Tag Archives: growth mindset

Challenge 4: Year of Fear wrapup

The 30 days of doing something that scares me (or makes me uncomfortable) challenge is over.

Activity 28 (Sunday): I bought an adult sized hula hoop because apparently this is a good activity to develop core strength. It’s been on my to-do list for over 12 months, and I finally did it. My next challenge was to find somewhere with enough room to use it. I didn’t want to use the back yard because I don’t think I’d find a big enough space uncontaminated by chook shit. The front yard is too small, so it had to be open space in public (ish) view. I felt very awkward about this because I knew i’d be no good at this (which proved to be correct) so I imagined people driving or walking past laughing at me. To make it easier I took Kramstable with me. I know. Use the kid as an excuse for your kid-like behaviour. He thought it was hilarious. I don’t mind being laughed at by him.

Fearometer: 6/10. I have no idea how to hula hoop. I’m doing this in public. People will see me!
How I felt before doing it: Nervous
How I felt while I was doing it: More concerned with trying to keep the thing moving than with whether people were watching me (they weren’t)
Would I do it again: Once my muscles recover, yes.

Activity 29 (Monday): I did nothing that made me uncomfortable.

Activity 30 (Tuesday): Follow up on Activity 22 (get an outstanding medical check) – so I am still waiting to hear if I have the all clear. It had been a week, so I was starting to worry if I’d been rejected. They are still assessing it and I should know by the end of the week. That’s tomorrow.

And the 30 days is over. I feel like I haven’t done it justice because several of the things I did weren’t super scary. but also they were things that had been on my wanna-do list for ages – sometimes years –  and something was holding me back from doing them. Whether it was out and out fear, or more of a low-level “I’m not sure if this will work out so I’ll leave it for a bit” is an interesting question. I guess in one sense it doesn’t matter, because this challenge kicked me into doing them, where otherwise they might have been on my wanna do list for three or four more years (or forever). So I’m grateful for having started this challenge because even little steps are better than no steps.

I read a blog post during the week from Kylie Dunn, who is the author of one of the books that helped inspire my project (Do Share Inspire), where she talks about the “experimental mindset”. She says experimenting, rather than wanting to make specific changes, was the key to her “Year of TED” project and that “the experimental mindset is an openness to try new things, without a fear of failure”. So with that in mind, even if I didn’t do 30 activities that terrified me, I succeeded in completing the experiment.

Yay me!

In her post, Kylie outlines a five step process for applying an experimental mindset:

  1. Consider the tip, advice, lifehack etc. that you want to apply to your life – what does it look like as a daily or weekly action?
  2. Define what you are going to do to experiment with that idea – including how you are going to evaluate it.
  3. Do that for 30 days – and on days that you forget, gently remind yourself that this is an area of focus for a short period.
  4. Evaluate the contribution of those actions in your life – what will you keep? what will you reject? what might you try again?
  5. Apply the lessons and start your next experiment.

I think this is a good process to follow and one that might give my project a bit more structure.

So for the purpose of wrapping up 30 days of fear, I think that it’s been a great way to get me doing things that I’ve been avoiding for a long time, no matter what the reason. I don’t think that “doing something that scares me” has to be a big scary thing every day. It can be as simple as calling someone who I could have emailed, asking someone in a shop to explain something to me (that’s their job!), or going into a shop I’ve never been to before. I believe that if I start to get used to feeling uncomfortable in these type of situations, it will make it easier when I want to do things that are a bit more scary, because I’ll recognise the feeling and I’ll know that I’m not going to die when I feel like that.

I think I can continue to learn from this challenge by looking for things that I’m putting off because I’m scared or nervous, acknowledging the fear, and doing them anyway. And every so often picking something off the “wild and crazy” list to shake things up a bit, because I’ve really enjoyed this challenge and I don’t want to let being scared stop me from doing things that sound like they’d be fun or interesting.


Challenge 4: Activities 21-27

I think I missed a few days after Day 18 (Thursday) when I did three activities (18-20) and learned about the Edamame Threat.

Day 19: I was home with a sick boy, so the thing I had booked to do that day didn’t happen. I had to reschedule.

Day 20: That was Saturday. I can’t remember what I did on Saturday.

Activity 21: Approach someone I met once a few years ago and reintroduce myself.

This was an opportunity activity, because I hadn’t planned to do it, but the chance came up so I went with it. I was at an event and saw someone who I follow on Twitter and who I’d met several years ago, but I wasn’t totally sure it was her. I kept staring at her to try and figure it out, and felt really awkward. Finally she and I were in each other’s vicinity so I took a deep breath and said hi. Turns out it was her and we have a brief chat.

