I watched a TED TALK by Carol Dweck* last evening: “The Power of Believing That You Can Improve”, which dovetailed beautifully with another study that I had just read on Cecile Betit’s website called, “Relearning the art of asking questions.” Two days ago I bought the book, A Curious Mind.
OK. Something is trying to get my attention….three very compelling messages about asking new questions/responding to life in a new way, have shown up in the past week.
This morning I sat outside with my cup of coffee, watched the sun come up, and thought about how I responded to questions that pushed me to think outside my comfort zone or challenged my way of doing things. Did I get defensive? Sometimes. Did I try to make up answers that I thought the person wanted to hear? Sometimes. Did I babble? Sometimes. But I also stayed open at times, genuinely responded with curiosity, and often said, “I don’t know, but that is a good question”, or simply, “I don’t know.”
The visual part of Dweck’s talk helped me to see questions, challenges, and even “failures” in a new way. I could see that when we shut down, defended our limitations, felt bad, retreated into ourselves, or in any other way closed ourselves off from challenging situations/questions, our minds didn’t grow…didn’t”light up”. But when these same situations were taken on with a mindset of adventure, quest, or even the attitude of fun, the brain lit up.
We can all see this in others. When we ask a question and the response has the tone of, “This is the way it has always been done” or “Don’t you dare challenge this. Who do you think you are?” or “It is written….”, we have run into a closed mind. We can feel it when others, whether they are institutions or individuals, think that their way is only one way, and it feels like a wall. We know it when we’ve run into someone’s sacred cow. Yet it is not so easy to see these in ourselves.
But what if we, right now, began to change this? What if we looked at every question and every new and challenging situation as an invitation? What if we imagined that each one of these “problems” was lighting up our brains and turning on our minds to brighter, happier, and more fulfilling worlds? What if we saw these as actually good for us, like “brain training”?
I don’t want a flabby mind. I don’t want to protect my sacred cows. I want a mind (and heart) that lights up with new questions and responds to life with open energy.
“What would it feel like to live with an open heart and mind, right now?”, is a great question to ask and then to forget…to drop it into the Universe like a pebble in a pond….and let the answer return to us in waves of new opportunities, happy coincidences, and delightful encounters.
*Carol Dweck researches “growth mindset” — the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems. In this talk, she describes two ways to think about a problem that’s slightly too hard for you to solve. Are you not smart enough to solve it … or have you just not solved it yet? A great introduction to this influential field.