Throughout history purposefully engaged people have received a prize for outstanding accomplishments. The Olympics, started in the 8th century B.C., now awards the gold medal. The awarding of students with academic degrees came into being around the 13th century. Scholarly and philanthropic endeavors receive the Nobel Prize beginning in 1901. Each respective prize is valuable in itself, but the symbolic and intrinsic value is far greater.
The culture in the United States has been getting better about awarding deserved prizes, but the problem is this has evolved into an overabundance and devaluation. Major parties and ceremonies are conducted for graduation… from kindergarten. Win or lose, both teams are getting a prize trophy for just showing up. Confusion arises with too many prizes because no differentiation exists between putting forth an all-out effort, prior to and while participating in the event, and just showing up.
Pressing on toward a goal to win THE prize requires countless physical, emotional, and spiritual hours of being purposefully engaged. Being so focused contains no guarantees to win THE prize, but choosing this path of life is wise because it is meaningful and moving upward. Upward referring to the sense of building resilience, toughness, and grit. Character building takes place in the struggle to get better.
Apparent success without failure just means the challenges were way too easy or not attempted accompanied by bogus excuses all aimed at looking good. Mindset brings a great concept to the table to deal with this way of thinking.
Being purposefully engaged means attempting things that bring about growth and advancement. Scholars label this as having a growth mindset. Designating activities as inclusive of a combination of performance and learning goals requires having a growth mindset.
For example, the performance goal for learning to shoot a basketball properly is to practice for one hour. The learning goal is to develop the best form possible during that hour regardless of how many baskets were made. The learning goal continues until the proper form is mastered. The number of shots made is being measured, but is not the prime directive. Learning proper form and growing into being a better shooter is. Failure is actually part of the process, not a deterrent.
The growth mindset path makes learning fun and is far more productive than the contrary, a fixed mindset. Whatever endeavor continues to hold a person’s attention and is something worthy of further development necessitates having a growth mindset. The above example of shooting baskets involves many failures in the process of missing multiple shots.
The greatest basketball players all miss shots, but all got to a professional level by having a growth mindset. Learning goals require effort more so than excellence and are part of any quality developmental program. When the development progresses quickly, making decisions is easier about the next steps. When progress slows, decisions become more difficult. Determining to persist to get to the next level or take a new path becomes the challenge.
The beauty of being purposefully engaged with a growth mindset is that this is a win-win proposition. The path that ends in defeat is different than failing. Defeat is merely a transition. Defeat ends when we launch into another battle (Paulo Coelho). What doesn’t work on one path is just a redirection leading to another destination.
Being purposefully engaged in all undertakings is smart. The result is learning how to manage the tension between defeat and success. Get better at determining what is an area to excel in, have fun, and make a difference in the world with what eventually becomes an area of expertise.
That’s being smart about higher education and living a life that matters!