I just recently finished the audiobook, Mindset, by Carol Dweck PhD. I thought the book was a little long for the points she was making, but it was packed with good information. The central theme of her book is that people can have one of two mindsets, a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Each person can have a combination of these two. I have found that I have both depending on what I am thinking about.
A quick word on the difference between the two. The fixed mindset is the belief that certain traits, characteristics, and events are unchangeable. People often have fixed mindsets when they think about their genes and body types. We see these things as a product of our parents, environment, or prior learning and there is very little we can do about it. Intelligence is another area where people tend to see that quality as mostly fixed. The growth mindset is the belief that all things can be changed. People oftentimes see an individual’s self esteem as having the ability to change if we act upon it.
The argument that Dr. Dweck made was that we all have the ability in ALL areas to significantly change our circumstances if we shift to a mindset more focused on the idea of growth. I have been bumping into areas in my life all over the place where I have a fixed mindset. I used to think I could never lose weight because I just was so, “weak” and had “no willpower”. Instead of seeing it for what it was, a pattern of extremely bad habits, I saw it as my inherent weakness. One of my flaws that I could do nothing about because, “that was just the way I was”. However, I changed up my diet, and at the time of this writing have lost 24 pounds in a little under a month. I have been a bit more active, but I’m not on any Biggest Loser workout plan. I walk more, lift twice a week, and sprint once a week. I am not trying to lose weight, instead I am changing my habits, and the weight is coming off on its own. This is just one example of how I am starting to notice areas in my life where my fixed mindset has slowed me down. I am not beating myself up when I notice them, I am thankful for what I have learned and try to figure out how I can change my thinking on that issue. It isn’t instant success for sure, but as long as I’m progressing that’s all that matters.
What in your life can you not change? What are the one or two key issues in your life that, if you could change would significantly enhance the quality of your life. And, once you identify them, what can you do about them? I am not an expert by a long shot, but I have had success making my struggles public. I have a few close friends who are updated almost daily on my eating and weight. They know my goals, they know my eating schedule, and they help me with my workouts.
Changing habits is really difficult. Steven Covey compared it to a shuttle going into space. He said that a shuttle uses more energy in the first few miles than it will in the next couple hundred thousand miles. This means the initial part of the journey will be the most difficult. Thinking patterns might be even more difficult because they are more difficult to recognize and track. I oftentimes felt overwhelmed by how much change was needed, but now I see it as a process. I focus on a few things and try and do them well. This has not been my philosophy in the past, but I have had solid results by just changing a few small things at a time until I develop new habits. Check out this message by Darren Hardy for a more in depth discussion on focusing on a few things.