Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Personal Growth

A full week into the new year now and time has become quite the luxury. With school and internship applications and other projects on my plate, it may not be the best time to step back and chart my personal growth, but if I wait for the perfect time it may never come. The topic of growth crossed my mind on several occasions this week. As I was going through my clinic notebook, making sure I have the necessary charts and tables and treatment plans, I realized I had neglected to include growth charts, which would be important in pediatrics. Growth charts allow for tracking the height and weight and other anthropometric measures of infants and children, allowing patterns to emerge. While I am well above 59 months of age, this week it felt like the right time to plot a new point on my personal growth chart.

After studying nutrition for over two years I finally had my first clinic shift with a patient. I was serving as a secondary with a more experienced classmate leading the session, but it was exciting nonetheless to be a vital part of the nutrition care process. Finally. I went to the clinic over the weekend to review the patient's chart. And then it clicked. PCOS. Depression. Metformin. Hyperlipidemia. I knew this case well. I knew it because ten years ago it was me.

Often when people ask about my background and I give them the elevator version of my experience there is a disconnect. Having studied Jewish studies and film criticism, worked for various non-profit organizations in education, the question understandably comes up: why nutrition? Over the years I have honed a vague but reasonably satisfying answer - nutrition is so important, it can improve quality of life, it's a matter of justice and social responsibility, it's empowering - and all of those things are completely true. But why did I change my life trajectory at the quarter mark and start along an entirely new path? That was the result of a long, slow and deeply personal experience. Suffice it to say that to see my first patient and confront my own diagnosis face to face, sitting this time in the clinician's seat, was at once profoundly meaningful and yet totally banal. That is growth.

It reminded me of a book I recently came across by Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dweck's ideas struck a chord and she argues that rather than being fixed in our sense of self - who we are and what we are - we should be willing to develop new abilities, work hard and focus on growth and learning.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.

Teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education, and sports. It enhances relationships.

There have been many times in the past few years when I doubted my decision to leave what was familiar, what I knew, what I was good at, and try something completely new. I choose to read my experience at the clinic as a wink from the universe that I'm on the right path. And it could not have come at a better time. As I work on my applications for next year and look into the great unknown once again, I have to trust that things will work out, or at the very least trust that I am willing to view my circumstances from a mindset of growth and resilience.

No comments:

Post a Comment