Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips

Licensed Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Diplomate in Group Psychology, Certified Group Therapist, Author, Radio Host and Media Consultant Covering a Wide Range of Psychological Topics

Post: Want to Change? Is Your Mindset Holding You Back?

Mindsets are simple beliefs that shape how we see ourselves and others and how we live our lives. Much of what we consider as our personalities stem from our mindset.

Is your mindset holding you back? Is it keeping you locked into a certain view of yourself, your children, your partner, your life? Is it keeping you from who you want to be in the life you want to lead?

Dr. Carol Dweck, Stanford Professor offers a real contribution with her research and formulation of the “Growth Mindset.”Essentially she invites us to consider that ability and qualities are not fixed.

What she reports from her research is that in most cases a person’s determination, openness to learning, and willingness to risk mistakes for the sake of knowledge and change results in true growth and increased ability.

Traditionally people espoused a “Fixed Mindset” where traits and qualities are set early on:

You’re naturally smart. Your brother is the athlete.

With this mentality, success was about proving yourself or avoiding revealing shortcomings. Failure was perceived has having a setback from your high expectations. Efforts were not afforded much value.

She’s the one who became the attorney but she had to work at it!

With a “Growth Mindset,” early abilities and qualities are just a starting point. 

Traits can be developed. The mindset invites stretching oneself, thriving on challenge, using mistakes and risking challenges. It is about the guy who had the nerve to walk on the team; the couple who turned a crazy idea into a huge success; the brother who was never supposed to make it, but now owns the business.

How to Try on A “Growth Mindset”

Regardless of differences, anyone can change and grow through application and experience. Trying on a Growth Mindset is like opening a door into the best part of your story. Start with small steps but don’t be surprised if they get bigger.

Here are characteristics of a Growth Mindset that you may want to try:

Turn on your imagination

Consider things you have wanted to do and aspects of yourself you would like to expand–Becoming a great cook, taking music lessons, becoming more politically informed, traveling, going back to school, losing weight, taking up boxing, becoming more affectionate or changing careers–take it very seriously.

Use Mistakes and Prior Failure

While this may sound strange, it is exactly what makes a growth mindset so rich. There are many investors who want to know how many failures you have faced as an indication that you have “real” experience and resiliency. That applies to most fields. If we can get past the pain and shame, we can benefit from using mistakes as lessons learned. Remind yourself that you can change the plan and change your mind:

  • “I never liked the corporate world, what if I took what I do well and tried it on my own?”
  • “ I am not that great with people but I am great technically – maybe I need a partner.”
  • “ If I want to travel I have to find a way to get past my fear of flying!”

Inform Yourself

If you have an area you want to grow into, read about it, check it out on line, visualize it, observe it in others, interview people who do it – be prepared to be disappointed, ignored, distracted and rewarded. Having a growth mindset involves expecting and even using obstacles.

Share Your Dream 

  • Research suggests that one of the most important ways that people advance towards the skills, traits, and goals they want to acquire is through their interpersonal relationships.
  • This may not equate to a spouse or friend who agrees with everything you say or reassures you that you will be a success as a professional “Life Coach.”
  • Rather, it is the belief that just sharing out loud with someone who is affirming of you and the bond you share with them is a valuable infrastructure for taking risks, trying the unexpected and growing.
  • Sharing makes a dream or an idea real. In the process, it may enlighten you to aspects that need to be changed or negotiated to work in your marriage or relationship.

Prepare for Feedback

  • Sharing is not always easy. Often we are afraid to share our dream of trekking in New Zealand because we expect our spouse to say, “ Are you out of your mind – you don’t even like walking!” 
  • Be prepared to agree with doubts and then share the what and why of your idea or dream.
  • In a relationship, seeing a partner reach for their dream is a wonderful thing. It may involve changes, sacrifices, even chapters you never thought you would have.
  • Dreams only become questionable in a relationship when the dream of one disqualifies the options for the other or disqualifies the relationship. I
  • If living in a certain place takes away the identity or passion of a partner one wonders how rewarding it will be.
  • With a growth mindset, it is amazing how creative couples can become taking turns with goals and dreams.

Turn Envy into Motivation 

While we often view envy as a negative response to what someone else has or has accomplished, don’t let it derail you.

Researchers suggest that benign envy, which recognizes another’s talents, technique or abilities, can often serve as a motivator that ignites our ambition and persistence to succeed. It may even increase our attention to the envied person as a source for learning.

Ask For Help and Offer Help

If you are not afraid to ask, more people than you expect are willing to mentor and offer some advice (some of whom- you may not want).

Sometimes the most unexpected help comes from our help of others. Often the experience you need is found in helping someone else or in a reciprocal exchange.

Adam Grant in his powerful book Give and Takeunderscores countless examples in business where the power of success is in the giving and receiving.

Turn On Curiosity To Turn Down Anxiety

  • Being curious about what will unfold moves you from fear of not succeeding to interest in what you find.
  • It takes you out of the anxious fight/flight brain and makes patience for the process possible.
  • When you can regulate your anxiety with curiosity, even unexpected interruptions can have something to offer.

Hold on to a Sense of Humor 

Find the laughable moments or the person to laugh with – Think of your dream or plan as a chapter in your life. Don’t miss the parts that “ You just can’t make-up.”

Choose Risk over Risking Regret

In the end most people don’t regret the risks they took regardless of how they unfolded.

If you accept a grow mindset, no effort is without value.

Catch your breath–Catch yourself changing into your best self.