Fearometer: 5/10. I was pretty nervous.
How I felt before doing it: Nervous and that only built up the more I thought about doing it.
How I felt while I was doing it: Awkward at first, but we had common interests so it was fine.
Would I do it again: I have introduced myself to random Twitter people in the street if I’ve interacted with them a bit, so probably. Depends on the person.

Activity 22: Get an outstanding medical check
Won’t go into details here, but in 2013 I was asked to get medical clearance so that I could do something I’d wanted to do. It has taken me this long to make the appointment.

Fearometer: 2/10 I was only slightly worried that maybe there would be some issue that had cropped up that I wasn’t aware of
How I felt before doing it: Just wanted it to be over. Doctor was running late. I had 30 minutes to get through. (Lesson for #fixwhatbugsyou – the doctor will always be late, even if you call to ask whether they are on time and are told they are. Take a book. Write a blog post. Don’t waste time with the trashy waiting room magazines. They will rot your brain.)
How I felt while I was doing it: Fine once it became apparent there wasn’t anything to worry about.

Would I do it again: Yes

Activity 23: Have a Tarot reading
This has been something on my wanna do list for ages, but I never knew how to go about organising this or what to expect. I know a little bit about the Tarot but felt very awkward about having a reading because I’m not an expert and had no idea what I might find out.

On Twitter earlier in the week one of my friends said she had had a reading and that the person doing the readings, Jodi, was giving away 20 free readings (she still is – click the link to get in touch!) to help her make sure what she was doing all worked before she went into business. I felt a bit awkward asking someone I’d never interacted with before if I could be one of her guinea pigs, but she was happy to sign me up and, striking while the iron was hot- before I could chicken out –  I set it up for the next day and we connected over Skype.

It was amazing, and I’ll write a fuller post on this a bit later because it’s inspired an upcoming challenge. The thing that grabbed me was the insight into my situation that Jodi and I read into the cards – she calls it a ‘collaborative reading’ –  and it left me feeling like I was completely on the right track with what I was doing. There are so many things that are coming together about this situation right now, I feel like a little step I took about a month ago has started to build momentum. Ad it also manifested in an unexpected way a couple of days ago, which assures me I am doing the right things and is pushing me to keep going.

Fearometer: 6/10
How I felt before doing it: Nervous about what might come out of the reading. Scared about connecting to someone online I’d never interacted with before.
How I felt while I was doing it: More and more relaxed as time passed. Jodi was very easy to talk to and I was really grateful to have had this opportunity.
Would I do it again: Absolutely

Activity 24: Go to the accountant and get my tax done
Oh the dreaded tax time. I’m not sure what I was worried about. I keep good records and most of the information gets downloaded into the ATO site anyway, so it’s really no big deal. I mainly needed to go to the accountant to get some advice on the disposal of some assets. That sounds serious. It’s not. It ended up being under $50 on a section of the tax form I never knew existed. It’s all done now and I’m expecting my snappy $80 refund any day now.

I’m almost embarrassed to put this in as a year of fear activity.

Activity 25: Ask someone for something they have no obligation to give me or expectation that I might ask for

Fearometer: 4/10. I always get a bit nervous asking this person for something
How I felt before doing it: Nervous

How I felt while I was doing it: A bit more anxious as at first they didn’t know exactly what I was asking so I had to explain myself again
Would I do it again: Probably if my desire for a thing outweighs my nerves

Activity 26: Ask to exchange a product I bought that’s the wrong one
This is a silly thing to be anxious about doing, but I always dread having to go back to a shop and ask to exchange something. It’s not as bad if the product if faulty but if I’ve stuffed up and bought the wrong thing because I didn’t check what I needed first, I feel like a bit of an idiot.
Fearometer: 2/10
How I felt before doing it: Nervous that they would say no, you got it wrong, suck it up buttercup
How I felt while I was doing it: Fine once they said yes
Would I do it again: I guess so.

Activity 27: Secret squirrel!
Activity completed. I am annoyed to have been put into the situation that made this activity happen, but it’s done now.

Photo of the week. Me 10 years ago. Who needs a professional when you have a self-timer and a black velvet sheet to throw over the book case right? Seriously I wish I had had some lovely pregnancy shots done, but it didn’t occur to me at the time, and less than three weeks after this picture, boom, all over.

BW1 huge_retouched



Challenge 4: Facing Fear Days 15-22

In this challenge I’ve gradually been pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone, so most of my activities have been pretty low on the fear-ometer.  A couple of times I’ve tried to do something a bit more scary and haven’t taken the opportunity presented quite as far as I would have liked to. I’m trying not to beat myself up over this. A small step is better than no step right?

So last week (week 3) I did a couple of little-bit scary things. I yelled out to someone I don’t know, other than their name because the bus driver says their name when they get on the bus, down the street that their bag had come open, risking the eyes of everyone around me staring to see why I was yelling. And wondering if this person would think I was some crazy stalker who knew her name when she didn’t know mine.

