When faced with a challenging situation, what are the first thoughts that flood your mind?
Let’s imagine that you have to learn how to use a new software program for work or you’ve been told by your doctor that you need to lose weight or your child has a project to do for school and they really need your help but it’s a topic you know absolutely nothing about…
How do you respond?
Does the voice in your head sound something like this: I’ll never be able to learn this, my boss is being unreasonable; I’ve never been able to lose weight so how will I do it now, I’m never able to stick to a plan and no-one understands what it’s like for me; how I’m going to help with this project – I know nothing about the topic – I’m so useless, I’m such a bad mom. Or, does your voice sound more like this: I have no idea how to use that program but I know I’m not stupid and I can figure it out or get someone to help, I’ve learnt new things before; I know I’ve always struggled with my weight but I haven’t tried everything and I’m very determined and I heard about a great nutritionist the other day that I could maybe work with; that’s a tough project that I know nothing about but I have some time so I know I can research some information and it will probably be fun to do this together and learn something new.
The “voice” you hear most often is influenced by your mindset and that is exactly what the book I am reviewing this month is all about. The book I have chosen for March is Mindset, by Carol Dweck. Why did I choose this book? Because I believe mindset is everything! What you think is what you become!
Your mindset determines your willingness to learn and grow. It influences how you deal with challenges and difficult situations. Your mindset will affect your ability to live a fulfilled life and achieve your goals; it will drive your determination to improve your talents and abilities and impact your success.
What type of mindset do you have?
Dweck distinguishes between two – a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
People with a fixed mindset tend to block their own development because of their belief that natural talent drives everything and either you have it or you don’t. As a result they tend to avoid taking risks or engage in difficult situations so as to dodge failure or looking stupid. They also constantly seek approval. The result – they almost always live within their comfort zone, playing it safe. As you can imagine that does not make for living the happiest or most fulfilling life and certainly doesn’t contribute to you ever reaching your greatest potential.
On the other hand, those with a growth mindset don’t passively accept fate. They work hard and train hard to realize their fullest potential. They take control of a situation and when faced with challenges dig in and dig deep to overcome them. They put energy into it. In fact, they tend to relish in difficulties and see failures as opportunities. Not that they consciously go out and seek difficulties but when faced with them they tend to thrive!
What influences which mindset you have?
According to Dweck, we all come into this world with a growth mindset – with the desire to learn and grow each day. But then whether that growth mindset is maintained or not is very much influenced by the adults in our lives, both parents and teachers.
Parents with a growth mindset encourage children to learn and explore new things whereas parents with a fixed mindset will tend to judge their children always telling them what is right and wrong, good and bad.
And teachers who believe their students are capable of learning anything will foster that growth mindset by showing their students different ways to solve problems and understand things. In that environment even the weaker students start doing better and achieving higher grades.
Can you change your mindset?
Absolutely! The good news is that regardless of your upbringing and previous influencers in your life, you can teach your brain to develop a growth mindset.
It may be challenging to shift from a fixed to a growth mindset because a fixed mindset affords people protection from failure and it’s also served as an emotional crutch. This is definitely tough to let go of and it may take time but it’s certainly doable.
In addition, Dweck explains that you don’t have to change your mindset completely. For example, you may believe you are useless at sports and never improve in that area because it’s not important to you but at the same time you may adopt a growth mindset in other areas of your life such as in your career and absolutely excel there.
How do you change your mindset?
Carol Dweck identifies 4 steps to change your mindset.
1. Learn to hear your fixed mindset “voice”. Pay attention to that voice in your head which we all have. Is yours telling you that you aren’t good enough and that you don’t have the talent? Is your that voice putting you down? Are you defensive when receiving criticism, even if constructive from others? It your answers are yes then that’s your fixed mindset “voice” talking and you need to…
2. Recognize that you have a choice. You have a choice in how you interpret challenges and setbacks and criticism so choose to interpret these from a growth mindset and then…
3. Respond with a growth mindset attitude. Tell yourself that you can figure out what you don’t know, that most successful people have failed, that if you don’t try you automatically fail and then…
4. Take growth mindset action. Embrace challenges fully, learn from your mistakes and keep trying until you succeed, knowing that you are growing and becoming stronger in the process.
All this reinforces that you have a choice in whether you live according to a fixed or a growth mindset. To increase your awareness and create a change I suggest you begin by asking yourself these 3 important questions:
- Which mindset do I mostly have?
- Where in my life do I have a fixed mindset and what is that costing me?
- Where could I adopt more of a growth mindset and how would that change my life?
I encourage you to take the time to honestly reflect and journal on these questions and then intentionally take the necessary action to create the changes you want to see in your life. The choice is yours. You can do it!
Until next week – embrace your inner truth, live your purpose and make your contribution in the world.
With gratitude and appreciation,