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

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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F*ck It: Mark Manson’s Book The Sutble Art of Not Giving A F*ck a Review

Happy yet? Like really happy. You are content with every aspect of your life, and absolutely nothing has the ability to bring down your mood? Happiness, according to Mark Manson in The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck is an action. Manson believes that if you have not become successful yet, it’s because you have chosen the wrong struggles: as he puts it, the “wrong fucks” to give about what you believe is important. On the whole, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck is a commentary on what to really care about, not a statement of imposed apathy about your given condition. It’s the difference between sitting around not doing anything for eight hours…Fuck it! Or resilient defiance in the face of adversity, fuck it, I’m getting this shit done! Both cases zero “fucks” given, way different mentalities. Let take a close look at this interesting philosophy, examining how one achieves this state of enlightenment.

You Will Suffer, That’s Just A Fact

One of the fundamental principles of rationalizing why people do what they do is the avoidance of pain, and the pursuit of pleasure. It’s not unknown that we seek comfort and avoid pain and look to maximize pleasure.  Yes, on the savannas of Africa when our burgeoning species was still somewhat of an evolutionary startup this was a great idea. Why, because the things that were painful would fucking kill you. Pain was synonymous with death, while pleasure was associated with life. This is how we have evolved, and it’s time we progress again. What do you desire “what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?” On the ship that is your life, struggles are the high seas you choose to cross to make it to your desired destination. These periods of trial emerge on everyone’s journey and will be chosen for you if you do not select your own. If you are going to suffer anyway, it might as well be a torment of your own choosing that in turn, gets you to the desired location.

We Don’t Know Anything

Seeking the truth, an endeavor that humanity has engaged in since time immemorial. Whenever we became aware of our own thoughts and observations about the world, there was always some annoyingly curious asshole who sought to understand the ever pressing question of why. People claim to have it, but they are no closer to the final truth than you or I am, or probably ever will be. And this is okay! It’s okay to be wrong, admitting you haven’t a clue about what someone is talking about can be a great learning opportunity! You cannot improve if you possess the arrogance of certainty. As humans, we’d rather believe we won’t succeed instead of testing our ideas. If you never test your ideas, you are safe, hiding behind your pathetic excuses, those lamentations of failure… I could have tried. This buffer of mental gymnastics and rationalizations keeps you isolated from reality and actual success, allowing you to remain comfortably ensconced in your cocoon of bullshit.

Challenge Who You Are

To some, this might seem obvious. But I feel that it needs to be addressed anyway. We are too often content wandering through life, unwilling to take an honest look at who we really are, and what we have become. As a matter of fact, we actively ignore information that challenges our conception of who we think we are. This means that if an idea or thought conflicts with our mental image of ourselves, we will discredit that information even if it is beneficial to us. This notion is called Manson’s Law, and it states “the more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.” It’s a hellish version of the infamous comfort zone which does not allow you to rise or fall outside of certain primates in your life. For example, if you make $85,000 per year, and suddenly you get fired, you will find a similar job with similar pay. Because you identify as someone who makes a certain amount of money, even exceeding this amount will make you uncomfortable, causing you to seek alignment with your lesser standards.

Shut Up, You Are Nothing Special

The problem with entitlement is that it removes motivation, and does not allow you to analyze who you are accurately. Acknowledge that you are nothing special. You are in no shape or form God’s gift to the human race, you are just another one of us. But there is freedom in this realization as well. For example, if you hold yourself to unreasonably high expectations, you can now release them– you are not special. This is another form of entitlement: believing that you are worse off than others because there is something inherently wrong with you, again, you are not special. Just as the laws of space and time do not give a shit if you believe they are real, neither do the laws of progress and personal change. You are going to have to let go of your sense of entitlement if you ever want to move forward in any meaningful way.

Some final thoughts

Manson, in my opinion, does an excellent job conveying his no fucks given philosophy. The counterintuitiveness of the title adds to the mystique and builds intrigue while repelling those who probably would not listen anyway. The main takeaway from The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck is the idea of choosing what to care about. The direction of your life can be influenced by a variety of factors: friends, family, religion or just plain old social convention. These all have the ability to take you somewhere you don’t want to be. It’s up to you to choose what to care about. Fucks given can be seen metaphorically as your choice.  As for their ramifications, that all depends on what you choose to care about.