I finally made “the” phone call and spoke to the person I needed to speak to (and by the way, did you know that the little oar-shaped things on roadworks plans aren’t actually things to be constructed, they are indicators that there is a slope …).

I attended an appointment I’d been putting off for weeks.

I got the feedback I’d asked for on something I’d done at work. (It was scary to go in there, but I’m glad I did it.)

I gave a small presentation to a group of people, most of whom I know only casually.

I went into a bar by myself and had a drink. Maybe two. This was after the Book Week shopping incident. It was necessary therapy.

And this is where the story actually starts.

I was going to go to a pub, but the one I had in mind scared me a lot because (warning: judgmental) it had a lot of tradie blokes in it. So I picked a hotel bar instead.

I’m noticing that I’m feeling pretty comfortable with going into places that aren’t too far out of my norm – places where I’m confident I won’t stand out, even if it’s my first time there. I’ve been to restaurants and bars by myself when they’re places like ones that I’d normally go to with other people. It feels a bit weird at first, but I get over that pretty quickly and can settle in quite comfortably.

What I haven’t done is go to places where not-me hangs out. For example, I’m not a gamer so I’d feel very awkward going into a game shop. I’m not a tradie so I’d feel nervous going into a pub frequented mainly by tradies. I dress pretty casually, so I’d feel really uncomfortable going into an expensive jewellery store, or clothes shop or restaurant.

I’m sure I have to learn the lesson that the people in these places are people, just like me, and they aren’t going to care or judge me for going into their establishment (although Prue and Trude from Kath & Kim keep popping into my head). But let’s add pub and posh restaurant to the list of year of fear challenges to-do.

I think I have a completely unjustified fear of gamers/tradies/posh people/scientists/IT people/pagans/photographers/artists/anyone who is an expert in a field I know nothing about, because I feel like to go into their world, I need to be like them and know all about what they do, rather than being a newby. Of course this is stupid, because everyone is a newby at first, so as Kendra from Year of Fear puts it, they aren’t better than me, they are just further along than me in whatever it is they do.

As I was writing this it occurred to me that I’m a victim of the “reinforcing vs demystifying” phenomenon that Brené Brown describes in her book, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), which she refers to as the “Edamame Threat”. She describes how at a party she was offered a bowl of silver beans that she thought needed to be shucked for dinner, and offered to help. The hosts were highly amused by the fact that Dr Brown had never seen edamame before, and announced this hilarious (to them) fact to all the other guests at the party. Dr Brown says she was filled with shame and wanted to leave immediately. (I also have no idea what edamame are or how to eat them, in case you were wondering.)

Having developed a liking for edamame, a couple of weeks later, she says, she was in her office eating them and a student (who particularly irritated her) came to see her and asked what the beans were. Dr Brown says that to her great horror, that instead of explaining what they were to the student, she said “I can’t believe you haven’t tried them. They’re the superfood. They are fabulous!”

This is what she calls reinforcing – keeping answers a secret so that we can feel superior and secure. She suggests that we are most likely to do this when we feel shame around an issue – in this case she felt shame around “class” and elitism, noting that the people from the party were “food elitists”, which made her feel shame that she isn’t from the same background.

The opposite of reinforcing is demystifying – which is when, later still, she explained to a friend what the beans were and how to eat them.

Dr Brown says that seeking to demystify issues both for herself and helping other people to do it is a key to building critical awareness. She believes that if we know how something works, and others don’t, we’re obliged to share what we know. “Knowledge is power, and power is never diminished by sharing it,” she writes.

Putting all this together, I started thinking about how nervous I get when approaching people who know something I don’t because they’re an expert and I feel less-than when approaching them. Hence my reluctance to ask questions, go into particular shops or even make relatively simple phone calls.

Then it occurred to me that I’m guilty of perpetuating the Edamame Threat too. I’ve noticed that sometimes I get irritated when people ask me something they couldn’t possibly be expected to know, and I don’t want to tell them, or I grudgingly tell them or I don’t tell them everything. Classic reinforcing: keeping answers a secret so that I can feel superior and secure.

The Edamame Threat is a double edged sword! I expect myself to know everything and won’t ask for help if I don’t know something, but I apply the same standard of expecting other people to know everything that I apply to myself, and if they don’t I almost punish them for not knowing.

This a huge realisation, all because I was too scared to go into a pub. It’s clearly unfair and irrational and it has to stop!

So I went to a board game shop and asked for something. And you know what? The guy wasn’t in the slightest bit scary. He was a person, just like me. He didn’t have what I was looking for but gave me a couple of ideas of where to try. He didn’t laugh at me for thinking his shop would stock something that it doesn’t. And if he went over to his colleague and laughed at me after I’d gone because I thought games shops stocked [item x], well what he thinks about me is none of my business. Right? Right.

