Don’t believe everything people tell you is an old adage. But we often do, don’t we? Especially during the young, impressionable years or when we feel particularly vulnerable. If people tell us something about ourselves then, it often sticks. For a lifetime. When I was a girl, my father laughed at me and said I wasn’t athletic. I believed it. My mind grasped that image of myself and formed a whole script about it so that later during sports events or other athletic challenges, I would quit, hide, or defer to others. When it was my turn at bat, I’d let the next kid in line take my place to avoid the pressure and risk of failure. Any and all things that even hinted at sports were to be avoided, even after I was no longer forced to participate in them in school. That is the fixed mindset. And it has plagued me in other aspects of life, besides sports. (You’re no good at math!)
A fixed mindset does not believe there is any possibility of change or growth. You are either good at something, meaning naturally talented, or not. There is no room for change with practice and fortitude. Moreover, if you are blessed to be good at something, you certainly don’t want to challenge that safe place, either. You remain in your comfort zone and never test the boundaries. And you become stagnant, ever watchful for failure, and miserable.
I learned a great deal about mindset by reading Carol S. Dweck’s recent best seller: Mindset, the New Psychology of Success. Everyone should read this book no matter their outlook on life. It describes the fixed and growth mindsets. Guess which one I recognized? The good news is even those of use who have cocooned ourselves in the fixed mindset can change and learn to expand, grow, learn new things without the associated fear. Since reading the book, I’m setting off down that new path. It is rocky and very much all uphill at this point. But if you want, follow me and see where it leads. I’ll give you one hint: I’ve signed up for a 5K race.