 

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Stop Forcing Start Flowing: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow and Optimal Experience

Flow: A Better Way

How to live a better, more meaningful life? A question that has no shortage of solutions, home remedies and anecdotes, all seeking to address this pressing issue. In our modern, self-centered consumerized culture, we all too often fall prey to the notion that buying more things will make us happy and fulfilled. “I will be happy when I buy that new piece of crap, and add it to the collection of all my old crap,” so the notion goes. But if you are reading my blog you are looking for something more. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi author of the book, Flow outlines the steps necessary for you to experience such a phenoma. Csikszentmihalyi believes that the more optimal experiences or flow states we can enter into, the happier and more satisfying our lives will become. Flow is described as a state in which timelessness, a sense of purpose and a loss of self are all experienced while in the pursuit of a challenging goal. Flow forces you into the moment, making you forget the bills that need to be paid, the pressures from work and family, and those annoying little  tidbits of day-to-day life. Optimal experiences act as an exit, affording you a productive, enriching growth-inducing experience while simultaneously separating you from your larger ego.

And it is energy under our control, to do with as we please; hence, attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience (Csikszentmihalyi 33).

The Requirements

There are five separate elements that need to be designed into any activity for it to become a flow-producing experience. First, an overall goal must be established. This is the foundation upon which the other steps can be built. Take running for an example. If I were to run every morning, using the same trails, while maintaining the same pace, not only would I have no way of measuring progress, but it would be impossible for me to transform my run into a flow activity. It would be simple repetition, which after some time I would get used to and my body would as well, hindering my future development as a runner.

Measuring Progress

The second pillar of a flow activity is measuring progress in the context of the overarching goal. Now, If I were to measure my route, and time how long it took me to get to my designated finish line, I would have numbers and data in order to evaluate my performance and make meaningful adjustments. It is said in business that what is measured can be managed. The same idea holds true for flow activities. Also, when you compare your current performance to the data, it gives you a standard to measure the goal against. Rather than guessing about your progress, you know how you are doing in this goal area!

Flow and Focus

Third, you must focus on the task at hand if you want to transform the mundane into a flow activity. In those awful prequels Star Wars offered the world in the early 2000’s, Qui Gon Jinn tells a young Anakin Skywalker that “your focus determines your reality.”  He was right! This is particularly profound information when attempting to produce your own optimal experience. Though your focus, adjustments can be made, and you can inch ever closer to accomplishing your outlined goal. If all these steps seem to blend together, it’s because they do. They are built on one another. If you remove one of these conditions from a flow inducing activity it will cease to bring about the desired effect.

Raise The Stakes

And finally, you must keep upping the wager! Yesterday I ran two miles in 16:45 seconds. Let’s cut that time down by 15 seconds tomorrow! If I keep pushing myself towards a better time; because I measured my progress, just paid attention, and built up endurance, it is now possible for me to up the ante and improve my time. If done in the correct sequence, a flow experience is sure to bring a level of transformation to your life, and in turn, bring you more fulfillment. The steps outlined by Csikszentmihalyi can be applied to almost any area of life, giving you the ability to make little enjoyable experiences everywhere you go!

What Flow Is NOT

One would say that watching TV could be considered a flow activity. You have the goal of finishing the totality of Breaking Bad in one night, and you can measure your progress by the time you have wasted.  Yay! Wrong, Wrong, Wrong. For an activity to be optimal there must be– and this is key– the development of a skill that is required to reach the goal.  Your lofty goal of watching Walter White sell drugs requires no skill other than planting your ass in front of  the TV. Let’s go back to the running example. I must develop the skill of endurance to decrease the amount of time it takes me to run two miles.

Now Do It, Flow!

I challenge you to pick up one activity that can be flow inducing. For me, it’s writing. At times, there is nothing more enjoyable to me that being locked into a piece of writing, attempting to put words onto paper that, all too often, do not want to be there. The challenge of conveying ideas effectively and the goal of improving upon my clarity all cause me to experience a sense of flow. These activities do not have to be dangerous. One can as easily experience flow while playing a game of chess as when climbing a mountain. By taking this step of finding an activity that can be flow inducing, you are actively improving your life!

 

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