My husband, Andrew, is a lifelong learner. Using his graphic design degree as a foundation, over the past few years he has taught himself web and app design, he voluntarily hired a math tutor (for fun), and just this year, he’s learned to code for the web, is studying app development, and taking German lessons. This constant desire for learning has been both admirable and frustrating at times.
I am not wired this way. In fact, I once took a personality test that said something to the effect of ‘you avoid tasks you’re not good at’. This is absolutely true: I like being good at things. Which makes it hard for me to learn new things because I know I’m going to be really bad at them for a while. It’s a risk I haven’t been willing to take very often.
I’ve come across several articles lately about this very topic, both citing research by Carol Dweck of Stanford. One references a ‘growth mindset’ and a ‘fixed mindset’. Another terms it ‘learning orientation’ and ‘performance orientation’. The basic idea is that some people operate under the assumption that improvement and growth is always an option. Others approach life believing that talents and skill are fairly fixed, and it’s better to stick with what you know. For whatever reason, I’ve always fallen into the latter category.
A few months ago when Andrew started learning German, I decided that I would give it a try too. I’ve always wanted to speak another language (and I might be just a little bit competitive). Andrew is taking lessons through his work, and I’m using the Duolingo app. We practice our limited vocabulary on each other. Already, I’ve been pretty excited about the basic terms I’ve picked up and genuinely excited to keep learning more.
At the same time, I’ve finally started reading some of those books on my ‘to read’ list. Maybe it’s Ella’s arrival and my determination to not be simply defined as ‘a mom’. Or maybe it’s motherhood itself: the knowledge that just a few short months ago I knew nothing about raising a child, and now I’m literally learning something new every day. Either way, I’m starting to climb out of this rut of being content with what I know. It feels really good to stretch those muscles again and realize I am capable of learning more.
People say our education system is broken and I absolutely agree. I spent my formative years earning good grades and being a good student instead of developing a true love for learning. Thanks to people like Andrew with a ‘growth mindset’, I’m starting to see it’s not too late to change that.