward to learning from me how to make it better. Needless to say, the second type of student made much better progress, and enjoyed the lessons more – they were inwardly motivated to improve, rather than waiting to be told by the teacher that more work had to be done.
Like music, meditation is also a skill which needs to be learnt and practised, but sometimes we can be caught up in assumptions that meditation should be easy, it should ‘just happen’. We might do a course or a retreat to find out what it’s all about, but then get frustrated when we encounter ongoing obstacles in our meditation practice. In the coming few weeks, we’ll explore the growth mindset a little further, and how we might be able to use it to deal with some of the common obstacles to meditation which we all face from time to time.
Weekly practice idea:
Quickly write down ten words which come to mind when you think about the word ‘meditation’. As you read back over the ten words, do they give you any interesting information about your approach to meditation?