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Knowing vs. Figuring out — Somewhat on Growth Mindset

Hello and happy mid-week! In the spirit of challenging the limits, I am going to push myself to write more so I am aiming to write two posts a week. This basically means dedicating some time to wake up earlier each day to read (get some inspiration) and write. Let's go!

The "unsolvable" question

Throughout my teaching career, one of the key issues that I realised in my student relates to the mindset. I will commonly hear them lamenting on how they do not know how to do a certain question or understand a certain concept. That's not the issue since that's exactly what I am here for! The issue I am referring to is their response to my follow up request: show me what you have done. Most of the time, this request draws blanks. The question paper was often left as-is — Blank (other than that circle at the question number to indicate "I don't know").

... and its solution

Being their teacher and having been their companion in their learning journey, I have a good sense of each student's level of comprehension and ability. Many a time, while challenging, these questions are perfectly manageable for these students and all it takes for them to figure out the solution was for me to... read the entire question through with them a few times!

There might be times that I drop hints by purposely emphasising certain aspects of these questions but I would attribute the main reason for these breakthroughs to the state of mind — having the willingness to try.

Challenging the binary way of thinking

When faced with a challenging situation, we often fall into a binary, "can or cannot" frame of thinking. This is normal as at moments of stress, we are naturally programmed to make decisions fast and a binary way of thinking helps us reduce the complexities for faster decision making. But sometimes, faster does not mean better. We often forget that we have another option, which is to figure things out!

Each time I am faced with a difficult situation, I challenge myself to pause and reassess my intuitive decisions. Instead of "can vs cannot", "do vs do not" and "yes vs no", I try to challenge my intuition and guide myself to adopt a more generative mindset.

Here are some prompts which I find helpful (and I believe would be for you too)

  • Did I take assumptions as conclusions? (a high percentage of confidence does NOT equate to 100%)

  • Was I too preoccupied with the state of the situation rather than the actions that can be taken?

  • What are some areas which I can fix/work on? What's the very next step that I can take?

  • Who can help me in this process? (this break us out of our own field of vision and help us think out of our own box)

In summary, I hope that this post raised the point that at times when we feel helpless, we can achieve more than what we intuitive assume were our limits. Adopt a growth mindset by equipping ourselves with options beyond "I can or I cannot".

Let's say this together! "Even if life is a hot mess, I can FIGURE IT OUT!"

Don't let signs (or even paved roads) fool you. There's obviously more than one way to move forward.

Thanks for reading and hope you feel more hopeful after this! If you feel stuck in a rut, check out the previous posts on Getting Started and Relooking at Ego. We are all in this (making a life worth living) together! Share your comments below should you have any. Thanks for reading and see you in the next post!

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