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What can a little dog teach us about resiliency?

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I love this video. And I love it not only for the courage and high spirits of little Kandu, the Jack Russell terrier born without front legs, but because it also shows what a little flexibility and creativity can bring to life.

In her book, Mindset, Stanford University’s Carol Dweck discusses two different views people tend to adopt for themselves: fixed mindset and growth mindset. In a fixed mindset, people tend to think that intelligence and other attributes are set in stone, unable to change. People who have this mindset tend to try to prove themselves over and over. After all, if you only have a certain amount of intelligence, than you better show that you have a lot!

Growth mindset people believe that intelligence and other qualities are fluid and can be improved upon them throughout life. Unlike fixed mindset people who look at challenges as something that may show their weaknesses, growth mindset people look forward to challenges as a way to grow and learn. They enjoy expanding their flexibility and creativity to solve problems.

The growth mindset is a strong attribute of resiliency. Problem-solving, creativity, flexibility, and seeing the ability to grow through adversity are all characteristics that help us to bounce back in life.

So, one of the things I love about the story of Kandu is the growth mindset of his loving owners. His first owners, upon seeing a puppy born without front legs and perhaps having fixed mindsets, took him to the shelter to be euthanized. After his story was shown on television, over one hundred people applied to adopt him. His new owners, Ken and Melissa Rogers, were not daunted by Kandu’s physical challenges. Instead, because they have a growth mindset, the Rogers did some problem-solving and called someone with a ton of creativity – an expert in orthotics for pets.

Watch the video to see the joy of little Kandu as he scoots about on his growth-mindset-created orthotics. And listen for the creativity and flexibility of his owners and the man who designed the orthotics.

Takeaway points: A fixed mindset has you believe that your intelligence and other qualities are set in stone and there isn’t much you can do to improve them. A growth mindset allows you to look at yourself and others as constantly changing and open to new challenges as a means to grow. Having a growth mindset is a terrific characteristic of resiliency.

You can change your mindset throughout your life. What kind of mindset did you have as a child? Has your mindset changed as you’ve gotten older?


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Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.