I’ve been thinking about my values recently.
I followed an exercise from a course called “Live off your Passion”. The exercise requires that you rank your values, by comparing each one pair-wise. This is actually a pretty fascinating approach, because certain values that I thought were important to me lost every single match!
I came up with the following top 5 values:
I don’t think this list would necessarily come as a surprise to people who know me, though some items on the list are certainly more obvious that others.
I want to talk a bit about growth/mastery, because I recently read Mindset by Carol Dweck. Dweck is a professor of psychology at Stanford who studies how mental framing changes our experiences. She talks about two different mindsets- the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. The fixed mindset believes that our characteristics are immutable. Fixed mindset people end up being extremely fragile, since validation (or invalidation) comes entirely from external sources. Failing a test means you are stupid. Getting dumped means you are unlovable. Nothing can be done to change things, so why even try? Growth mindset believes that people can grow and change. Negative events aren’t a personal judgment, but rather an opportunity to learn how to improve and become better. This makes growth mindset people extremely resilient. Dweck points out that we can have both tendencies; we can believe in a fixed mindset in the intellectual realm but a growth mindset in the relationship realm.
I strongly identify with growth/mastery. I did my values list before I read Dweck’s books, but more tellingly I’ve always acted on growth. I’m constantly doing (excessive?) projects to improve or learn new things. Some have stuck, some haven’t, but I’m always planning a new challenge. If anything, I embrace growth to a point where it is exhausting. It is difficult to constantly be striving to improve/learn/master. Yet, I keep doing it.
But what boggled my mind upon reading Dweck’s book is that I have a fixed mindset pretty much across the board, despite by outward “growthy” behavior. I found it fascinating to read her descriptions of the emotional turmoil that fixed mindset people have in various situations because it correctly described how I felt in various scenarios. I’m not sure how I can reconcile my actions with my mindset, other than my firm (fixed) belief that I am a good planner, and anything can be accomplished by planning, carried me through.
I especially laugh at my bike repair efforts, since it perfectly illustrates this contradiction. I am firmly of the belief that I’m not particularly mechanical, yet I’ve made numerous repairs on my bike. My first flat tire lead to about six weeks of various issues (having to adjust the shifting, having to adjust the brakes, having to tighten and untighten the wheel, putting the tire on backwards (either no big deal or a huge deal depending on which internet guru you listen to), ruining a bike pump with “slime” from my new tube, having to learn how to remove and clean a valve (filled with slime) and various other assorted woes compounded by having 2 more flat tires in the same period) all of which I interpreted as proof of my lack of aptitude for mechanical things. This list seems funny to me now, and I wouldn’t have a problem dealing with any of the previously listed things. (I’ve moved on to new frustrating challenges with my bike.) But at the time, it was a horrible experience because I kept failing to fully repair my bike despite my best efforts.
So I’m trying to be better about reframing things as learning opportunities and experiencing the true growth mindset. It does take some pressure off, because then when things don’t go to plan it is less anxiety provoking.