It was pretty symbolic for me to be back in the pages of Runner's World magazine a year ago this month with the article "Slay your setbacks." September is a time of transitions, especially in my beloved New England, where I lived for many years. This is the time of year when leaves begin to turn, when the air is clearer and colder, and when students of all ages walk into a classroom for the first time to learn something new.
"Slay your setbacks" was inspired by the work of psychologist Carol Dweck, who popularized the phrase "growth mindset." In her work with children, she saw how encouragement—in the form of a "not yet" grade instead of a failing grade—led students to understand that they were, in Dweck's words, "on a learning curve." The power of that one word--yet—is remarkable. It can move students who are struggling to rethink the challenge in front of them. It is effort and difficulty, Dweck says in her lovely and moving TED talk, that creates new connections in the brain. It is literally the struggle that helps us learn. There is no easy way out. The way out is by figuring it out, trying new things, playing with ideas, until a moment of clarity arrives.
Last year was a year of effort and difficulty for us—one that made it hard to pick up the pen at times. We lost a dear family member, my husband's mother. She had moved in with us in late 2016, just a few months before she received a devastating cancer diagnosis. She died one year ago this month. It was a beautiful sunny fall morning. My husband and I made the required calls, arranged childcare for our son, and walked our seaside town north of Seattle for hours, just breathing. We were exhausted, and all we knew was that the road ahead would not include our son's dear "Bama" (toddler-speak for "Grandma") any longer.
Effort and difficulty. It was hard to go from a multigenerational household to one with an empty bedroom where a grandma used to be. We hung up the Cezanne posters that she loved in her bedroom, put a poem by the door, turned it into a guest room. Over the year, visitors came and went. And now, in this new season of learning, I pick up the pen, with effort and difficulty, to begin new projects once again. Out of the corner of my eye, I see my son picking up a new book. He's three now, with a vocabulary that stuns us all (for better and for worse, he is a writer's child, and he notices everything). And I continue to write—finally, a new entry for this blog, a year after we set up the website, now with enough room to breathe and notice what is new in this new season.
I invite you to check out "Slay your setbacks" anew to learn more about how growth mindset can help you run faster, train harder, or do anything better. Enjoy Carol Dweck's lovely TED talk as well, and her book, Mindset.
Best wishes for a wonderful September.