I’ve recently been testing my growth mindset to the maximum. At the age of 36, having never been behind the wheel before, I am learning to drive. I decided it was finally time to stop cadging lifts from people and shelling out for taxis.
As my first lesson drew nearer, I started to feel nervous, something that I don’t often feel when doing something new. So what was the problem? Then it dawned on me: this was the first time in a very long time that I was going to be learning something completely alien and new. I was facing a real challenge to my capabilities. Would I be able to do it? How would I fare compared to other drivers? If so-and-so can drive, then why would I not be able to?
Reflecting back I realised that all the ‘new’ things I’d thought of as challenges, hadn’t really been much of a challenge at all. Running a half-marathon instead of my usual 10k, learning jewellery making instead of my painting, making bread instead of buying it. They were all activities that I was comfortable with – anything physical, arty and or in the kitchen. I’d felt secure in the knowledge that I would achieve some success in my ‘challenges’ and I’d come out feeling good about myself. My growth mindset was not so growth after all, in fact I was displaying more fixed mindset traits – sticking with what I knew I was good at, knowing I wouldn’t feel silly in front of others and not stepping out of my comfort zone.
I realised that for the first time in maybe 25 years, I was actually going to be learning something completely new, something that I had no idea whether I’d be able to do or not. Youngsters are faced with this feeling (at school and elsewhere) time and again, and they need to have the right mindset to not feel threatened, to face challenges as an opportunity to try something new and to see mistakes as learning opportunities.
Well, I’m certainly getting plenty of learning opportunities during my driving lessons… That horrible pit-of-your-stomach feeling when you’re at a busy junction and you’ve stalled the car while there’s a queue of impatient drivers behind you, including those who angrily beep their horns, (I’ve decided to view these as sounds of encouragement rather than frustration!).
I believe that what I’ve learnt through the Foundation’s work on mindset has truly made my learning experience a more positive one. I still get moments of panic, frustration, anxiety and thinking ‘I can never do this’ but after each lesson I log what I’ve learned and each week I’m learning more and more, my confidence is growing and I know that driving is beginning, slowly, to feel more natural. I don’t worry about how long it will take before I can sit my test or even whether I will pass first time, I just focus on enjoying the learning process.
Of course, this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t push ourselves to do better at the things we already enjoy but when it comes to learning, a growth mindset is an invaluable asset that has to be consciously developed.