THE STRAIGHT UP
The Locker Incident Why Don’t We Celebrate Mistakes?
When I went to school, way back in the Dark Ages, our school district didn’t have amiddle school.You were in elementary school through seventh grade, and then eighth through 12th grades were considered high school.The fall I started eighth grade, I felt like such a grown up. I had a bunch of different classes, I didn’t have to walk single file down the halls, and, best of all, I hadmy own locker! I readSeventeenmagazine; I knew grown-up high school girls had lockers. I was so excited to put my stuff inmy locker, but a few days in, disaster struck.Onemorning, I went to get my books, and I couldn’t openmy locker! I kept trying the combination over and over again, but it wouldn’t work. I got more frustrated with each spin and couldn’t believe how stupid I was.Who just forgets their locker combination? I finally had to go to class without my books, and when I came back to try again later, I still couldn’t get in. I was spiraling until one of my friends came by to check onme. “I can’t get intomy locker!” I explained in a huff. “I know I have the right combination, so the dumb thingmust be broken.”
My friend solvedmy problem in just seven words: “Isn’t your locker in the next row?”
That’s when I thought to check the locker number.
It was super embarrassing at the time, but I laughed about it later. And today, I recognize the Locker Incident as an example of my own fixedmindset sabotagingme. A fixedmindset is when you view intelligence and skill as static —either you’re good at something or you’re not.On the flip side, a growthmindset means you recognize ability is the result of effort and practice; you have to be bad at something before you can be good at something. I have always struggled to overcomemy fixedmindset, and this is something I recognize in a lot of my younger patients. Since we’re officially starting the new school year, I thought nowwould be a good time to look into the benefits of adopting a growthmindset. In the Locker Incident, it was my fixedmindset that decided, when I couldn’t openmy locker on the first try, that either my locker was broken or I was just too dumb to do something so simple. My friend’s growthmindset recognized theremust be a better explanation and looked for solutions. At the time, I beat myself up over such amistake.Today, I know to celebratemy slip-ups.Yes, it was silly and embarrassing, but I knewwheremy locker was after that. Part of having a growthmindset is recognizing
mistakes aren’t the end of the world— they’re one step in learning something you didn’t know before. I really like the idea of celebratingmistakes, especially at the beginning of a school year. There are a lot of things we don’t know yet at the beginning of a new school year, and it’s easy tomakemistakes. And that’s the point!We’re in this world to learn new things, so when you make amistake, adopt a growthmindset and think, “Cool. I learned something new.” This is easier said than done, I know. Sometimes, I slip back into a fixedmindset and dwell on a mistake I made.That’s yet another opportunity to learn and get better. –Dr. Leslie Pitner
“AND TODAY, I RECOGNIZE THE LOCKER INCIDENT AS AN EXAMPLE OF MY OWN FIXED MINDSET SABOTAGING ME.”
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