Mindset Possibilities

Somewhere, over the rainbow…

Have you noticed how quickly a rainbow disappears? A rainbow pops in and out of brilliance. Yet, our frequent fixed-mindset perspectives entail wanting rainbows (and other goodies) to “last” or “stay the same.” Have you noticed seasons changing? The climate and our weather, including weathering the pandemic, is a moving target. We may not live the “same” as we did pre-pandemic.

Consider Frank Baum’s voyage-and-return plot for all ages, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. There are messages for both adults and children in Baum’s classic story. While he visited Kansas only once, Baum was deeply moved by a tornado which ripped through the state in 1893, killing 31 people and destroying two towns. Baum turned his grieving into a redemptive narrative about a girl and her dog who are traumatized in weathering a tornado.

Dorothy Gale was named for Dorothy Gage, his 5-month-old niece who died during Baum’s writing about Oz. He created his name for a made-up kingdom by staring intently at his filing cabinet. The three drawers were marked, A to G, H to N, and O to Z. The letters O-Z captured his imagination!

Heroine Dorothy endured many challenges before reaching the Wizard. Coping with fear and uncertainty are mainstays in Baum’s original story. Dorothy asks the pretend-Wizard if he is frightened and he replies truthfully: “Child, you’re talking to a man who’s laughed in the face of death, sneered at doom, and chuckled at catastrophe…I was petrified.”   

One takeaway message is the growth mindset of Dorothy, an orphan raised by her aunt and uncle amidst conflict at home. Aunt Em orders Dorothy: “Find yourself a place where you won’t get into any trouble!” Like many runaways, Dorothy takes this message to heart and runs off with her dog, Toto. Then the tornado strikes.

When Dorothy meets the Tinman, Scarecrow and Lion, she discovers that everyone struggles. Each friend feels inadequate–not having enough compassion, or intelligence, or courage. When all work together to save Dorothy from a Wicked Witch, each one becomes resilient in discovering their personalities are flexible! Each discovers inner strengths (in spite of the Scarecrow’s and Tinman’s bodily disabilities), although they were unable to recognize their possibilities initially.  

It is through the storms of life that we tend to learn some of our best lessons if we have a growth mindset. We feel surprise in seeing rainbows after stormy times, but life is full of opposites. Our personalities are full of opposites. It is up to each of us to name our vulnerable fears. We can nurture self-compassion for our struggles and foster a belief in growing our potential. It is then we are better able to have compassion for others also weathering bumpy times.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

30. What are times when you have held a fixed mindset?

31. How might you nudge yourself into a growth mindset more of your day?   

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.

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