“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” -Henry Ford
Your brain is the most powerful yet underutilized machine on the planet. Being that we have 50,000 thoughts per day on average, with 95% of them being repeated from the day before, it’s worth looking at the quality of those thoughts.
Before we do that, let’s step back a bit and talk about mindset. What is it and why should you care? In the words of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, “Mindsets are beliefs – beliefs about yourself and your most basic qualities. Think about your intelligence, your talents, your personality. Are these qualities simply fixed traits, carved in stone and that’s that? Or are they things you can cultivate throughout your life?”
According to her research, there are two types of mindsets that we adopt: Fixed and Growth. People with a fixed mindset believe we’re born with what we got – our intelligence, talents, and personality are what they are and can’t be changed. People with a growth mindset believe that we CAN change and develop those three traits through intentional effort.
Neuroscience is learning that we can use our brains to change our brains, thanks to neuroplasticity (a fancy way of saying your brain’s plastic and not static). Our brains love to be efficient and use the least amount of energy required to fire our synapses. Efficient “routes” are like superhighways while inefficient ones are like dense forest. Activities like brushing your teeth, driving your car, or using a keyboard are automatic; the brain’s signals are driving along superhighways. Activities that you want to change like eating more veggies, saying no instead of yes, or exercising consistently are considered inefficient; the brain’s signals are using a machete to create a new path in a dense forest. Travel along a superhighway is much easier and preferred, but as long as you keep using your machete, a new path in the forest will be made eventually.
Now let’s define ‘belief’. A belief is simply a thought you keep on repeating. It’s a thought that has traveled over and over on the superhighway, making it easily accessible. The awesome thing about thoughts? We can CHOOSE them. Repeatedly choosing a new thought is uncomfortable and hard. You’re in that forest hacking and slashing. Over time, the new thought will drive on the superhighway, and it’ll become a belief.
Do you know what you believe about your intelligence, talents, and personality? If not, take 5 minutes and write out what thoughts come to mind. No judging as you write. Just get them out of your head and onto the paper so you can see them as thoughts you’re thinking, not as beliefs that make you who you are.
Why bother with figuring out if you have a Fixed or Growth mindset? Again, Carol Dweck says it best:
“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone - the fixed mindset - creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over… Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?
But doesn’t our society value intelligence, personality and character? Isn’t it normal to want these traits? Yes, but…
There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development… Although people may differ in every which way – in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments – everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.“
• Mindset is a set of beliefs we have about our basic qualities of intelligence, talents, personality
• Fixed mindset is what it is when you’re born and characterized by a need to constantly prove yourself
• Growth mindset is a starting point for development and characterized by development through intentional effort
• Our brains love efficiency and will send signals on existing superhighways over paths in a dense forest
• Beliefs are simply thoughts we keep on thinking
Yours in Awesomeness,