“How you do something is how you do everything.”
From the simplest to the most complex processes, we’re always getting a deeper picture of how we show up in life, if we pay attention. How do you keep your house? Are you meticulous, detailed-oriented and very aware of where things are, or do you tend to procrastinate, stuff things in drawers and take care of them in a monthly purge? When driving, are you passive and laid back, letting other drivers come and go as they please or are you controlling the road as you run late and fly through yellow lights? Even the simplest things in life can be observed, analyzed and improved upon if we are living in a growth mindset.
In Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, she outlines two basic mindsets that we can approach the world through.
In a fixed mindset, we believe that failure is shameful and something to be avoided. It is better to take on easy projects we know we can complete perfectly than to risk the embarrassment of making a mistake or failing. In a fixed mindset there is often a sense that if we don’t do a task perfectly (even if we are brand new at it) then we are flawed. New situations and “not knowing” the answer can feel intimidating and scary as mistakes are reasons to be self-critical and shaming.
In a growth mindset, we believe effort and progress are what matter most. It is less important to do the task perfectly and more important that practice and improvement are happening. In a growth mindset there is an understanding that we won’t be able to do new things perfectly and that asking questions, practice and getting advise or coaching are all part of learning. When we embrace a growth mindset, we tend to surround ourselves with other people who are more skilled and experienced so we continue to grow.
So back to this statement:
“How we do something is how we do everything.”
In a fixed mindset, when we observe ourselves it is easy to judge. Our loud-mouthed inner critic comes in and says, “Look at you, so incompetent, screwing everything up again.” Or perhaps in a fixed mindset we try hard not to observe ourselves at all preferring to think we are pretty special and really have things figured out.
In a growth mindset, we can step back, watch ourselves and ask with curiosity, “I wonder why I’m doing that?” We can observe ourselves showing up in multiple arenas making similar mistakes, step back to evaluate and then start practicing new ways of showing up.
Sounds simple, right?
Recently my family bought a new house. It is a brilliant, unique and peaceful house out in the country on five acres. It’s exactly what I have always wanted: a place to garden, to hunt, to play soccer in the front yard and have bonfires with friends. While the property is perfect, the house is not.
We bought a 1980s cedar-sided house, and it indeed screams the 80s! From the track lighting to the original stove, washer and dryer, we had some work ahead of us. With a fresh coat of paint, some scrubbing and a little DIY Pinterest magic, we saw so much potential. So we started scrubbing and painting, spackling and patching, raking and shoveling. We invited our friends and families to help, and we paid them with food and beer.
As the projects increased so did the skill level needed to fix them. As we lived in the house we started to see its darker shadow side that a little paint couldn’t fix: a broken dishwasher, leaking washer, leaking garbage disposal, water in the basement, locks not working, faulty electrical.
For many men this would be seen as an opportunity and a challenge. Sure there’s a lot of shit breaking, but I am a man who knows my way around ACE Hardware and has his own Lowe’s card. I, however, am not that man. Through my years of muddling through home projects, making things worse and causing damage, I have lost trust in my ability to fix most things at my house. Once, I called a plumber two days before Christmas only to have him show up and tighten a fitting by hand under the sink. He said “Merry Christmas” as he walked out. Sometimes I ask my nine-year-old son, “How would you fix this Asher?” His idea is usually as good if not better than mine.
All this muddling around has been a great grounds for learning. When I spray painted our white carpet in the living room, even after my wife’s generous and gentle warning, I got to go face-to-face with my inner critic and try to observe without harsh criticism. Even the kind gentlemen at ACE dealt with my oversight with compassion as he helped me find the right carpet cleaner to remove black, oil-based Rustoleum spray paint from white carpet. (Oxyclean got it out, by the way!)
I’ve reached out to friends asking, “Will you come over and teach me how to do this?” They come, and while I learn, they have never made me feel like less of a person for asking for help.
So what have I learned about me from my new house?
“How you do something is how you do everything.”
I like to avoid hard things. I prefer to look on the bright side and avoid seeing the dysfunction. I hate being bored or doing boring things. Sometimes I act like a know-it-all, even when I know very little. My wife should be listened to and her warnings heeded. When I don’t know what to do, I try to ignore the problem. I am impatient.
I can see these things in all areas of my life. How I parent and run a business, how I interact with my family and even how I drive. It would be easy to say, “Oh, it’s just a house.” But it isn’t just a house. It is how I show up in life. It is a chance to practice new ways of being. It is a chance to grow.
Author: Micah McLaughlin is a naturopathic practitioner specializing in the integration of the body and mind. In 2008 he founded Continuum Healing, a holistic health clinic located in Grand Rapids, MI. He is also the co-founder of the Wellness Collective Grand Rapids.