Who would have thought that facing a fear, or more accurately avoiding facing a fear, would have led to this? I think I need to take the rest of the day off.

Growth mindset: summing up

Today is the end of the (extended) Challenge 2, my 30-day Growth Mindset challenge. Actually I think it was Friday, but I got all mucked up with having a break in the middle of the 30 days and lost track, so as it’s the last day of the month, I’m calling it today.

I haven’t delved into this challenge as deeply as I’d have liked to. I didn’t complete most of the exercises in Carol Dweck’s book that I thought I might at the beginning of the 30 days, so part of me feels like I didn’t give this challenge a fair go.

On the other hand, I’ve continued to identify at least one thing I’ve learned every day, and I’ve spent 30 days learning to draw. That wasn’t what I intended to do at the start of the month, but I think it was a good thing to do – a practical example of how I can apply the growth mindset. I always imagined I couldn’t draw and would never be able to, and my previous attempts have been short-lived.

I’m going to keep doing it.

I think in hindsight I would have picked out the four most interesting chapters in Carol Dweck’s book and set myself a schedule for working through the exercises in them, one chapter each week, rather than just winging it. I really only ended up doing two of the exercises:

  • Making a plan to do something I was afraid I wasn’t good at (Chapter 2) – learning to draw. Well I didn’t so much make a plan, as I just started to do it. Bonus points for just doing it, right? And so you know I’m not making it up, here’s a comparison of my drawing from Day 1 (the pre-test) and Lesson 12 (which took me about 4 weeks to get to).

20160728 Drawing comparison

I needed to have set out a bit of a plan as to what I was going to do for the challenge to make the most of it, so that’s something I’ve learned as I move into my next challenge (Challenge 4). And I do have a plan for that. Sort of. It will be fully formed by tomorrow. Yes, yes it will.

(And as an update to the Evening Routine challenge (Challenge 3), I have signed up for a 5-day Evening Ritual challenge over at Asian Efficiency to get this one kick started again, as I’ve gotten a bit stuck. Stay tuned for further progress! )

Growth mindset: day 29/30

Also Book 20/24: Jump: A Journey into the Mind of a Champion, by Lydia Lassila and Andrew Clarke.

Book 20 - Jump

One of the exercises in Carol Dweck’s book Mindset is to find out about the effort that your “hero” put into their accomplishments, rather than assuming they are someone with extraordinary abilities who didn’t have to work too hard to get to where they wanted to be.

I thought this would be a good exercise to do as part of my project, but I don’t really have a hero, so I decided to pick up a biography of someone who had achieved amazing things and learn how they did it. The next challenge was to find a subject. I was still thinking about this when I saw Lydia Lassila‘s book Jump: A Journey into the Mind of a Champion. The blurb on the back convinced me that Ms Lassila would be a good choice: a talented gymnast who reluctantly gave up the sport, and who then took up the challenge of becoming an aerial skier, without having skied before, and became an Olympic champion.

And that was pretty much all I knew about Ms Lassila, as aerial skiing isn’t a sport I know a lot about. Or anything, in fact. But I figured that people don’t become Olympic champions in a sport they took up at age 17 unless they have a growth mindset. So she’s my case study.

The book tells the story of how Ms Lassila grew up as a very talented gymnast, who had entered the elite program at a relatively late age, with a view to competing at the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. Ultimately she made the decision to quit without having realised her dream, a decision that gutted her at the time, but that she knew realistically was the right one.

When one door closes another one opens (so they say) and in Ms Lassila’s case, she was contacted by the Olympic Winter Institute (OWI), which was experimenting with a program to recruit ex-gymnasts into the aerial skiing program. This is something no other country was doing at the time, so I think it’s a good example of growth mindset within an institution.

Ms Lassila says that, even knowing nothing about skiing, she loved the idea, and the chance of being able to fulfil her childhood dream of Olympic success convinced her to give it a go. At the very least, she says, she’d learn to ski for free.

Obviously she did a lot more than learn to ski, and the book takes us on her journey from 17-year-old novice to World and finally Olympic champion in 2010. It’s the story of unwavering commitment and determination, in the face of potentially career-ending injuries, and of someone for whom winning wasn’t enough; who wanted to be the best female aerial skier who had ever lived. (In the 2014 Olympics she had a good chance of winning performing “safe” jumps but it was more important to her to do a jump that no female skier had performed before in competition, which she did, just missed the landing and took out the bronze medal.)

Her mindset at the start was that the sport was a challenge, and she wanted to conquer it. “I was pretty sure of myself,” she writes, “in the early days that I had what it took to be successful in aerial skiing. Initially I felt intimidated because I knew I was at a development stage and that I wasn’t good yet, but inside I felt that one day I would contend with the best.”

