By Amarachukwu Okpunobi
Mindset” is the current buzzword in the wellness/mental health/business psychology landscape. It’s not a new concept. But with all of the absurdity that has been going down over the past two years in the outside world, it makes sense that people have begun to focus inward and try to gain control over what is within their purview. But what exactly is a mindset? Why is it so important? And how exactly am I supposed to work on mine? Let’s dig, shall we?
What is a mindset?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a mindset is “the established set of attitudes held by someone.” This set of attitudes colors how we see ourselves and how we respond to life’s challenges. American psychologist Carolyn Dweck developed a theory that there are two types of mindsets: fixed or growth.
A person with a fixed mindset believes that their talents and abilities are innate and static. People with fixed mindsets attribute their success or failure to their natural abilities or shortcomings, and they believe these traits are inflexible.
Conversely, someone with a growth mindset believes that their abilities are developed through hard work and that they can expand their capabilities through effort and persistence. A person with a growth mindset believes they have agency over what they are capable of doing.
The type of mindset a person has is shaped by how they received feedback as a child (everything always goes back to childhood, am I right?). Children who received personal or labeling praise tend to internalize that they are what they have received affirmation for , and that practice leads to a fixed mindset.
For example, if a child wins a race during a track meet and they are told that they are a good runner, they may go on to believe that they performed well because they are naturally a good runner.
Conversely, if the child is told that they did well on their race because of the hard work and effort they put into improving their running skills, they will register the feedback as praise for how they accomplished the goal, not for who they are. In this case, the child will likely go on to form a growth mindset and seek out other ways that they can work hard to achieve what they want in life.
A person’s mindset shapes how they view their intelligence and abilities, and it influences how they talk to themselves internally. The beliefs and thoughts that form a person’s mindset determine what they think is possible for them — whether they think there are limitations on what they can achieve or if they have confidence in their ability to overcome challenges and bring their goals to fruition.
People with a fixed mindset rely on affirmation of the qualities that they have whereas people with a growth mindset continuously seek out opportunities to improve.
Furthermore, a person’s mindset plays a big role in how they manage uncertainty and setbacks. A fixed mindset leads a person to believe that a setback or challenge is an invitation to give up on something; a person with a growth mindset views a setback or challenge as an expansion opportunity and a temporary circumstance.
How can I improve my mindset?
If you suspect you have a fixed mindset and want to adapt your approach, the good news is that you can change your approach. Here are 5 ways to get started:
- Take stock of your life. Review each area of your life (career, friendships, romantic life, spiritual, health, financial, etc). Note where you are satisfied with the current status and where you want to grow.
- Show yourself grace. Forgive yourself for past mistakes or for not always handling things the way you may have wanted. Everyone is going the best they can at any given time — but what constitutes our best changes with time and awareness.
- Stop the negative self-talk. You are your number one conversationalist so let’s make sure what you are saying is constructive. Talk to yourself like you would address a good friend, and stop being so damn hard on yourself all the time.
- Dedicate time for reflection. Carving out time to reflect on your thoughts and actions increases your self-awareness. That inner knowledge will help you grow confidence in your abilities and provide you with insight where you can evolve.
- Figure out what matters to you — and go after it! People with a growth mindset are driven by their desire to optimize their life experience. They decide what they want to pursue and put in the work to make it happen.
By AJ Vaughan