Corey and Lori's Quest Log

Corey and Lori’s Quest Log

Mind over Matters

MindsetI’ve mentioned a book called “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” by Carol S. Dweck, once or twice before. This is an important book, and you should read it or reread it. “Mindset” discusses two ways of looking at the world and yourself. The “fixed mindset” says that you are the way you are, and the “growth mindset” suggests that each of us is constantly in a process of growth and change. Ms. Dweck argues very persuasively that adopting a growth mindset is a better way to live.

If you use a fixed mindset, you believe that you are good or bad at certain things. Sometimes that seems positive – Maybe your parents congratulate you on getting an “A” by telling you how smart you are.

It’s great to have confidence, but you might fall into the trap of thinking that everything will be just as easy. You can become lazy about studying and improving your skills. And then you fail at something, and all your confidence disappears. If you succeeded because you were smart, then you must have failed because you’re stupid. So you give up, work even less, and keep failing.

With a “growth mindset”, you see yourself as in a constant state of change. If you succeed at a task, it isn’t because you were destined to succeed. It’s because you prepared yourself by working hard, studying, and practicing for that task. If you fail, it means you need to work harder, study more, and prepare better.

People who take a growth mindset don’t think of themselves as geniuses or natural athletes. They just know that they can do amazing things if they work hard enough. It’s a much more resilient attitude, and most successful people believe in a growth mindset.

Not So Smart

GeniusFor years, I had people call me a genius. The label has always felt wrong to me. I have always known there are lots of people smarter than me, more skilled than me at any particular subject, and so on. I used to describe my work as “sporadically brilliant”, and have always been frustrated that I can’t come up with great ideas all the time or with any degree of consistency.

That’s because what I really have isn’t genius. It’s the willingness to keep trying when I fail, to try new things, and to let my imagination wander until an idea comes to me. My wife calls me “easily distracted” and I’m often accused of daydreaming, being indecisive, and lacking focus. The strange thing is that all those accusations are correct, and that that flaw is my greatest strength!

When my mind wanders, it’s because the “obvious” answer to a question doesn’t feel quite right. Game design takes both organized, careful work and the leaps of imagination that come letting my mind roam. If I was always focused and “in the moment”, I’d be doing some other work.

Being creative is about taking risks and often getting them wrong. That means trying new ideas, getting many of them wrong, then trying some more.

Growth Is Life

MindsetIf you want more from your life, adopt the growth mindset. Don’t allow yourself to become too satisfied with the status quo – Keep working to get better and to learn new things. At the same time, try not to beat yourself up over mistakes or failures – Treat each one as a Valuable Learning Experience, and another opportunity to get better and learn new things.

There is always more out there; keep looking for it!

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  1. eriq Says:

    You are certainly two real life heroes – love your inspiring blog posts. Especially Corey’s addiction piece. 😉

  2. Lori Says:

    Here’s an interesting talk on TED that talks about just how important body language has upon our minds and our lives, and what we can do about it:

  3. Jeremy Murdoch Says:

    This article is great. I’m always trying to keep the ‘growth mindset’ in mind, but it can be hard.

    I often find myself dealing with my failures negatively, thinking I must not be good at some particular task. More recently I have been working on continuing to learn rather than being frustrated with my poor performance.

    I also tend to let my mind wander, and used to blame my lack of productivity and focus on those distractions. But it was exactly those distractions, those daydreams and wanderings of the mind, that brought out my best ideas.

    I may have to look into this book. It sounds like a good read. The concepts are not foreign to me, as I’ve heard similar ideas from other sources over the years, but a new presentation of those concepts certainly couldn’t hurt.

    Thanks for sharing, Corey!

  4. Nagath Says:

    One of my favorite parts of the book is the part with the kid that rubbed his hands together, smacked his lips, and cried out, “I love a challenge!”. I do that.

    I also stick my fist in the air and say something outrageously over committed.

    And I like to say “challenge accepted!”. Accepting that something is a challenge is like throwing a stick into the cogs of the fixed mindset.

    Acts like these magically transforms part of real life into a game. And games just aren’t as scary as real life.

    It really helps me to switch over from gritting my teeth to smiling. It helps me think “I nearly had it that time!” where before I thought “not Failure, not again!!”.

  5. Wayland Says:

    One of my biggest books in dealing with the day to day grind it out kinda work while trying to juggle all the insanity that is life is Getting Things Done by David Allen. I’m still a work in progress on my system, but I can’t recommend that book enough.

  6. Chris Garza Says:

    I’ve always stressed the value of adaptation, which ties into the growth mindset. This book seems to stress many values taught in management classes I’ve taken, as well as those taught in the book the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey.

    We’re often thrust into situations that we cannot defeat through our conventional methods, requiring us to alter our mindset and adapt to the circumstances of other things or people, rather than stubbornly try to force them to adjust to our methods (You can’t study the activities of a fish by snatching it out of the water. Grab an oxygen tank and a mask!).

    Many businesses have fallen due to failure to adopt a growth mindset and adapt to a changing environment. One should never maintain the status quo when there’s room to improve.

  7. Joseph Austin Says:

    I agree to the point that I am potentially ‘spread to thin’, so to speak. I write creatively, I program, I even do both 3D and 2D graphics (to a lesser extent). I find the inspiration to do everything I can from the renaissance artists, as they also refused to allow only a single skill to develop. I didn’t grow well in visual arts, but I got where my personal ability was able to take me and learned a lot in the process.

    Sometimes though, in a work setting, it is good to take the fixed mindset when you’re trying to maximize the productivity of yourself and a team. I haven’t proven to be very good at designing User Interfaces, but we have a guy who is extremely good at it. Therefore, he is the one who should do the job. My growth in that department would come at the expense of the company tapping their feet as I try to catch up.

    But on a personal level, growth should always be the target.

  8. James StarRunner Says:

    I haven’t read the book but am quite familiar with the concept. You already popped in the ‘Battling your demons’ thread and know that my mindset helped me grow past some of the flaws I used to have. That said, I still wouldn’t mind reading the book as I could perhaps gain further insight.

    Adopting the ‘growth mindset’ as she put it had really helped me overcome many things and not be greatly discouraged along the way. Also, it helps ease the stress which with having Crohn’s, can be very painful. And as someone who didn’t always have this mindset, I can tell you that it served me well!

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