Effort = Growth

This past weekend I did two things that made me cringe: soldering and then yoga. In the first experience I almost singed my eyebrow, in the second I had to come face to face with the 80-year-old-like limberness of my limbs.

In the first two minutes, I felt a bunch of emotions: crankiness, frustration, embarrassment, but that was only until my inner Surprisologist kicked in. My inner Surprisologist said: “Woah! This is so uncomfortable. That means you are learning something new! Cool!” (My inner Surprisologist is pretty exuberant.)

As soon I reframed the experience, a new set of emotions kicked in: wonder, delight, curiosity, and (my personal fave) giddiness.

I was suddenly aware that I was surprising my brain, pushing it to take a neural path less traveled. I wasn’t melting metal or doing the warrior pose, I was playing, and I was growing.

Turns out this growth mindset is nothing to sneeze at. A few years ago, researchers gave a group of 7th graders struggling with math, eight weeks of math skills workshops and lessons in “malleable intelligence” (where students learned that effort makes you smarter). The researchers gave another group of struggling students identical math skills classes but not the classes on malleable intelligence. At the end of the year, the kids who were taught to reframe effort as an intelligence-building brain-stretcher performed significantly better in math than the kids who only received math training.

So there. Not only do I now have a deeper understanding of torches and breath control, I’m also smarter today than I was before I let myself get a little uncomfortable.

Now I’m really curious to hear: what’s the last time you learned something new, and how did it feel?

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