If you had told my 16-year-old self that I would one day be passionate about something that involves chemistry, I would have laughed at you and said “no way…not happening!” The truth is I almost flunked high school chemistry and that negative experience (eons ago!) changed the way I thought about my ability to “do chemistry” for many years afterward.
I believed I really sucked at chemistry and should stay away from test tubes, glass beakers and anything to do with the periodic table.
But NOW, all these years later — I make and sell my own handmade soaps and work with essential oils, which are chemical components of plants. There’s more than a little chemistry involved and I love it!
Why am I even telling you this?
Because we all develop fixed mindsets and engage in negative self-talk. We tell ourselves…I’m not good at math OR I’m bad at sports OR I can’t write well.
While I don’t think we can excel at everything — I do believe we often give up too easily or spend our time trying not to “look dumb.” As a result, we limit our potential and miss out on discovering new passions.
I’m sharing this because I hope my own soapmaking journey (after the false stories I told myself) will inspire you to try something outside your own fixed mindset.
How I Started in Soapmaking
If I was determined to stay far away from chemistry…how the heck did I end up making soap in the first place? The simple answer is that I was motivated by my “crafty/creative” side. I was scrolling Pinterest a few years back, looking for favors for my daughter’s bridal shower and came across some cute little soaps. I still didn’t know my way around a periodic table, but I could definitely manage the craft store.
So off I went to get a melt ‘n pour soap base, small molds, some mica for color and a few essential oils — plus pretty paper to wrap the bars. It was easy and fun and best of all –the soaps were a hit!
From the first time I melted the pre-made soap base and added a little color and scent — I was hooked by the creative possibilities and wanted to learn more. And that’s exactly what I’ve done over the last five years, as I’ve learned the art and science of cold-processed soapmaking.
What’s a Fixed vs. a Growth Mindset?
When it came to making soap, I was finally able to switch off my fixed mindset (I can’t do chemistry) in favor of a growth mindset (I can’t do chemistry yet)…to learn something new. The woman who pioneered this concept is Carol Dweck, a research scientist who synthesized her work in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
Dweck says, “Your view of yourself can determine everything. If you believe that your qualities are unchangeable — the fixed mindset — you will want to prove yourself correct over and over rather than learning from your mistakes.”
With a growth mindset, Dweck says, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point. She says the hallmark of a growth mindset is stretching yourself and sticking with something even (or especially) when it’s not going well. [For the record, I’ve had many soap failures!]
Here are few key takeaways from her work that I hope will encourage you to think differently about your capabilities:
- With a fixed mindset, you’ll evaluate every situation: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?
- With a growth mindset, on the otherhand, you’ll cultivate a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval. You’ll start to see failure as just part of the plot, not the end of the story.
- You can develop a lot of traits (that you previously thought were out of reach) through effort and deliberate practice.
- Exploring with a growth mindset leads to a whole new set of thoughts and actions that can take you down an entirely different road than you thought possible.
My Journey Hasn’t Been all Smooth…How About You?
My own journey from hobbyist to soap seller was filled with a lot of self-doubt and failures. Even after I made a decent bar of soap, I fought imposter syndrome for a long time. I thought…I really shouldn’t be doing this…I might blow up my kitchen!
But ever so slowly, I was able to move past those doubts by embracing and learning from my failures, building on small successes — and receiving encouragement from family and friends.
Having a growth mindset is not as simple as the philosophy, “if you can dream it, you can do it” — which doesn’t give you a path forward. Instead, it’s about understanding how to change your mindset so that you’re okay with not knowing, failing and trying again. After all, who knows what hidden talents you have?
Now it’s your turn. Is there a negative narrative you’ve been telling yourself for years? Are you ready to challenge it and try again? I’d love to hear it!
Think Piece: Little League Needs a Growth Mindset
This article is for all the parents out there whose kids are into youth sports. It was an eye-opener for me as I never gave much thought to how kids are often limited to one track. You know…once a pitcher always a pitcher? This leaves some kids sitting on the sidelines or buying into the idea that they “don’t have what it takes.” Read Little League Baseball Needs a Growth Mindset.
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