Losing Brain Cells

Let’s talk about growth mindset. Raise your had if you were taught that if you lose brain cells, you can’t get more. I know I was when I was a kid–part of the “don’t watch too much TV” campaign. Growth mindset is the opposite. It’s the idea that your brain can create new neural pathways, that you can get smarter.

I’ve been doing growth mindset printouts and videos with my kids the past couple of weeks. Class dojo has some great videos on the subject! Very digestible 🙂 And MissWinter’sBliss has a bunch of free printouts.

One of the printouts we did was one that compares fixed and growth mindset. It was so helpful, I’m going to give you the list. As you read through them, ask yourself which characteristics fit you.

Fixed Mindset…

  • is jealous when other kids do well.
  • believes it doesn’t help to work hard.
  • won’t try new and hard things.
  • avoids challenges.
  • believes if they don’t try they won’t make a mistake.
  • gives up easily.

Growth mindset…

  • is inspired when others do well.
  • believes effort helps them learn.
  • likes to try new things.
  • loves a challenge.
  • can learn from their mistakes.
  • keeps trying until they can do it.

I have to admit, reading through the list was a little painful. There are times when I’m firmly in fixed mindset–jealous of the people who are succeeding at the things I want to do, believing hard work never gets me anywhere, afraid to try new things, challenges, or mistakes, and giving up easily.

Sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in circumstances. I get cranky and overwhelmed with the distance between where I want to be and where I am. And sometimes I don’t do the work because it feels too hard (impossible). I just found myself procrastinating on facebook instead of moving forward on a project.

So what about you? Do you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?

This is such a vital issue! As Christians, the essence of sanctification is to keep growing and changing. I LOVE that God created us with room to make mistakes and learn. We see this so clearly with children, but I think we forget to give ourselves (and others) the same grace as adults. And sometimes we just plain forget to grow–we get stuck doing the same things in the same ways because it’s comfortable and familiar. But following God’s call requires stepping out of our comfort zone. It requires doing different things or doing the same thing a different way. It requires change (I know that’s a four letter word to some people).

One amazing thing about growth mindset is that if you’re in a fixed mindset, you don’t have to stay there–you can become someone with growth mindset. This is something I’m working on. When I hear myself say, “I don’t know how to do this,” I add “yet” onto the end of that sentence. I’ve also been stepping out of my comfort zone a little more. Developing a growth mindset is a challenge, but it’s one well-worth doing.

As I’ve switched up my thinking, I’ve definitely seen benefits! For example, I’m much more willing to give myself grace. I used to beat myself up for mistakes. Now, I can tell myself that it’s okay to make a mistake and that mistakes are the stepping stones to success. It’s definitely lowered my stress level not having that negativity hanging over me! And I can cheer other people on because their success shows success is possible–it’s an encouragement that I too can get there.

So what about you? Where did you fit on the list, and what are you going to do about it?

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Christian Living

Failing well

I recently started working through Lysa Terkeurst’s Bible study “The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands.” I’m really enjoying it!! I definitely needed to hear the importance of prioritizing this week.

In session 3, she talks about the difference between an error and an end: “An error is an unintentional mistake; an end is a termination,” (p. 89). She was talking about how fear of stepping out of God’s will can paralyze us. We get stuck in the belief that failure means an end–a mistake from which there’s no recovery, no way to fix the mistake. I have to admit that’s my tendency. I think it comes from having had situations where relationships ended no matter what I tried.

But errors are unintentional mistakes that God redeems. If we’re trying to follow God and we don’t do it perfectly (who does?!), God is able to redeem that error into something beautiful. He can use it to change our lives for the better and to change others’ lives for the better.

I’m reminded of the net under tightrope walkers. If they make a mistake, the net is there to catch them, to keep them safe. And then they can try again. There’s a freedom in knowing one doesn’t have to be perfect.

It’s like Carol Dweck talks about with a “growth mindset.” A growth mindset is one where you believe your brain can become smarter, you can learn new skills. You make mistakes because you know that it creates new neural pathways in your brain, allowing you to come closer to attaining your goal.

