Ask any of my friends and family and they’ll tell you I’m a planner. I plan everything—and I mean everything. I’m the girl with the five-, ten-, twenty-year plan, the girl who makes detailed itineraries for every trip I take, the girl who knows exactly who she is and where she’s going.
By all estimations, 2020 was shaping up to be the best year yet. I had carefully saved money and vacation time to attend the weddings of seven of my dearest friends, booked an airplane ticket for a trip to Mexico City, started to shop for apartments with a friend, and felt, for the first time in years, settled with my life plan and trajectory.
And then, that settled feeling was swept away by one simple, four-syllable acronym: COVID-19. As quickly as it came together, everything fell apart. My new housing opportunity fell through, my trip to Mexico City got cancelled, and I missed all but one of my friends’ weddings due to downsizing, rescheduling, or travel restrictions.
Still, despite all these setbacks and months spent in hyper-isolation I feel centered in a way I’ve never felt before. I’ve learned so much about life, myself, and others—recognizing that journeys are never linear and life is more like a rollercoaster ride than a carousel.
This recognition of the ups and downs and bumps and bruises is a part of what psychologist and Stanford professor Carol Dweck describes as a “growth mindset,” a concept I’ve come to see as a defining part of my quarantine experience.
What is a Growth Mindset?
In Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The new Psychology of Success, she writes: “When people…change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework. Their commitment is to growth, and growth takes plenty of time, effort, and mutual support.”
Growth mindset is all about flexibility, adaptability, and grit, and the recognition that success takes time, failure is necessary, and intelligence is malleable.
And while I still have plenty of growing to do, I’ve learned to embrace certain aspects of a growth mindset that I find helpful for personal, professional, and emotional growth.
Although it’s a slow journey, insights from Dweck and other prominent growth mindset psychologists like Angela Duckworth have helped me make simple mental shifts to cultivate a happier and more holistic mindset for what currently feels like a stagnant life.
How To Practice A Growth Mindset
Become More Curious
Approaching life in 2020 with a sense of curiosity can feel difficult when everything is remote, but I truly believe that now is the best time to learn new things.
With all of my newfound free time, I’ve been able to join a virtual meditation class to learn more about the art of mindfulness and stillness, work on my flexibility with YouTube Pilates and Yoga classes, and learn new ideas through the never-ending list of podcast options available on Spotify and online (all on top of planting my first-ever vegetable patch!).
Reframing failure is all about seeing setbacks as learning opportunities and looking on the bright side of what feels like difficult situations.
If someone were to tell me I’d still be living at home with my parents at 23, I’d shake my head with disappointment at my lack of independence. However, while my ego may be bruised, I’m also saving money that I’d otherwise be spending on rent, groceries, and utilities. Though living at home may not be what I envisioned, I am learning to see the goodness in everything and find contentment no matter the situation.
Learn to Wait
More than anything else, 2020 has felt like a waiting game for who can hold off the longest. Though my hopes and dreams may be put on pause, I’m continuing to remind myself that good things take time, and waiting is a difficult but essential part of every growth process (after all, it took 5 weeks for some of my plants to even sprout, let alone start to grow!).
This concept of grit is probably the most important skill that quarantine has helped me develop—the get-back-up-again attitude I now default to each time this pandemic throws a wrench in my well laid-out plan. While sadness is okay (expected even!), I’ve come to learn that grit is ultimately what helps me get back up and going again and the central lesson to my life in quarantine.
Though some days it feels difficult to keep going, cultivating a growth mindset has taught me to lean into the here-and-now all while preparing for the still-to-come. I know there will be a day when I’ll get to travel again, move out and declare myself a fully independent adult, and achieve all the hopes and dreams that I’ve currently put on hold.
And until that day, I choose not to be bitter, but to grow, learn, and change instead. Because life’s too short to stay the same. And as life changes every day, I’m committed to grow and change right along with it.
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Photo: Dana Drosdick