It is in the nature of a plant to grow.
When a plant is healthy, it grows. When a plant is not healthy, it will tend to shrivel up. Generally, we can see a tendency for things to get better or things to get worse. You’ve seen this in your plants!
Similarly, it is in our nature to grow. Outwardly, our bodies are done growing at about 20. (Except perhaps our noses and ears!). Inwardly, it is our choice to grow, stay stunted, or to decline. This growing inside doesn’t ever stop. It exists over the entire lifetime.
Carol Dwek, a Stanford Professor of Psychology, first coined the term, “growth mindset”. As compared to “fixed mindset”. In growth mindset, intelligence or smarts are not fixed traits that we are born with; rather, through continued effort, we develop these skills. We can get smarter through effort.
Dwek’s observations in students are corroborated with findings in neurobiology. Neuroplasticity, the ability for the brain to change over time, occurs when we use our brains in a particular way. Neurons that wire together, fire together; that is, we can wire or unwire regions of our brains to influence our response to events. And to get smarter.
The implications for these findings are important, especially for relatively affluent humans. If you are reading this, you are one of them.
We have a choice in how to direct our lives. We have the ability to be aware, and to direct our intentions, thoughts, words, and actions in a way that is enriching to our lives and others. Or not.
To put it simply, growth mindset and neuroplasticity are not just ideas. They are a way of life that is in line with what we observe in nature: just look at the plants and trees – when they are growing, they are thriving.
The difference is for us: we have to purposefully chose to cultivate the conditions for growth mindset. And work on it every single day. Just as a gardener tends to a garden, we need to tend to our minds. Then, one day, we flower.
And then we flower again…and again…