The Dark Side of Growth Mindset

What is a growth mindset? When you cross personal boundaries…

The growth mindset is one of the greatest blessings one can have in life because fundamentally growth is what life is all about.

To me, a growth mindset represents the frame of mind from which everything that happens in life is viewed as an opportunity to learn, improve, and be better. It is also a source of positive energy that pushes you to embrace and endure the vicissitudes of life and achieve growth in the process.

I trust most of you are already familiar with the many transformational benefits a growth mindset can bring to one’s life, but could it also have a negative impact on things under certain circumstances?

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It never occurred to him that there would be any downside to a growth mindset until recently.

About a month ago, our family visited the highly anticipated immersive art exhibit marketed as “an epic adventure into the life and works of Vincent van Gogh.”

It was impressive. The vivid colors and intricate details of world-renowned works of art came to life around you as a symphony of sounds, aromas and flavors further enriched the experience, delighting each of your senses.

Photo by Melbourne City Council

Embedded in the main gallery is a studio where guests can sit at an easel and draw a step-by-step instructional video to recreate their Van Gogh-like masterpieces, providing an immersive artist experience as they replicate the artwork on the paper.

When we got to the end of the show, I suggested we have a little fun in the studio before we left, taking advantage of the full experience on offer. I was expecting some enthusiastic responses from my wife and oldest daughter, both of whom are much better at visual arts than I am.

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To my surprise, none of them were interested.

It made no sense to me that they would choose to miss out on such a wonderful opportunity to hone their drawing skills while having fun trying out what they can do as an artist in a Van Gogh-inspired studio.

I tried to convince them to try it, but they just didn’t feel like doing it. I ended up sitting there just finishing the swirl of “Starry Night.”

Starry Night
Photo by Melbourne City Council

My emotions were also swirling intensely.

I was frustrated that my wife and daughter decided to miss out on such a great opportunity to learn, improve, and make a special show of their artistic abilities.

I was sad that they didn’t see it as a wasted growth opportunity, and they didn’t appreciate my good intentions either.

Most of all, I was disappointed in myself for imposing my way of thinking on them and thereby ruining the wonderful Van Gogh experience for the whole family.

On the way of home, the car was unusually quiet. The kids fell asleep almost immediately and I was stuck in reflective mode, worried with regret and confusion over what happened in the studio.

On the one hand, I knew that I was wrong to cross personal boundaries by imposing my will on others; On the other hand, I was still deeply convinced that I was right that I was only trying to help and they, through lack of a growth mindset, missed out on a fun opportunity for growth.

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I’m used to seeing every experience in life as an opportunity for growth and that’s fine when it’s within one’s limits.

What is NOT OK is when that growth mindset begins to violently spread to others in the name of growth and love.

Worse still is when that growth mindset becomes the target for judging others with different views on things or who are going through different stages of their lives than you.

Understandably, this side effect occurs when you have benefited greatly from your growth mindset in your life and would like to see the same principle unfolding and operating in the lives of your loved ones.

However, you need to draw a clear line between how you achieve personal growth in life and how you want to influence the growth of others.

In particular, there are two important lessons here for anyone with an enthusiastic growth mindset:

Lesson 1:
Respect the boundaries of others at all times, even when your act is out of love, and be kind and supportive in your approach, as too much force can backfire.

For a hatching egg, when it breaks inside, it is the result of growth and marks the beginning of a new life; when it breaks hard from the outside, it means the end of growth and life altogether.

Lesson 2:
Recognize that everyone grows at their own pace, which for the most part cannot be sped up. In addition to growth, there are also many other important things in life.

There are no such thing as the most beautiful flower in the world. Each flower blooms in its own time and is beautiful in its own unique way, all of which add to the colorful world we are blessed to be a part of.