Scarcity or Abundance?
Many strive to be well-known, successful in the their field and reach “the top”. And in an environment where this is lauded, you often see a few people who are up front and they remain static, you don’t see a new crop of talented people emerging. Actually, there is a study which proves that praising intelligence and talent doesn’t foster self-esteem and accomplishment, but jeopardizes them. In this environment, people think they are entitled to their positions and lose perspective, while new or younger people are afraid to try thinking they may fail and miss the mark of being labeled one of the “talented” or “smart” ones. This alienates people instead of creating an environment for healthy growth and mentoring relationships. In short, there is scarcity of opportunity instead of abundance. This type of organization fosters a fixed mindset. Churches can be this way. So can schools. The very places in greatest need of tenderly nourishing and encouraging growth.
All for One, One for All
The other perspective is that there are unlimited possibilities for everyone to make a difference and to do something significant with their lives for a greater purpose, to honor the God who created them. In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—intelligence and talent (or giftedness) are just the beginning. This perspective creates a love of learning and a resilience essential for great achievement. The infinite-personal God gives us the gift of a life of purpose uniquely our own, but connected with the body of Christ. We can encounter challenges with courage and self-worth, and grow through them. And we can mentor and encourage the next generation to become all that they can be without fear of losing our positions.
Two Mindsets: Fixed or Growth
I talk with people who have destructive mindsets, leaving them in a fog of discouragement and morass of unrealized dreams when they encounter challenges. Emerging on the other shore ready to zealously explore new territories takes more than wishful thinking and Oprah-esque tips for self-improvement. True enlightenment comes from God and knowing His perspective of ourselves, our challenges and where we should go from here.
Carol Dweck, Stanford psychologist and author of “Mindset”, a book about a fundamental difference in thinking found that aptitude and raw talent have little to do with how far children will journey in life when they reach adulthood. Furthermore, she found that how people respond to challenges and failure depends, not on their failure, but on their mindset. A fixed mindset leads you to think that failure is enduring and defines your self-worth and abilities. A growth mindset leads you to embrace challenges and put forth effort in order to learn and grow, while seeing your self-worth as separate from success or failure.
People who embrace the fixed mindset, or unknowingly live in its grip, think in the following ways:
- I am either talented or gifted or not. I can do nothing to change this.
- If I fail, this proves I am not one of the gifted/talented people.
- I should only attempt things that are a sure thing.
- I am afraid someone will come along who is more talented or smarter than I am.
- Criticism reinforces that I am a failure and unworthy.
- Intelligence is static.
People who embrace the growth mindset think in the following ways:
- I embrace challenges because they will make me stronger.
- My self-image is not tied to how I appear to others or to success.
- Doing anything well requires effort.
- I can enjoy the process of growing and learning and eventually master skills.
- Feedback from others will help me improve.
- Intelligence can be developed.
Developing a New Mindset: A Faith-Growth Mindset
We can develop a Faith-Growth mindset which places our hope in God and knowing He is working in our lives and our world, while realizing it takes effort and continuous learning to get where we need to go and overcome the challenges we face in life. We can be encouraged by the faith hall of famers in Hebrews chapter 11 in the Bible who persevered and accomplished great things even though they suffered and did not finish all that they set out to do in their lifetimes. The legacy of faith was passed on to the next generation, and to us.
Jesus stated it well with this simple, powerful phrase: “With God, all things are possible”.
It’s Not About Us Anyway
As Count Zinzenndorf, founder of the Moravian Church, said, “Preach the gospel, die and be forgotten.” There is great comfort in losing ourselves for something greater than ourselves. For a greater cause, a greater purpose than our own egos, for the fame of someone who is altogether worthy of the worship of our hearts and commitment of our lives.