How To Cultivate A Teachable Attitude And A Growth Mindset
Disclaimer: The following article contains some hard-to-swallow pills.
No matter if you’re in university, at your first year of work, or at your third job, you need this reminder: growth isn’t comfortable. Remember that burning sensation when your muscles ached after a good workout? Remember at age 11 when puberty hit and your limbs extended? Yup – growing pains.
For some reason, we tend to think that as we age into adulthood, the growth ends there. We think that after school and education, we’re no longer students. The truth is, we’re actually students – for life. If you think you are already operating at your maximum capacity, think again!
Having a growth-focused mindset is easier said than done. It sounds blissful, like strawberries and cream on a blue-skied, windy day. But if I were to realistically reimagine that, I would say that growth is comparable to a dark and lonely scene from Alice in Wonderland. The movie does end happily, though.
If you’re looking to achieve greater things in the toughest of circumstances (think of the mess that is 2020), a growth mindset will get you there. From my personal experience on a pilgrimage of self-discovery, there are a few lessons that I’ve learnt along the way about being teachable. Read on if you are up for an uncomfortable, squirm-in-your-seat read.
1. Remain open to new ideas
Yes, your friends may have some wild suggestions for a class project. Yes, your colleagues may be asking you to support their overly positive-vibes MLM (please lah, friend-friend mah). Yes, one issue can be interpreted differently across different religious beliefs.
The most important thing is for you to stay flexible and open to new possibilities. There are so many things out there in this world; it’s impossible for you to know all of them. Be willing to admit that there may be flaws in your perspective, and be willing to admit that you have made mistakes. Remember – growth is uncomfortable.
I’ve always thought that my religion held the ultimate truth until I realized that I hadn’t given myself a chance to learn about other religious teachings. Staying open means speaking to people and picking their brains, reading books (even autobiographies!), and watching YouTube videos that teach you new things. In this era where information is a commodity, we don’t have an excuse.
Here is my favourite Dr Seuss quote from Oh, the Places You’ll Go!:
“The more that you read, the more things you’ll know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
2. Say YES to the difficult things
I once had a professor who taught us public speaking during my first year in university.
This professor had dished out topics to us individually, for she had deliberately handpicked each topic for every one of us. I’ll never forget this. She had given my classmates rather generic topics: about owning a pet, developing hobbies, or how to stay healthy. You would think it was an easy A.
When she gave me my topic, I was stunned and in disbelief. It was simply unfair. But I worked on it and finished it anyway, even though it was a very tough process of researching and preparing the speech.
She later told me privately (after I’d presented) that the topic she had given to me was intended to challenge me. Even though it seemed like an impossible subject, she commented that I had managed to deliver a rather convincing speech about, “How can high-rise condominiums affect the development of young children?”
The lesson I learnt from that has stayed with me until today. If you take the easier route, you’re going to score, but you may never stretch and grow. Taking the road less travelled and saying yes to difficult challenges, on the other hand, will humble you and show you how much you’re capable of.
3. Reflect, and move forward
As a teacher myself, I’ve developed a habit with my 11-year-olds to regulate their
self-awareness of their learning. After we complete a task, worksheet, or challenge, we wrap up the lesson by doing a quick reflection. I ask them to rate themselves on the task at hand.
“On a scale of 1 – 5 (5 being most difficult and 1 being easiest), how do you think you did on today’s activity?”
Each one of them holds up their hand in the air to indicate their choice from 1 to 5. I look at those who have indicated that this task was above a 2.
To them, I ask, “How can you move yourself to a 1?”
They then tell me that they could read more books, spend more time with their multiplication tables, read the instructions more carefully, and so on. If an 11-year-old can do this with assuring confidence, I’m sure we can do the same.
At the end of the day, when you’ve accomplished a task, you can do the same thing. By assessing your ability, you’ll also be able to identify gaps in your skillset. With that information, tell yourself to pay attention to specific pain points, which will help you do better in the next round.
It’s all about reflection and moving forward. Competence is yours if you’ll admit at first that you’re not quite there yet.
It’s crucial to remember that learning is going to go on until you die. You’ll learn about relationships, career, people, technology, the Earth, your food, fashion, architecture, investments, coffee… you name it!
The world is large, and there are so many cultures we’ve yet to explore. How can we stay happy and content with where we are? There are always chances to get better at so-and-so, and there are always new things to learn.
So get on out there and start learning. The world is your teacher. Keep your eyes peeled. Keep your ears open. Keep exploring. Let the world surprise you!
P/S: Did you know that humans have only explored 5% of the ocean? Think about it.