Get into a growth mindset during Elul

While you’ve certainly heard of the iPhone, few know of the revolutionary process that went into recruiting the talented team that would eventually create this incredibly popular device.
The story starts with the groundbreaking research of Carol S. Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University. Dweck studied the science of how our self-conceptions influence our actions. Her work with children revealed two mindsets in action: a “growth” mindset that generally thinks big and seeks growth, and a “fixed” mindset that places artificial limits and avoids failure. Growth-minded students were found to employ better learning strategies, experience less helplessness, exhibit more positive effort and achieve more in the classroom than their fixed-minded peers. They are similarly less likely to place limits on their lives and more likely to reach for their potential.
Onto the scene arrives Scott Forstall, a senior vice president at Apple, who read Dweck’s book on mindsets and was so inspired by her findings that he decided to identify and recruit a team comprising solely growth-minded individuals for his brand-new, top-secret project. To separate the growth-minded employees at his company from their fixed-minded peers, Forstall delivered a curious pitch to superstars across the company and watched carefully for their responses.
Forstall warned that this top-secret project would provide ample opportunities to “make mistakes and struggle, but eventually we may do something that we will remember the rest of our lives.” Those who immediately jumped at the challenge were accepted as part of the team, while those who did not were left off. Forstall surmised that he had found his group of growth-minded individuals who, far from growing dismayed or discouraged by the tremendous challenges that lay ahead of them, would remain inspired, curious and committed through it all. And it was this team of growth-minded individuals that just so happened to go on to create the iPhone the world has grown to love. (From The One Thing — The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller)
As is evident, the effects that our mindsets have on what we go on to accomplish in life is truly remarkable and, at the same time, incredibly frightening. The good news, as Dweck pointed out, is that mindsets can and do change. And like any other habit, you can set your mind to it until the right mindset becomes routine.
While a Jew should always be growth-minded, it is during the month of Elul, the Hebrew month before the High Holidays, that we are reminded to switch gears if we have reverted to a life model of fixed-mindedness. Beginning in the month of Elul, the resonating sounds of the shofar echo in synagogues throughout the world before our morning prayers, reminding us to wake up from our spiritual slumber and meet the challenges of the moment.
Elul invites us to reconsider the possibilities of our lives — how we might proceed forward toward a life of meaning, commitment and purpose, and how we might return from the wayward paths we have claimed as our own.
Yes, growth in all of its forms invites challenge and therefore the possibility of failure as well. But with a growth-mindset by our side, the high expectations that come with the new year can be met with an equal amount of excitement and determination to make this year the best ever.
Rabbi Yogi Robkin is the outreach director of DATA of Plano. He can be reached at

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