We’ve been talking about surrender all week on our podcast, Epic Every Day, and how it takes guts to surrender to God. It’s not easy. Mistakes are a place where surrender comes in handy. It brings God’s redemption into play.

And it aligns us with what’s already true–we can’t make any situation (mistake or not) come out right, regardless of how hard we try. I often hold myself to the standard of making things come out the way I think they should, but it’s a ridiculous standard. I am as incapable of directing circumstances as I am of directing the wind.

Obviously, that isn’t to say that our actions don’t matter. They do–they matter more than we can understand. We don’t have time to waste on getting caught up in inanities, in the busyness of life. We have to do the things God has called us to do. We have to apply the CSC’s (being calm, surrendered, centered, connected, & complete) or we’ll miss out on freedom and abundance and peace. Those things are worth fighting for–at least for me.

Lysa references Proverbs 3:5-6 and argues that the opposite of trusting God is trying to figure everything out on our own. She has three different spectrums as a measure of where one is at with trusting God: what degree thought about the situation, what degree you’ve prayed about the situation, what degree you’ve entrusted the outcome of the situation to God.

As I was placing myself on those spectrums, it was definitely convicting. I often pray because I’m trying to convince God to work in my situation, rather than praying out of trust. Or I’ll get stuck trying to piece together every possible scenario and what the best thing to do about each of them is and forget to pray.

That’s not who I want to be. I want to be someone who makes mistakes well because I am learning and growing and because I believe God can redeem them, rather than someone who avoids acting out of the fear of making mistakes.

So what about you? How do you handle mistakes?

Failing Well


Freedom to Fail

So if you have small children, you’ve probably been introduced to Laurie Berkner (and if you haven’t, you should be). Her music is complex enough not to feel your own brains dribbling out of your head while you’re listening to it, yet bouncy and designed for kids. The lyrics are fun, but often teach something. My girls listen to her Rocketship Run album quite a bit. Enough that the songs get stuck in my head, which is sometimes ok with me and sometimes not.

Anyway! I’ve been doing some thinking about failure this past week. It started whilst reading Making Small Groups Work: What Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. In there they talk about one of the benefits of a small group is that the members “treat their failures as opportunities to learn instead of toxic opportunities to feel guilty, ashamed, or ‘less than.'” (p. 36) I’m always struck by the idea that failure is necessary for growth. Part of my upbringing was an aversion to failure because of what it said about you as a person. But that’s not the way failure should be. Failure should be an opportunity to learn. But, as Love and Logic parenting teaches, we can only learn from our failures if we feel secure (hence, the need for a safe, loving environment, like a healthy family or a small group).

In the midst of this I’ve had a Laurie Berkner song running through my head off and on. It’s called “Balance Beam” You can listen to the whole thing here. The pertinent lyrics for our discussion are: “I might trip and I might fall and that’s ok cuz after all I can get back up when I hear the call of my balance, balance beam… I might trip and I might fall and that’s ok cuz after all mom and dad will love me through it all on my balance, balance beam… ”

As Christians, we have that safety net to trip and fall, not because of who we are, but because of who our heavenly Father is. God calls us to be perfect as He is perfect, but Jesus came to give us a perfect record. When God looks at us, He sees Jesus’ perfection, rather than our imperfections. When Jesus died, He bought up all our sin and all the consequences of that sin–He works our failures into something beautiful and good, something that’s for our best. I realize that we’re not supposed to emulate the Romans where Paul talks about them sinning so that grace can abound, however, I’m a little jealous of that gung ho confidence that my sin and failures can be good.

We know that God uses our failures. We know that He loves us and will love us even when we fail (while we were still sinners, Christ died for us-Rom 5:8). We know that He sees our frailty, our penchant to sin and make mistakes; He knows that we are dust and has compassion on us as a father has compassion on his children. We have the security necessary to fail and the knowledge that failure is not life-threatening (as I once believed).

It’s so interesting, isn’t it? The world sees Christians as uptight and full of rules, yet, as children of God, we are more free to fail than anyone else.