Being Cognizant: How to Become Better

Self- and other-improvement resources from Carol Dweck and Freakonomics Radio.


A series about the ways I work towards being cognizant through decisions that make me more mentally engaged with various facets of my day-to-day life.

Cognizance (noun): Awareness, realization, notice, knowledge, perception.

The title is a little bit off-putting (or perhaps inspiring depending on who you are), but hear me out.

Inspired by the Freakonomics podcast and their recent series of episodes for “Self-Improvement Month” (ongoing), I wanted to share some of the resources that Stephen Dubner and his team at Freakonomics shared with their audience, as well as a concept I learned about in Psychology and my work last summer.

All of these resources bring together concepts and tools for improving your skill at just about anything, increasing your grit/stick-to-itiveness, and reshaping the way you think about your own abilities.

The Power of Yet” (Carol Dweck)

I first learned about Carol Dweck in a childhood and adolescence psychology course, and then again in my work last summer. Her work has changed the way I think about what I can and want to do.

Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University

Study: Gave 10-year olds problems that were slightly too hard for them to solve. Some of them reacted in surprisingly positive ways, saying things like, “I love a challenge!” Others felt it was catastrophic and that they had been put up for judgement and failed. Those students performed downward social comparisons next time they faced a difficult task and did not succeed (downward social comparison: comparing oneself to someone perceived as inferior in order to prop up one’s own sense of self).

2 mindsets discussed by Dweck:

Fixed mindset: The belief that one’s abilities are “fixed” and cannot be changed.

Growth mindset: The belief that one’s abilities can be developed through effort/work.

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