She had always wanted to jump like the men – she notes very early on that there was a big gap between men and women in the sport and that she was determined to change that one day – and this was before she had even mastered the basics of the sport. “I din’t feel like there were any barriers except for myself. I knew it would be difficult, but not impossible.”

Ms Lassila’s career, up to the point the book ends, can be divided into two stages: pre-2006, and then how she changed her approach after the events of that year.

Before the 2006 Olympics, she had been a successful jumper, who had her fair share of injuries. Probably more. She’d had a serious shoulder injury as well as having her anterior cruciate ligament replaced in 2005, which had been a huge blow as she’d been on track to compete in the 2006 Winter Olympics. She had just seven months to recover from a knee reconstruction so that she could compete, and describes it as “a desperate, rushed and ill-prepared campaign”.

She made it to the 2006 Olympics, but her dream was shattered as her ACL ruptured on landing one of her jumps in qualifying. I can imagine some people would have quit at this point. However, she was determined to achieve her goal and the thought of quitting never entered her mind.

The difference between coming back from injury this time and what she’d done previously stands out for me as a wonderful example of a commitment to learn, to ask for help, to act on feedback and to never give up.

Instead of trying to rush her recovery as she had done previously, Ms Lassila decided to take a year off to completely recover from the injury. She learned to listen to her body, and also began to change her mindset. She teamed with a sports psychologist to reframe her mind and help her set out a plan to achieve her goal of becoming the best in the world and winning Olympic Gold in 2010. She learned about the concept of “delayed gratification” so that she would sacrifice some of her immediate goals to focus on the one she really wanted. She writes that she had to change her focus from outcome to process, by developing an action plan of all the steps she needed to take to put her in the best position of achieving this.

“I spent a good chunk of my career thinking I was seeing the picture, but . . .  I wasn’t really getting the concept. I’ve always set myself goals, but they were just destinations with no map, and I had a lot to learn about being patient and trusting there was a process I’m place to succeed. You need to be patient, which was clearly one of my biggest weaknesses. I was desperate to achieve my goals, but I didn’t really have a [detailed] plan for how I was going to get there.”

She set out a three year plan, and while she could have been out winning other competitions with safe jumps, her goal was a more difficult triple jump to win gold at the Olympics, so she writes she had to learn to trust the process that would lead her to this.

While she was on her enforced rest, Ms Lassila launched her own brand of ice pack, developed out of the frustration she’d felt about not being able to get an ice pack that worked satisfactorily for her injury. I think this is a great example of someone making the most of circumstances that they could have whinged and complained about – to see an opportunity for change and take advantage of this.

The book continues Ms Lassila’s story about how she made it to the 2010 Olympics (and got married along the way). She describes some of the problems the Australian team was having at this time with the coaching staff a situation that had deteriorated so badly she had considered leaving Australia and skiing for Finland, her husband’s home. I admired the way Ms Lassila stood up for herself and her team mates at this time, and took matters into her own hands to make sure that they could continue their preparation for the Olympics despite these issues.

Her support team (her A Team), including coaches, physio and psychologist, was starting to form, and she also began to work with her “silent partner” Jeffrey Hodges, founder of the Sportsmind program, who proved to be the final piece in the puzzle of her preparation for the Olympics. After having completed that program, and having some setbacks during the events she’d been competing in, she contacted him and asked him to work with her until the Olympics was over.

In another excellent growth mindset example, Ms Lassila says, “Because I had already done the Sportsmind program [Jeffrey] had to be pretty experimental with me and he created a lot of new ways for me to keep improving mentally.” Mr Hodges recalls, “I wondered if I had more to offer Lydia since she had already learned everything I thought I had to give. When she wanted to continue, it was a turning point in the whole journey because it forced me to develop a totally new program . . . This was a wonderful example of the student pushing the teacher rather than vice versa. The ideas had been there for many years within me, but Lydia forced me to bring them out and turn them into practical application.”

I love that!

There was one point during her preparation when she was in so much pain she wanted to quit, but a win in the vent she was competing in changed her mind and she continued in her lead up to the Olympics, with a clear vision of her future self, who had won the gold medal in her mind. “As the time drew nearer to the Olympics, I felt like I was becoming her… the future self I wanted to be,” she writes.

And here’s her future self, who had, when she first met her, seemed so very far away: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kA12dz5LU_s

This was a fascinating book and I really enjoyed reading it. Obviously achieving Olympic Gold is hard work and requires persistence and dedication, but I don’t think I really appreciated how much until I read this book. The commitment Ms Lassila showed to achieving her goal was mind-blowing. She writes, “When I look at my gold medal I don’t see six seconds of jumping. I see a lifetime of hard work and dedication . . . I didn’t give up on myself and what I believed I could do. I surrounded myself with my A team who helped me change my mentality and consider the bigger picture rather than immediate results. I had to be active, rather than reactive and create the future I wanted instead of leaving it to chance, and I had to learn to control my thoughts and stay present. Developing this kind of awareness in myself has changed my life forever. It has also set me up with tools that I can use to tackle future challenges and goals”.

