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Mindset Matters – Growth vs Fixed Mindset

Welcome to one of four posts on mindset!

The human experience is a lot.

We have to deal with so much with every waking moment. Waking up, going to work, traffic, construction, family, health, bills, relationships, breakups, housing, finding purpose, etc. The list goes on and on (and on and on).

The most wild part: We don’t have control of any of those things. They are going to happen, usually regardless of what we do.

When some of those things go in a way we didn’t want…oh boy. Bring on the stress, anxiety and/or depression!

What if instead of saying “I have to deal with them” or “I have to go to work” we said something like “I get to work with them” or “I get to go to work” instead? How does that impact how we experience those same things?

There is one thing that we always have control over. It is also the one constant available to us:

Mindset.

Your mindset is a set of beliefs that shape how you make sense of the world and yourself. It influences how you think, feel, and behave in any given situation. It means that what you believe about yourself impacts your success or failure.”

Mindset is also a choice. It gives us the opportunity to choose how we make sense of the world and ourselves. It can mean deciding you get to do something versus having to do something. If we aren’t intentional about that, then our mindset can also be chosen for us.

We have to be an active agent when it comes to our mindset. Being a bystander in our own mindset is terrible for our mental health and overall well-being.

Psychologist Carol Dweck did quite a bit of research on this topic and wrote the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”. In her research she found that there are two main mindsets:

Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset.

Growth mindset is the belief that skills, abilities and intelligence are fluid and can change. In other words, it is the belief that one has the ability to learn new things. Fixed mindset is the belief that those things are static, or unchanging. It is the belief that we are limited to our skills, abilities and intelligence.

It also worth noting that there is a third type of mindset that we all experience: Mixed mindset. This mindset is between Growth and Fixed and have characteristics of both.

We are all born with a growth mindset. We are always looking to learn. The abundance of neural pathways as a child is evident of that. It is how children are raised and what they are exposed to determines if they continue with a growth mindset or if they move into a fixed mindset.

For example: a child who is praised for doing well on a test for “being smart” may adapt a fixed mindset later in life because their success (in this case) or failure is an outcome of their intelligence.

Our brain retains the ability to learn throughout our lifetime. We experience “neuroplasticity” when we learn something new. The brain constantly creates and rewires current neural pathways.

Anyone can adopt a growth mindset! This is something that can be learned and reinforced. Our brains already have the ability to learn and grow. We just have to use the power of those magnificent little machines.

A fixed mindset can be hard to move away from. It has likely served us a purpose and became a support for us at some points. For some, it could even protect us from the cognitive and emotional labor of going into the stretch zone. While it can protect us (and rightfully so), it can also severely limit us from tapping into our potential.

The line between “awareness” and “self-limiting beliefs” can be quite thin and easy to cross over. When we “know” what our “limitations” are, we can sometimes trap ourselves into believing they will always be limitations.

During college I took an art class as part of my program at the time. I had to draw something with the rest my class at the same time. My art teacher came around to me and said to my face “you’re not very good at this”. I already “knew” that but it cut deep when he said it. I dropped that class and I have avoided anything that feels like an art project because I am not good at it ever since then.

A few years later I had an “ah-ha” moment. I realized that just because I am not good at drawing does not mean that I am not good at art. I discovered my affinity for words and writing. Writing is also an art! I also realized that I could learn how to draw if I wanted. It wasn’t about skill. It was about mindset.

Changing how I think about things changed my life because it allowed me to create this blog and celebrate and sharpen my writing abilities. If I had stayed in that “fixed mindset”, I would have robbed myself of leaning into one of my passions. This also contributes to “imposter syndrome” for many of us and stalling or procrastinating on dreams and goals.

The question then becomes “Am I showing up as my best self in life?”

Mindset isn’t just about the willingness or belief that one can learn and grow. It is the framework for everything that we do! Mindset is how we navigate relationships, work, family, conflict and life. It is how we give and receive feedback. It’s how we give or don’t give trust and respect.

This is a foundational component of…well….growth. When we are open to growth, we can then grow.

Growth mindset is the key to our fulfillment in life. When we adopt this mindset, it allows us to try new things which either show us a strength or gives us an opportunity to learn something new. Both of those builds confidence, humility and resiliency. We need those elements for positive well-being.

Mindsets can also be positive or negative (referring to the types of emotions or attitudes that we experience). I avoid saying “good” or “bad” mindset because those are moral judgements. We just don’t know what people are going through and it’s never on us to judge anyone (example of mindset!).

Mindset is a multi-dimensional concept. In order to choose our mindset that positively impacts how we experience the world and ourselves, we have to be aware of some of the mechanics that go into having a positive or negative mindset.

The theme for March this year is “Mindset March”. I will be publishing some posts on different aspects of mindset that when leveraged, can change our mindset to become more productive and allow us to unleash our potential and greatly improve our lives.

Taking stock of your own mindset is the first step.

Take this self-assessment to get an idea of your mindset: https://wdhb.com/blog/growth-mindset-quiz/

Reply below with your results and thoughts!

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