Why Overcoming a Fear of Going Back to School is Child’s Play — Literally!

Picture of Why Overcoming a Fear of Going Back to School is Child’s Play — Literally!
By Cynthia Dalton
There are few things more pathetic than those who have lost their curiosity and sense of adventure, and who no longer care to learn. - Gordon B. Hinckley

What do People Fear About Going Back to School?

It’s a subject that sparks a lot of internal debate in many otherwise decisive adults. They ask themselves, “Should I take the plunge and go back to school?” To settle the debate, a piece of paper magically appears in front of them with a sharp line drawn down the middle of the sheet creating two columns, one column titled, “Yes” and one column titled, “No.” The column that fills up with the most “Whys” wins. What do they fear?

Many people fear:

  • That it’s already too late, “I should have done it sooner.”
  • Not being smart enough.
  • Not being naturally talented or gifted.
  • Not making the grade – receiving negative feedback or bad grades.
  • Losing too much leisure time with family and friends.
  • Falling behind because of work and family commitments.
  • Not staying motivated — giving up and feeling like a failure.

What do These Fears About Going Back to School Really Represent?

A paralysis of action, possibly the result of years of being on the receiving end of too much criticism and/or too much self-criticism. Rather than venture into uncharted waters, many seek the safety and certainty of sameness, telling themselves it’s either too late, or the time isn’t quite right. It’s a, ‘If I stay where I am, I’ll stay safe’ survival mechanism. But standing still and being ‘safe’ rarely, if ever, leads to fulfillment, satisfaction, and success.

So, What’s the Cure for This Paralysis of Action?


Or, as Dr. Carol S. Dweck expresses it in her book, Mindset – Changing the Way You Think to Fulfill Your Potential, individuals need to change their thinking from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. To shorthand this concept, here are two quotes from Dr. Dweck:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

For more:



To Access a Growth Mindset, Tap into a Child’s Curiosity at Play

There are many different aspects to developing a growth mindset, but if you had to pick just one, pick developing the curiosity of a child at play. A child’s play is actually serious stuff. Think back to your own early memories of growing up and how you pursued play. Or, watch a little one you may know in your life right now and observe how he or she approaches play. What do you see? Pure genius, that’s what!

What Genius Skills do Children at Play Demonstrate?

Below are just some of the genius skills every child possesses at play, that every adult can recapture for themselves, and in the process, make going back to school a pleasurable and rewarding experience.

A child:

  • Has an inborn, natural resistance against being easily defeated. Have you ever seen a child give up on learning to blow a bubble, no matter how long it takes?
  • Operates with a sense of purpose without preconceiving an exact outcome, knowing instinctively that if something is of interest, there will be a use for it at some point.
  • Doesn’t self-criticize or self-defeat. “I’m so dumb” just doesn’t come out of a toddler’s mouth.
  • Is fully in the moment and undistracted.
  • Openly approaches a new experience or challenge, expecting to take delight in a new discovery, assuming it will be fun, without a preconceived fear that somehow potential embarrassment awaits.
  • Allows his or her self to freely associate new discoveries with old discoveries.
  • Is not concerned about how others see them.
  • Makes time to do what he or she wants, unconflicted by thoughts that maybe it would be better to be doing something else.
  • Sees potential, not problems, in his or her playtime.
  • Wants to share his or her new discoveries.

With a Curiosity Driven, Growth Mindset, Fears About Going Back to School Fade Away

When we adopt the curiosity of a child at play, our fears about going back to school fade away, replaced with an excitement about things to come.

We know:

  • It’s never too late — we are always a work in progress.
  • That ‘smarts’ and talent aren’t fixed and finite, but rather, cultivable.
  • Challenges become our ‘toys’ providing the opportunity to grow — we no longer see the problems in challenges, we see the potential in challenges, and look forward to new challenges, because we’ve developed a taste for new directions and adventures.
  • Feedback is never negative, it just helps us improve — we no longer fear failure because it doesn’t exist — only new insights exist.
  • Education becomes a serious part of our leisure time, just as improving a golf swing does, and we can relish the ‘sport’ of study and benefit from the enrichment it provides.
  • We’ll make time for our education because the process is hard but pleasurable and rewarding, and that it will compliment, not compete, with our work and home life.
  • We’ll always have new insights to share with our family, friends, and colleagues.
  • We’ll automatically stay motivated because we’ve replaced reasons not to take on new challenges, with reasons to take on new challenges.

Sometimes, Childish is Good

So, be a kid again! Go back to school with confidence. View new adventures as child’s play.

Really, it’s the adult thing to do!

Here’s a final thought from Brian Tracy:

Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.

What do you think?

  • Do you like the concept of a growth mindset?
  • How do you approach learning new things?
  • Do you feel you possess a child’s curiosity when learning new things?

Do you have a question, comment or an idea for an article? Email: [email protected]

Leave a comment!

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