It’s a good thing so many things in life don’t wait until you’re “ready.”
As I type this, my wife is pregnant. Like, really pregnant. Like, we’re in the hospital, and she’s trying to nap as she progresses onward towards the birth of our baby. This isn’t my first rodeo.
It’s my third, in fact. Sitting here, on an uncomfortable vinyl bed/couch, I’m noticing the difference in my mindset between how I felt in the same situation with our first kid as I do now.
Birth is one of the rare things that we have very little control over. Like the weather, we can sometimes anticipate it, and maybe minimize the effects, but we cannot control it. I can no more stop this baby from coming and radically blowing up the routines and structures of my life as I can stop a hurricane. And that’s a good thing. Why?
We live in a world of customization. More and more of our lives are tailored to our exact preferences and whims. There are only a handful of reminders that we are, in fact, not in control—babies, the weather, death, and illness to name a few.
But while I love customized Spotify playlists and restaurant menus that are longer than a Russian novel as much as the next guy, I’m also glad that today is not in my control, just like many of the other most important things in life.
Because if they were, I would simply never do them.
Many of the most important (and notice that I did not use the word “best”) things in life happen without our consent. If they waited for our permission, we would never give the green light.
Waiting to be ready is a myth. Life will happen, and we have the choice to believe we can rise or stay where we are.
You are never truly “ready” for a kid. For sickness. For that big break. To take the plunge. To quit your job. To start the business. To fill-in-the-blank-here. Few of us ever feel fully “ready” for the big things in life.
I think a big part of this is because we sell ourselves short. We gauge our “readiness” on our experience and not on our capacity for growth.
Fixed versus Growth Mindset
There are now two understandings of how our brains learn to process and categorize challenges.
First is a “fixed mindset,” which basically runs life’s experiences and challenges through the filter of, “Do I currently have the skills/capacity/resources/whatever I need to accomplish X?” It’s a simple equation, and it makes sense. If the answer is “no,” a fixed mindset bows out of whatever challenge/opportunity/requirement is ahead to avoid failing.
But a “growth mindset” has a different equation. It looks at its past ability to grow and says something like: “I know X is going to take more than I currently have. But, I believe it is something that I can grow into.” A growth mindset understands that a track record of growth can be projected into the future. It is more concerned with capacity than it is the current state of resources.
Research around products of the “self-esteem movement” bear this out. When we praise kids for personality or character traits (“you’re so pretty, special, talented, etc.”), we’re actually encouraging a fixed mindset. We’re telling them they’re good enough because of what they currently do.
Encouraging a child’s effort is much more effective. It builds in them a sense of their ability to grow and, ironically, leads to much greater self-esteem.
What I’m writing is as much for me as it is for anybody else. When I practically think through the sleepless nights that are ahead, the seemingly infinite diaper changes, and the demands of life with three kids ages 3 and under, I’m confident I don’t currently have what I need. But, the same was true when I got married. When I took that job. When I ran that race. When I climbed that mountain. I’ve seen that our ability to grow into what’s required of us is pretty profound.
As a follower of Jesus, I think Christians might be some of the worst “fixed-mindset” offenders in our unwillingness to step outside our comfort zones. We love quoting Bible verses or pretty ideas like “when God closes a door, he opens a window.” (Not in the Bible, btw.)
The worst part of a fixed mindset is that it leaves no room for God. Scientists know we can motivate our capacity for growth when we believe we can actually grow. So imagine the possibilities of a growth mindset plus faith in a God who promises to do far more than we can ever hope or imagine. The God who turned a guy who was afraid to speak up into a hero who led a nation out of slavery. The God who used a kid with a slingshot to slay an actual giant. Talk about a growth mindset.
God doesn’t necessarily care if you think you’re “ready”… Challenges motivate us to rely on Him.
God actually loves when we’re outside of our comfort zone. He’s always calling us into more than we believe we’re “ready” for, in order to motivate us to rely on him. It enables Him to show up and show off. That’s when ordinary guys become heroes and impossible situations outside of our control become miracles.
His vision for us is far bigger than we dream up for ourselves. Living with a growth mindset (plus faith) opens the door to a life far better than we could author for ourselves. He said we could do even greater things than Jesus. If that’s what he promises us, just imagine what he could do with you and a growth mindset for your fill-in-the-blank.
We’ve all likely heard that pseudo-fact that goldfish will grow proportionally to whatever environment they’re in, right? While this isn’t scientifically quite true, it’s a sort-of-true thing and an apt metaphor for our own capacity for growth.
We need to stop putting ourselves in small “fishbowls.” It’s keeping us from some amazing stuff and the worst kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. The willingness to take risks doesn’t automatically mean you’ll succeed, but an unwillingness to take them absolutely means you’ll fail.
Life doesn’t care if you’re ready, so you should probably care a little less, too. Try believing in growth (plus faith) instead.