“Zee Top.” The black spray painted words clearly indicate the highest point on the rock. The lake is a full 20 feet below, and almost 10 feet out horizontally from the crest of what my kids call, “The Jumping Rock.” My son decided it was a goal of his to make that jump into the waters of Lake Okanagan before our time camping at Ellison Provincial Park was over.
So, over the course of the first few days we were there, he set out to work his way up the rock. This year he did not start at the “Small,” a shelf of rock about eight feet up. He didn’t even start at the “Medium.” He started at “Large,” a point about 15 feet up, and methodically worked his way—one step at a time—up to “Zee Top.”
While he was working on this, I was back on the beach reading the book, Mindset by Carol S. Dweck (the middle school staff all read the book over the summer and we are going to be discussing it). Dweck argues that there are two basic mindsets, a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. When a person has a growth mindset they accept the idea that mistakes are opportunities to learn. Additionally, a growth mindset means that the person is willing to take risks in learning; to be willing to tackle challenges and literally grow from the experiences.
On the other hand, a fixed mindset describes someone who believes they are limited by their abilities and talent. People with a fixed mindset tend to avoid challenges as that sets them up for failure. Taking that one step further, fixed mindset people see failure as an admission of poor ability and a lack of talent.
As I put the book down and swam out to the Jumping Rock to watch my kids have a great time in the lake, it struck me that my son was exhibiting a growth mindset. He was slowly working his way up to the top of the rock. In this case there wasn’t really an allowance for a mistake (as that would have meant injury), but he was focused on meeting the challenge, and he was willing to put in the work in to get there.
I arrived on scene just in time to see him launch from Zee Top. I experienced all those mixed parental emotions: I was worried for his safety, proud that he had succeeded, and amazed at both his athletic ability and the fact that I had just witnessed one of those moments where our kids take a step toward growing up. It was awesome!