What to do with a big pile of poo?!  

Use a Growth Mindset for your next hurdle!

OK, so I wasn’t expecting this much poo but that’s life right?!  And don’t think that this is from the beautiful horse in the background because he is totally innocent.

Anyway many times in life we can feel like we have a big pile of poo to shift and I’m not just talking about when you are constipated! (Sorry! Can’t help the nursing joke 😉 ) We may not be able to choose the circumstance we find ourselves in or the hurdles we need to face but we can change the way we think about it! 

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 Fixed Mindset

The fixed mindset would say this pile is so huge it is going to absolutely take me forever to move it! In other scenarios, the fixed mindset might say I’m dumb if I can’t get things right the first time I was just not born smart enough. I’m just not a math person or I lucked out in the art department.  This type of thinking says my ability is fixed and I can’t do much to change it. So I might as well give up now and do something else. This kind of thinking limits us.

Growth Mindset

The growth mindset, on the other hand, would say things like Oh wow! here is a challenge I haven’t moved this much poo before!. Right, now how am I going to tackle this? I know, I will time myself to see how long it takes to move 10 barrow loads and then I will see if I can beat my time with the next 10 barrow loads. With other challenges, the growth mindset would say I didn’t get it right this time but I will keep having a go until I can get it. It says I don’t know how to do that maths yet but I’m going to take on the challenge and learn it. I want to learn how to create art so I will find a great teacher and practice until I can create something I love. 

How will you tackle your next hurdle?

Will you use a growth mindset or a fixed mindset next time you have a hurdle in your way? As an adult, I am only just learning about these concepts as a lot of the growth mindset research is relatively new. Thinking back to my teens and early adulthood I was fairly determined to learn things and did my best to apply myself (don’t worry I’m not perfect there was still plenty of procrastination when it came to assignments!). I would pay close attention in class and read my textbook over and over until I got it.  However, I did still compare my self to others and thought that I was not as talented as them because it took me so long to get my work done and other seemed to breeze through it so easily.

Can you identify times when you have used a growth mindset or a fixed mindset?

Mindset the Updated Edition

Recently I have come across the work of Carol Dweck who is a professor of psychology at Stanford University and purchased her book Mindset. It was her students that encouraged her to put together the book mindset. Her research was helping them so much that they wanted others to benefit from discovering the growth mindset as they had found so much value in applying these concepts to their lives. This is a very comprehensive book that can be applied in all areas of life to help people reach their full potential.

So while working in the garden and thinking about mindset I came to the conclusion that we can all write (or at least have a story in our head) our own growth mindset story. If we develop our own story we can use this when we come across difficult things to remind ourselves to take a growth mindset approach.

So first of all start with a problem – A big pile of poo!

Then think of some self-talk phrase you can use to exercise a growth mindset. For example, I don’t know how to move that much poo yet but I will try some things and see what works. Great a new challenge I can sink my teeth into! No matter how hard this is at first I can learn and improve my ability. I have never moved a huge pile of manure before but I am looking forward to achieving this as my trees will love it.

As you are facing the challenge think about what you are learning. Here is a picture of the tracks that I made in the weeds on the ground while I was spreading out the horse manure on my fruit trees. It reminded me of how our thinking runs tracks in our mind and creates pathways in our brain as we make links with our thinking. There is a choice to be made on whether you are going to wear a track of negative thinking with self-loathing or if you choose to keep going and know that with more experience you can get to where you want to be.   

Look at what you already know. I already know how to use manual handling techniques to move things (a great nursing skill to have) so I can apply this to moving all this manure and take care to I look after my back! Or build a growth mindset that says I don’t know this yet but I will. I will have another go. The tools I might need would be a spade and a wheelbarrow.  Last winter I planted 9 fruit trees on one day so I know that I can take on big tasks in the garden.

A well worn track from taking on a new task

If I keep persisting and experimenting with what works I will improve my skill. As we try more and head toward mastery we start to develop more skilled and specific knowledge. For example, with this task of shifting manure, I figured out the best place to position the wheelbarrow to make it easy to fill. To become more efficient as I worked I learnt how many forks it took to fill the wheelbarrow and how long it took to fill.  Finding small goals or small positives as you work on the problem helps us wear a deep track in our thinking that helps to develop a growth mindset. Celebrate the process and the effort, not the results!

It is also OK to ask for help. I mentioned this poo problem I had to a friend and he suggested that I use a pitchfork rather than a spade to move the manure. On my first attempt, I had considered a fork but thought that the manure would just fall through. It’s always helpful to speak to someone who has been there before. After speaking to my friend I tried the fork and it was a lot easier than the spade and really speed up the process.

When you have finished tackling your problem look at what you have learnt. Well, I never considered that I could learn so much from a gardening task but I did! I learnt that in doing physical tasks I could use the steps to structure my thinking. The way that you think of a task actually impacts the motivation you have to do it. Also, I learnt that I could write a blog post about poo and hopefully not make everyone too squeamish!

Helping kids develop a growth mindset

So how can we help our kids to have a growth mindset when they face big challenges rather than a fixed mindset? You could use the process that I have highlighted in the previous passages to help you child write or draw their own growth mindset story. Make sure that the story is on a topic that is really interesting to your child. Then your child can refer to this story when they come across big problems. It can help them to make some good choices with their thinking so that problems don’t freak them out or make them feel worthless.

Are there any other strategies you have tried that helped your child use a growth mindset?

Below are a couple of stories I have found which might help with introducing the growth mindset to younger children.

I hope this post has given you some ideas on how to approach difficult things in life. I would love it if you would share some comments below on what you think about growth mindset.

Naomi (about me)

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