A key message for me is that what Ms Lassila has learned – to be proactive rather than reactive, creating her own future and staying present – is the kind of learning that I’m trying to use to tackle challenges and goals in my own life. So it’s kind of cool to see the level to which someone can take this.

And I’ll never look at aerial skiing the same way again!


30 days of growth mindset: day 23

I’ve lost count of the days since my reset. I think I’m up to day 23. That will do anyway.

I’ve been wondering what I can do to explore the growth mindset further before the end of the month. There are a couple of exercises in Carol Dweck’s book I had planned on doing but haven’t got around to yet, but I still have a whole week!

I’ve also been continuing learning a new skill apart from a few (um, most) days I missed when I was on holiday.

I might as well tell you what I’ve been doing, and that’s to learn a skill I have always believed I never had and never had any chance of developing. I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I was never the arty one; that was the domain of Lil Sis. My maternal grandmother used to produce beautiful pictures of flowers and my father was a technical drafter in the military, and we have some of his drawings, which are really good.


Lil Sis and I took Dad’s drawing of Pevensey Castle in Sussex back to the original location

I gave up art after Grade 7. Looking back I remember it being difficult and me being no good at it, so I had no desire to pursue it. I could be mistaken because I recently found my school reports and my Grade 7 art teacher had given me the equivalent of an A and written:

“Straightlinesgirl is a talented student who has an instinctive sense of proportion and perspective. She has the ability to retain a clear visual image and is able to draw from memory.”

I was reading that thinking that whoever she was writing about there, it wasn’t me. Or else she wrote this about everyone.

I have started the exercises in the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain at least twice, and given up fairly early on each time. When I was thinking of things to do for this challenge I stumbled on a book I’d downloaded several years ago and never looked at. It’s called You Can Draw in 30 Days by Mark Kistler.

20160722 Draw

30 days huh? Well that’s the length of my challenge. Try anything for 30 days right?

So I started. I’m now up to lesson 9, rather than lesson 23 because I wanted to spend enough time on each lesson to do it justice, rather than rush through each one in the 15-20 minutes I had to do it every morning.

It’s been an interesting process.

I’ve observed two things. First, drawing isn’t the big scary unknown thing I thought it was. Second I have seen myself want to give up on an exercise when it’s got a bit tricky. And I have battled myself on the lines that (1) I won’t learn if I don’t do it and (2) much as I want it to be perfect, it won’t be. I’ve been doing this for 23 days or thereabouts. My pictures won’t look like the ones in the book because I’m a beginner. I’m not Mr Kistler, so my pictures will have my nuances, not his.

So there you have it. Even if I don’t explore the concept of growth mindset any further, I’m applying it practically, which is, perhaps, a more valuable activity than getting stuck in my head would be.

Stepping on the cracks: Day 45

If you’ve been following my Travelpod blog, you’ll know that we’ve just got back from a family holiday in Victoria and South Australia.

As you might have suspected, my attempt to holiday-proof my routines and continue the Stepping on the Cracks project was a spectacular failure. I ate more, drank more, went to bed earlier and later, didn’t sleep well, woke up early, slept in, didn’t drink enough water, didn’t find opportunities to go for a walk – pretty much everything fell in a heap and it was a massive waste of space in my bag taking my walking shoes.

We were on the move every day, so there wasn’t really any time to settle into anywhere. I didn’t read much, didn’t think much, and spent most of my time taking in everything around me. Being in a different bed every night played havoc with my sleep, so I never felt especially rested.

I had a great time! We went to some lovely places, ate some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life and had some great experiences – but it simply wasn’t the sort of holiday where I could have bedded down routines and spent time thinking and learning.

So I’ve decided to draw a line through the first 15 days of the evening routine challenge and the last 15 days of the growth mindset challenge, and start them again now that we’re home. This just means that my “habit change” challenges will start on the 15th instead of the 1st of each month, and my more substantial challenges will start on the 1st instead of the 15th. So I still have 15 days to go of the growth mindset challenge, and there are at least a couple of exercises from Carol Dweck’s book I want to do in that time. I don’t want to finish this challenge without giving some thought to some of the ideas she discusses.

I think that makes sense, and I’m ok with doing this, because I think I would have had a miserable holiday if I’d spent the time beating myself up for not sticking to my original plan. And I still have three more days before I have to go back to work to resettle myself.

Here are some photos!

