Mindset by Carol Dweck. It’s a book everyone should read. You’re interested in philosophy, psychology, success, relationship advice, self-actualization, or mastering anything? Yes, you should read it.
It’s made me a student who achieves more and a teacher who has multiplied her reservoir of patience exponentially.
It’s the rare type of book that involuntarily achieves the purpose which most self-help books miserably fail at. I reached that disappointment after going through a phase of reading self-help books voraciously until I realized that the whole point of self-help books was consumerism. In other words, once you’ve bought the self-help book, its purpose was fulfilled. Whether or not you get any value out of the book from that point forward depends on whether or not you’ve effectively bought in to the concepts of the book. So if you’re not hooked after the introduction, the rest is just hogwash. Even ‘good’ self-help books are usually full of claptrap. It’s just an eloquent sort of balderdash which succeeds in giving you warm feelings.
Mindset can’t be shelved among this flimflam of pop psychology that could scarcely score any higher than grade four on the Flesch-Kincaid scale.
The most salient reason why I have been whole heartedly endorsing this book to everyone around me whenever it can possibly relate to the conversation at hand is because of the leaps and bounds it has helped me reach in my personal life (a bit of an ironic phrase – is there any other life that is impersonal?). Thanks to Dweck, and her warm tone with which she makes matters of mentality and achievement clear, the way she elucidates the causation and correlation that spring up between them, I’m now much further along in my sense of self.
Brief interlude: upon giving copious ponderance to what constitutes human personhood, especially in light of fetal and reproductive rights, I’ve come (rather tentatively) to the worldview that personhood, or a sense of self is constructed. It’s created over time, by the individual and their environment. I don’t have this weird need to divide nurture and nature. I don’t know if imputed personhood is anything more than an expression of the expectations of parents and society. In other words, ‘self’ is not the set of expectations that are set for you, but rather how you choose to conform or not conform. You are who you choose to be.
To give a rather relevant example, let’s say a baby is born. The clamor of ‘it’s a girl!’ comes flooding in from all sides is bringing societal expectations of how this new member of humanity is going to be trained to act, and what rights she will be allowed. Pink dresses and hair ties are bestowed upon her by friends and relatives who have been trained into being good consumers and are blindly equating materialism with true celebration. Is this child all the attributes that are being attributed to her? I would argue no, not at all, but they could become a part of her to the extent she incorporates them into her sense of self as she develops it.
I do wonder what would cross her parents minds if they took into consideration that her chances of being of being abused or assaulted in her lifetime are 1 in 4. What’s a parent to do if they realize that their child’s anatomy means that they will probably earn only 77% of what a child with a different anatomy will earn? Alas, I digress.
Future me feels the need to jump in here and stake out the right to change my mind after I know what it’s like to have kids. Speaking of which, when I have kids, I think I’ll wait a few months post-natum before disclosing the sex of my child. It will be a good exercise in ambiguity for all those who will be in my life at the time. Maybe this will be able to serve as a small wake up call that sex and gender mean WAY too much to us. I look forward to a Utopian society where the words ‘male’ and ‘female’ are not code for “shut your mind off now and treat this person according to thousands of years of belligerent misinformation”. A society in which the terms ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ are weightless in conversation due to the overwhelming majority of people realizing that gender is only one aspect of attraction. One is just as likely to be sapiosexual.
Given that these values are quite incompatible with religious fundamentalism, we might be in dire need of a change on that front as well. I wouldn’t advocate for any specific worldview, but what I do push for, is criteria which can be used to measure the soundness of a worldview. Is it ethical? Is it up to date enough to be relevant to a modern, technologically advanced society with more power to do harm than ever before?
You know how after the Paleolithic era, we stopped worshipping the Animal Master (peace be upon him may he live forever. Oh I was late to the funeral? What? He only ever existed in human imagination? And he’s not really there anymore? Huh?) because we were no longer living as hunter gatherers and had no more need of him in our dead animal rites because we simply weren’t killing animals like we were before? Along came the Neolithic age, and we turned to Agriculture and developed a new source of food and a new psychological need for transcendent feelings that would lead us to the idea that we had sustenance from gods who would bless our harvests and gladly scoop up our virgins for fertility rites in brothels. We stopped worshipping the animal master because we didn’t need him anymore.
At the risk of overextrapolation, I would like to point out that we are living in the information age, and if we are still going to choose to worship something, it should be something which advances the development of intellectual and ethical society. When you consider how much harm can be done so easily, you realize that archaic and destructive religious mentalities have no place in modern society.
I won’t endorse atheism openly, I’m a little too demure for that, but I will borrow the words of Paul the apostle, and say, “I wish you all were as I”. Embracing empiricism as a prerequisite for assertions regarding cosmology and biology, keeping self-prescribed dosages of spirituality that recognize the methodological concerns which arise from attempting to define such a term, temporary lapses into pseudo-neopaganism which includes and is not limited to the occasional trundle through Dianic wicca, the episodes therein having been terminated prematurely by an underlying derision of the human proclivity to drawing conclusions where none exists naturally and creating structure where there is none, partaking in well-planned debauchery being highly selective in your choice of cohort meanwhile cultivating an internal condition of compassion which is conducive to the most ethical behaviour patterns is quite a recipe. Such are my current religious views. I suppose you could consider my atheism a religion if you’re the type of magic person whose favourite tv show is off, or you regularly dye your hair bald.
Anyhow, go get yourself a copy of Mindset by Carol Dweck and READ IT!