I have made a new vow to try to finish at least one book before beginning another--kind of like the buy-one-discard-one rule for household purchases. It is my hope that this amended reading habit will cut down on mental clutter and chaos in the way that keeping a lid on possessions does with the profusion of belongings.
This small change is representative of some of the wisdom I am gleaning from my temporarily suspended reading of Switch, in at least two ways. First of all, it is an example of "shrinking the change," which amounts to doing something about a perceived problem that is on a doable scale. Succeeding with this mini solution should increase confidence, and may inspire continued improvements, resulting in a saner, less intellectually harried me. But, as my yoga teacher continually instructs her class in building toward difficult poses, "you can stay right there. . . ." Even this incremental change can be expected to provide some relief. It will reduce the number of books lying propped open on surfaces around my house; it will probably cut down on library fines; it may help me to keep my head in the stories and arguments I am absorbing in book form; and it will establish an outer limit (the current, admittedly excessive number of books I am partway through) of books-in-progress, to counter my manic reading tendencies.
Secondly, it illustrates my seemingly eternal belief that I--and others, too--can change, at least at this prosaic level. And that makes me someone with a "growth mindset." In their treatise on change, the Heaths present the work of Carol Dweck, Stanford University psychology professor and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, which they term a "must-read." Prof. Dweck's contribution builds on her distinction between a "growth mindset" and a "fixed mindset." The Heaths provide the following four sentences to help us in categorizing our own mindset.
Those of us who agree with sentences 1 and 3 display a fixed mindset. Agreeing with sentences 2 and 4 reveals a growth mindset. (Anyone who agrees with both sentence 1 and sentence 2 is, according to the Heath brothers, "confused.")
- You are a certain kind of person, and there is not much that can be done to really change that.
- No matter what kind of person you are, you can always change substantially.
- You can do things differently, but the important parts of who you are can't really be changed.
- You can always change basic things about the kind of person you are.
The authors go on to tell us how the growth mindset supports change efforts, in effect "failure-proofing" the would-be changer.
The growth mindset, then, is a buffer against defeatism. It reframes failure as a natural part of the change process and that's critical, because people will persevere only if they perceive falling down as learning rather than as failing.And that's one of the things I love about this book that smuggled its way onto my reading pile. It's so friendly, and heartening. Like Pema Smile at Fear," 's "it points to a path I can walk or stumble along, an achievable journey that doesn't ask me to be better than I am. Or to relinquish failure.
I can hardly wait to get it back.