Mindsets. Are yours Helping you or Hurting you?
What exactly are mindsets?
Humans have questioned why some excel while others with the same talent don’t. Often the answer lies in the mindset of each human. Yes, there are often other factors at play; namely, hard work, the right situation at the right time and making important connections, but possibly the most important of them all is a person’s mindset. A good question to always ask is, “Am I thinking like a winner or a loser?”. Is your mindset one that gives up when you fail or one that you will persevere until you succeed?
There has been much research done within the Psychology World on Mindsets. Interestingly, A Stanford University Psychologist, Carol Dweck (2006), popularized the idea of mindsets by contrasting different beliefs about where our abilities come from.
The 2 sides of the mindset coin
Her study found that people who tend to have a fixed mindset and think that their ability is fixed and unchanging are hyper-critical of themselves and others, and tend to settle into thinking that change is hard or not worth it. It is harmful in that when a person experiences a failure, it affects them far worse because they believe they are incapable of achieving what they set out to do. It is far harder for them to work on achievement if it does not come naturally to them.
Whereas, a person who has a growth mindset expects that they can improve and change their abilities—and a failure, therefore, teaches them what they can improve on. Individuals with a growth mindset have better relationships, higher performance levels, and less stress and anxiety. They also have improved brain function.
“Do you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?”
People with a fixed mindset are out to prove themselves. They feel the need to show that they are as clever and capable as they believe they are. The problem is that when they fail, they believe they are a failure. They may get very defensive when someone suggests they made a mistake, and they measure themselves by their failures.
People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, often show perseverance and resilience when they have committed errors—they become more motivated to work harder.
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
The incredible news is your mindsets don’t need to stay fixed, if they currently are. Our brains are neuroplastic and malleable. Brain plasticity, also known as neuroplasticity, is a term that refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. When people say that the brain possesses plasticity, they are not suggesting that the brain is like plastic but rather that the brain can change itself. Excitingly, one way to change the physical shape of your brain is by changing your thinking. Research shows us that it only takes 20-63 days to change a mindset and rewire our brains. Taking one toxic and negative mindset at a time and changing it, will change your life for the better. The key is to start identifying the mindsets you need to change and what the correct thought processes are that will help you.
Astoundingly, the research on mindsets goes even further and deeper – our mindsets don’t only influence our success-ometer but every aspect of our lives. Our health and our relationships included. With our health, we now know that our mindset is one of the most powerful tools we have when it comes to improving our health. Yet, sadly, many of us do not take advantage of this. Instead, we focus on external health measures, such as, what we eat or how much we are exercising, but we rarely stop to evaluate our thoughts.
Regardless of where our mindsets are, we can always improve.
Functional Medicine Practitioner, Mark Hyman explains it perfectly:
Reframe your struggle.
His friend and business partner, Dhru Purohit, always says that there’s a huge difference between a struggle and a challenge. A struggle means you are stuck, but a challenge is an opportunity. Reframing what you are feeling is a powerful way to learn from what you are going through and discover new ways to solve challenges. Instead of focusing on being stuck in the struggle, rise to the occasion, and view your challenge as an opportunity.
Focus on the journey and not the destination.
This is important for many people. So often we fixate on what life will feel like when we finally lose weight, have more energy, sleep better, or reach our end goal. Instead, enjoy the journey of getting healthy. Living in alignment with your best health is ongoing. You still have to prioritize and plan out your day to focus on eating well, exercising, meditating, and resting. You can learn to enjoy the journey.
Pay attention to your thoughts and words.
You might be surprised to find out how many of your ruminating thoughts are negative or self-degrading. Interestingly, when people have sat down and listed their most common worries, they often notice that they weren’t speaking to themselves in a kind way. Importantly, talk to yourself the way that you would talk to a friend whom you love, and that will be your game-changer. Watch, when you start to do that, it will change your life and bring you more joy. It’s important to note to yourself that self-compassion and grace is key.
Is it time you give yourself a break and stop being so hard on yourself? It is also time to stop thinking that you should give up so easily. If you are unsure of where your mindsets are at, it might be a good time to reach out to those around you, who love you most, and ask them. They know you and see you best and they are looking from the outside in and often have the clearer perspective.
Do some digging, go do your own research on different mindsets; there is so much wonderful research and advice out there. Caroline Leaf has excellent research on different mindsets and the tools on how to change them. Over the years, I have sometimes struggled with having a victim mindset. I often think that I am the one hard done by: maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not but there is one truth here: it’s not helpful. It’s going to be no benefit to me by thinking I am the victim. Instead, I have learnt to move on, to see it from a different angle and think differently, just this small perspective has changed my life. I am not a victim; I am the master of my own destiny.
Gratitude for the win
Another power mindset is the Attitude of Gratitude. Are you grateful? Endless research shows us that there is power in being grateful. Psychologists suggest exercises; such as, spending each day for a couple of weeks writing a few items for which you are grateful –these have been found to increase life satisfaction, decrease worry and improve body image, with the beneficial effects lasting for up to six months. A lovely interactive way that family psychologists suggest is sitting around the dinner table and each family member mentioning one thing that they were grateful for in their day; this has enabled families to build closer relationships of trust and joy. If you are feeling down and glum, stop and think of something good in your life; this will automatically help improve your mood.
The incredible research on the effects of gratitude is absolutely noteworthy. It has far-reaching benefits on our bodies, minds and DNA shows how being thankful increases our longevity, our ability to use our imagination, and our ability to problem-solve.
Gratitude even helps us to believe that life is more enjoyable and worth living. Now if you ask me, isn’t that reason enough to learn to be grateful? If it is not something that comes naturally, start building habits in your day where you can learn to be more grateful for all that you have. Start with one thing! If you cannot find one thing to be grateful for, then ask a friend, family member or even a colleague. What it is in your life that you should be grateful for. It’s always easier looking out than it is looking in!
Learning to be optimistic
Studies show that optimists live longer than their pessimistic peers. Saying that, it doesn’t mean you have to be a bubble of sunshine all day long, but if you are negative, it’s time to work on improving that. A good way to become more positive and optimistic is by finding out what your purpose and drive in life is. It’s easier to make mistakes and accept failures when you are passionate about what you are doing. Instead of seeing your failure as a giant stop sign, instead reframe it to rather seeing any failure as a protective stop which leads you in another direction, possibly the right direction.
Simply put, your mindset is your belief system. It is the reason you think and react the way you do; it is your mental capacity of framing different situation and outcomes in your life. Your mindset is what will lead you to success or keep you stagnant and un-achieving. Do you need to spend some time on your different mindsets, do you need to rewire them? If you are even thinking about the different ways you think about situations, if you are mindful of how you think, you are already on the best road. Your journey will lead you to the correct destination because your mindset is already one of self-discovery, change and improvement.