Our whole world revolves around how we think.
Let’s say our boss hands us a really difficult task. One of us might perceive that challenge to be exciting and an opportunity to learn, but our colleague might perceive it as a test to see whether they’ll fail.
The situation is exactly the same, but the mindset is completely different. One of us has a “growth mindset” whilst the other has a “fixed mindset.” One of us feels calm under pressure and the other experiences a hell of a lot of stress.
I’ll tell you now, I’ve been through a whole lot of mindsets in my life. During school, I had a growth mindset, everything was a new lesson to learn and a new experience to gain. Real life kicked in when I moved to from the United Kingdom to New Zealand, alone, and I perceived each lesson as a test—something to push me to my limits—as if I had them.
I had forced myself into a fixed mindset because I thought my abilities were set, and I had to work with what I was born with. It took a while for me to realise this (three years to be exact), but after a turbulent year of losing my dad and questioning life, I realised that nothing is set in stone and everything can be learned. I’m now a little more aware and in-tune and am training myself to continuously embrace a growth mindset. It’s an empowering journey!
Carol Dweck developed the term “growth mindset” after researching motivation, achievement, and success and found that individuals who perceive their gains to be through hard work, learning, and perseverance feel calmer, more resourceful, and believe their basic qualities are cultivated through their efforts.
Those with a “fixed mindset,” however, believe that their qualities are “carved into stone” which can cause panic as they feel the need to consistently prove themselves. You may be thinking right now, I’m one of them (or maybe I’m a bit of both, but we’ll clear that up soon).
We can definitely have both a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. Maybe we think that our abilities in our working life have been learned, and we can continue to grow and adapt, but that our abilities in our personal life are fixed and can never change. Have you ever thought to yourself, I’m not good at making friends, I don’t handle change well, or I can’t cook? Then you could probably say you adopt both mindsets (I definitely used to). This means that whilst you have confidence in some areas, you restrict yourself in others, and when faced with a challenge that confronts your fixed mindset, you’ll experience stress, self-doubt, and probably a lot of inner conflict.
Fortunately, it’s not the end of the world and a mindset can be shifted dramatically with just some simple training. First, we must try and identify where our fixed mindset occurs. If we have a growth mindset, we’re likely to enjoy learning, trying new things, and continue to persevere through setbacks. If, at the moment, we have a fixed mindset, we’re likely to keep any mistakes and setbacks to ourselves whilst feeling embarrassed about them. Have a little look over the following statements and see which one you usually find yourself thinking:
“I can’t do math, so I always get someone else to help” (fixed mindset).
“I’m not naturally great at math, but the more I practice, the easier it becomes” (growth mindset).
“I’m not very organized, so my emails are always a mess” (fixed mindset).
“I’d like my emails organized, so I’m going to try new techniques until something works” (growth mindset).
“Something terrible happened this morning, so this day is going to be tragic” (fixed mindset).
“Okay, that didn’t go like I’d expected, but I’ll learn from it and carry on” (growth mindset).
Consistent and continued effort is what helps us grow, learn, and change; it is what helps us adapt to new situations and input effectively, and with as little stress as possible. We need to move into the right mindset for this growth to occur.
Although it’s not an overnight phenomenon, it is possible; it is simple; and it is something we can gain control over. We have a choice about what thoughts we listen to, and we have a choice how we perceive them. We all have that nagging, mean bully voice in our heads, and it’s completely normal and okay to argue with it. Just start to recognise that voice—it’s the first step to change.
This is something I do consistently (especially when I’m doing something new). That mean devil on my shoulder is still there sometimes, but slowly and surely he’s getting nicer and nicer.
Step 1: Each morning (or whenever the thought arises), define the destructive fixed mindset thought (self-criticism, fear, excuses, etc.) you have.
Step 2: Write down that thought. For example, “I will never get that promotion because I’m not as good as my team members.”
Step 3: Write down the new positive growth mindset you would like to have. For example, “I will get that promotion because I am a valued member of the staff, and I have so much to offer.”
Step 4: Identify when this thought usually arises so you can understand your triggers. Is it when your boss comes into the room? Is it when you struggle with a task?
Step 5: Now select an object (bracelet, trinket, something you can keep on you) and look to that whenever the fixed mindset thought comes to mind. Use it as a reminder that you can control your thinking and shift over to your growth mindset whenever you need to. For an extra boost, keep the growth mindset statement in front of you somewhere.
Step 6: At the end of the day or week, go back to where you wrote your mindset statements and journal any thoughts you have.
Step 7: Enjoy this process for eight weeks (or until the new thinking doesn’t feel like such a conscious effort; it might even take less time).
And that’s it! Good on you! You’ve completed your mindset training.
This can be done for absolutely any mindset you have. Each day may be different; you might find trends or something that always pops up, but continue to give it a go, and you’ll be surprised at how effective it is.
Author: Helen Sian
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis