2010–2023 Writings
by Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

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In the article “The Secret to Raising Smart Kids” posted on Scientific American, Carol S. Dweck makes some interesting points about how praising children for their intelligence can put them in a “fixed mind-set” rather than a “growth mind-set” because they start believing that intelligence is something they have (or don’t have) rather than viewing it as a continuous process of discovery that requires ongoing work of their doing. Dweck suggests, “telling [children] stories about achievement that result from hard work” is one way to teach them this lesson.

I am all for learning as a process, storytelling and neuroplasticity, but when it comes to hard work, I have to draw the line. Perhaps there should be another line between hard and work because, as far as I’m concerned, the two words do not belong together.

hard | work

Does this mean that I’m not learning, growing, doing, working or outputting? No, that’s not what I am implying.

Does it mean I’m lazy and am encouraging others to be lazy? Not at all.

Do I avoid difficult tasks and only take on the easy ones? Nope. That wouldn’t even be learning, would it?

I just don’t believe that work has to be hard because it doesn’t feel that way. I enjoy learning and working… and working at learning… and learning at work.

Isn’t that also what we really want for children – all children, not just those who can be convinced at a young enough age? What happens if they grow up and tire out – is their only other option then to stop working because it is too hard? Or would we all be better off if we were taught to work on things that we naturally enjoy, so we can be energized and enthusiastic, not just disciplined?

And just because I enjoy it doesn’t mean work is always easy or will always be easy. Does that make work hard though? I think it is time we break up this easy-hard duality by coming up with other adjectives to describe work.

What are other (more playful) adjectives we could use to describe work? How would you describe what you, your children or your students are working on? 

Learning does not have to be hard. That means life does not have to be either since they are designed to go hand-in-hand. That does not mean living a [fulfilling] life does not require discipline, focus, and practice, etc., but the whole concept that hard work is noble and necessary to get you ahead in life and that anything else gets you nowhere is a myth. It is a lie to get you to work hard for someone else (rather than working with others on something that you enjoy because it aligns with who you are, benefits others, and yes, can provide for you too).  – Lesson 6, I am Intelligence

Can you remember a time when you were working on something that did not feel hard or like work at all? Perhaps you can remember a time from the recent past or from your childhood when all time and all worry escaped you. You also were not thinking about a grade, dollar or what anyone else would think. In fact, it probably did not feel like you were thinking at all...

Jade, "hard" at work
Jade, “hard” at work

One response to “Working Hard or Hardly Working?”

  1. […] Working Hard or Hardly Working? […]

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