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Mindset By Carol Dweck: 6 Ways To Overcome a Fixed Mindset

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Little Circles of Fixed Mindset Hell

Let’s talk about repugnant feedback loops. Are they not exciting? You know, those circles of negativity that everyone manages to get trapped in at some point or another. It usually starts something like this: negative stimuli– be it a failure of some sort, less than sanguine comments from an individual, or just boring old self-doubt– reinforces preconceived notions you hold about who you are, causing the cycle to run round again. Often, this happens because we identify with the negative occurrence, molding it into who we are, rather than allowing it to exist apart from ourselves. In her book Mindset, The New Psychology of Success,  Carol Dweck addresses this exact phenomenon. “Failure has been transformed from an action (I failed) to an identity (I am a failure). This is especially true of the fixed mindset, taking the event away from the original context and making it a little too personal. It has become unacceptable to fail, as if it were worse than even attempting to improve. However, there is a solution. It’s called the growth mindset.

Consequences Of Fixed Mindset

A growth mindset is defined as having the ability to be constantly evolving and learning new information and skills. It is characterized by a fluid conception of one’s cognitive abilities: intelligence can be cultivated over the course of someone’s life time, it is not fixed at birth. It is this very attitude that allows for personal development and progression toward your goals. The ramifications a fixed mindset has to offer  are profound and far reaching, influencing everything from self-image to the capacity to learn and grow. A fixed mindset is the tendency to view your abilities as immutable, unchanging and static: regardless of what you do, they remain relatively the same. The most damning side-effect of being stuck with a fixed mindset is the internalization of failure which leads to diminished self-esteem. I failed not because I gave it my best and things just did not work out this time, I failed because it’s who I am as a person, or so the attitude goes. It’s not hard to see how someone could quickly internalize this belief, and forgo any effort in the future to improve who they are.

Love The Process

Dark right? Well, as always, there is hope! Dweck outlines several strategies that will aid you in the development of a growth mindset. First, become less attached to the outcome. Instead, fall in love with the process. Cultivating this personality characteristic requires, like almost everything else in life, a process to be undertaken. If you are afflicted with a fixed mentality towards growth and development, it’s probably best that you do not trouble yourself with the outcome of a project. Instead, focus on the process. I suffered from the same fixed-minded hell when I first started writing. I foolishly believed that if an essay or article I wrote was not absolutely fantastic the first go round, it could never be. After realizing how utterly stupid I was for even considering such nonsense, I chose to focus on the process of writing, and the progression of a thought, rather than the end result.. The paradox of disconnecting yourself with the end product might seem strange at first. However, if you concentrate on just taking the steps instead of arriving at the destination, the endpoint will become evident.

Welcome Change: Growth Mindset

We all like to believe that we are accepting of change, we think we are malleable, allowing logic and reason to guide our decision rather than emotion. The truth is, we are often not logical. We let what our significant other said about our habits carry over to work, where we might take it out on one of our subordinates. “True self-confidence is the courage to be open–to welcome change and new ideas regardless of their source (Dweck 127).” It takes courage to acknowledge what you are, you may not like what you see at first. Your spouse might be right, you are creating that particular problem in your relationship–what are you going to do about it? I  have come to know that the truth exists between honest discomfort and pure anger. When I am confronted with a repressed area of my life that I need to improve, I always get a squirmy feeling of discomfort. The parasite has been revealed, and it longs to cling to its host! Try and find this feeling. If you cannot, you simply are not searching hard enough. It is only when we realize at the deepest of levels what needs to be addressed that we can move forward and accept real, lasting change.

The World Doesn’t Owe You

Entitlement can sometimes seem like a rational response to perceived injustice. Why were you denied that promotion when your colleague was not? You were both hired at the same time, and both labored in the same entry level position. The idea that you are special and deserving of commensurate treatment acts as a shield, retroactively protecting you from a missed goal or opportunity. It’s the ego’s unwillingness to face reality, plain and simple. From a growth mindset, this problem can be avoided and made to work in your favor. After realizing that you are nothing special, the chains of inflexibility can be broken, allowing you to escape the prison of snowflake land. You can now learn what is necessary for your development so you can actually get something done. The irony, and oh, it’s sweet, is that once you come to this realization you can construct your specialness, or what makes you more qualified than others for a position or task. The key idea to take away here is that qualifications are constructed, earned through hard work and stick-to-itiveness. They are not handed out like candy. Once you release this idea of your own entitlement, the real work can begin!  

Fail

You fail! Most view this statement as servere discouragement– you are not worthy of the accolades and the spoils of success…not just yet. You can allow this to ruin your day, sulking in the memory of not getting to where you want to be, or you can use failure’s power to motivate you and view your failure as an opportunity to better yourself. Fail as much as you can. I’d rather know that someone gave their best effort, failed, and immediately started learning from their mistake, than succeeded the first time with little effort. Failure in the light of effort is no failure at all, but simply an attempt at self-improvement you can now learn from. My advice for you is to fail as much as possible. Fail at relationships: so the one that means most will be amazing. Fail at work, at least you are trying! Fail, fail and fail at starting a business, it only takes one to make your dream all too real. Learn to relish your initial shortcoming, and know that it was not meaningless while acting in service of a goal or purpose… Failure is your friend!

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