Growth mindset – day 11 – learning

I’m learning to do something I can’t do yet. It’s a 30 day program that I’ve had sitting around for ages but never even looked at, let alone started. I thought a 30-day program would work in well with the 30-days growth mindset challenge, but it’s going to take me longer because I want to explore each lesson thoroughly before moving on.

The first week I was having fun. This week it’s getting more challenging, and a couple of days ago I noticed myself saying things like what I was doing was no good, I was never going to get the hang of this and it was too hard. One day I wanted to give up and walk away.

It was lesson 4! Lesson Four. I’d been learning this skill for about 15 minutes a day for nine days. That’s a bit over two hours.

Thinking about how frustrated I was getting brought to mind an article by James Clear that said something along the lines of: when you’re learning to do something, you don’t have the right to be disappointed in your performance. You aren’t supposed to be good. That’s the point of learning.

“You and me? We’re not good enough to be disappointed yet. We’re bad enough to get to work.”

Lesson Four.

If I’d been doing this for years and it was my profession or I’d developed a high level of skill, then maybe it might have been reasonable to be disappointed in it being a struggle and that things weren’t perfect. (But even then, it would have been an opportunity to learn and do better next time.)

I told that disappointed voice to bugger off and I kept going, even though I wanted to give up. I still wasn’t happy with the result, but told myself that every time I practise it will be an opportunity to do it better. And that I won’t get better unless I practise.

So there, fixed mindset voice.

30 days of growth mindset: day 10

Alright, after a thousand posts on the theory of growth mindset, it’s time to share some of my daily learnings since I started this 30-day challenge.

One of the things I’ve been doing since about December last year has been to write in my journal at least one thing I learned that day. It might be a fact, a hint or tip, or lesson I’ve learned from something I did that day. I have a lot of hints and tips gathered in this way, but haven’t done a lot with them! How unlike me. (*Collects more underpants* )

Here’s a few examples of things I’ve collected since the challenge started.

Day 1: Gretchen Rubin wrote “the opposite of a profound truth is also true”. She writes:

As I’ve worked on my happiness project, I’ve been struck by the contradictions I kept confronting. The opposite of a profound truth is also true, and I often find myself trying to embrace both sides of an idea.

One of the examples she gives is  to “accept myself, and expect more of myself”, which I have already written about. A couple of other ones I like are:

  • Use my time efficiently, yet make time to play, to wander, to read at whim, to fail.
  • Take myself less seriously—and take myself more seriously.

Day 3: From the Dan Harris 10% Happier podcast with RuPaul on meditation: “The real you is not your thoughts. It is the awareness of your thoughts.” RuPaul suggests the real you can be seen as sitting on a riverbank watching your thoughts drift by.

It’s a bit like leaves on a stream exercise that various counsellors have suggested I try when I can’t get rid of troubling thoughts. I am a giant failure at this exercise. I can’t see the stream, I can’t see the leaves (I cannot form a mental picture of anything, no matter how hard I try) and the thoughts won’t get out of my head. Even so, I’m continuing to practise through daily meditation. I know this is something that isn’t going to happen overnight and the more I persist, the easier it will get, but it will take a long time. I’m not giving up.

One of my readers recently suggested trying slightly longer meditation sessions might help, and I’ve noticed that sometimes my thoughts seem to start calming at about the 10 minute mark – when it’s time to stop. So I’m going to try that and see how it goes.

Day 5: Roasted Brasil nuts and raw carrots are a very tasty combination. I learned this by accident. You have to try this!

Day 6: Keep spare gloves, beanie and scarf in my bag. It’s winter. Read the weather forecast. Enough said.

Day 8: In Sanskrit, swastika means “crossed legs”. Swastikasana is one of the basic poses of yoga. It’s essential asana while practising  breathing techniques (Pranayama). I knew the word swastika had come from Sanskrit. I didn’t know it was the name of this yoga pose.

Day 8: A tip from the Power of Moms podcast that I mentioned in my post yesterday: Develop “modes” for your time at home, and stick to doing what you have to do when you’re in each mode.

For example, when you’re home, you might have: Mum mode, me mode, work mode, and whatever other modes you need to have. Explain these modes to the kids so they know when it’s their time with you, and make sure they have things to do when you aren’t in Mum mode so they can entertain themselves (obviously this works better with kids that are old enough to be capable of entertaining themselves for the relevant time).

Stay fully engaged in whatever mode you’re in. Don’t check your phone when you’re engaging with your kids, don’t try and do work around the kids’ activities, don’t entertain the kids when you’re working. When it’s Mum time, be with them 100 per cent.

The importance of this became apparent on Wednesday when we got home from work. I’d spent an hour with Kramstable after school, and I had about 45 minutes between when we got home and when I had to go to my yoga class. I needed to do some admin stuff and finish Wednesday’s blog post. Kramstable wanted me to watch 15 minutes of his new favourite movie (which I can’t stand, but we won’t go there) and I was frantically trying to finish the post, while watching this movie I had zero interest in because it was important to him. I couldn’t help but feel like I’d disappointed him and felt very guilty for not focusing on what he was trying to share with me.

Explaining that I wasn’t in Mum mode at the time but I would be after I’d finished the post might have worked out well in this situation, because I could have concentrated on the post and got it done quickly, rather than flipping between writing and watching the movie and taking longer to get the post done, and running out of time to watch the movie. End result: I was flustered, he was disappointed and both of us were unhappy.

(I’m going to write a bit more about how I handle time with Kramstable doing things that make me want to poke my eyeballs out with burnt sticks – like watching this particular movie – in a post about one of the books I’ve read recently.)

So there you have it: some actual stuff I’ve learned. Great hey!

30 days of growth mindset: day 9

While I was struggling with how to “implement” a growth mindset over the last few days, and was writing yesterday’s post, I listened to a podcast by April Perry and Saren Eyre Loosli from Power of Moms, a community that I occasionally connect to. The podcast (Ready to go from OWW to WOW?) refers to some resources developed by Todd Herman, which move us from OWW to WOW –  and mentions Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. This material is basically another take on learning to move into a growth mindset, so it was very timely for me.

I totally got this. The podcast starts of by discussing the concept of the OWW mindset. The way I understand it, Todd Herman has described what appears to be a vicious cycle, where we (1) look at our current results and compare this to our ideal results (perfect mother, perfect body, immaculate house, balanced life etc), we (2) begin to judge and criticise ourselves for not being good enough, which (3) creates frustration, low self-worth and stress which then (4) prompts avoidance, procrastination and time wasting. So we stay stuck negatively judging and criticising ourselves and feeling pretty rotten. (Our brain hurts, hence oww!)

Compare this to the WOW! mindset which is where we (1) look at our current results and instead of comparing it to an (unattainable) “ideal”, we measure how we’ve improved, which (2) helps us engage in self-talk around encouragement and support, which in turn (3) creates confidence, motivation and high self-worth, which (4) prompts action, vision and momentum.

It’s very similar to what I’ve been talking about, right? Encouraging and supporting yourself when you’ve not done well, instead of telling yourself you can’t do it and you’re a failure.

With this process, the key is to catch yourself at the moment when you start comparing what you’ve done today to the ideal day, or whatever you negatively compare yourself against, and stop it, and replace it with more positive self-talk by finding a small win.

One of my favourite people, Lisa Grace Byrne, describes this in her book Replenish as “catching a weed”. This is what she calls the first step in changing your self talk. You have to learn to notice when you’re thinking negatively about yourself. She observes that when you first start to do this, there are some “red flag” words that can tell you when you’re thinking like this. They include: “always”, “never” and “should”, and they are often accompanied by an overwhelming feeling that this [thing] is objectively true and will never change.

To help you get into the WOW! mindset cycle, April and Saren’s podcast suggests that you set aside some time to look at your achievements from the week and see how you’ve improved – not where you’re fallen down. (April also refers to a movie quote that someone posted on their Facebook group: “From failing you learn; from success, not so much”). In doing this, try to identify ways that things have changed and how far you’ve come from where you were. The tiniest improvement counts. Last week I didn’t exercise at all. This week I went for a walk around the block once. Go me!

Another thing April and Saren talk about is considering whether you would speak to your kids in the same way you speak to yourself when you let yourself down or fail at something. You wouldn’t would you? You’d find something they/you had done well, or had done better than last time, even if it was the tiniest thing, and focus on that.

You don’t focus on the messy room, you acknowledge the shelf that they tidied up. Hooray! This time last week they couldn’t form the first loop of their shoelace, this week they can. Fabulous!

I didn’t vacuum the floors, but I did wash up. My boss made lots of corrections to my report, but I brought up a really good point no one had thought of.

I don’t know what you do if you’ve dug as deep as you can and honestly cannot find a single positive thing to focus on. The optimist in me hopes that I’d always be able to find one tiny spark in the darkness. I think if I found myself in a place where I consistently couldn’t do that, it would probably be time to seek professional help. I’ve been there and got through, but that period is always in the back of my mind as a place I might one day return to. I think that if I start to feel like that’s where I’m heading, I have access to more options to get through it now than I did then.

Anyway, I wanted to post about the podcast because it popped up at exactly the right time when I was struggling this week, and offered another perspective on what I was trying to do.

I’ve written a lot of theoretical stuff on what I’ve been finding out about the growth mindset lately. Tomorrow I’m going to post about some of the things I’ve actually been learning. Putting it into practice. Shit gets real!