A few years back, at a similar time to when I began reading Brene Brown’s work, I learnt about Carol Dweck.
In 2006, psychology professor and researcher Carol Dweck published a book which outlined the culmination of research on our understanding of where intellectual and cognitive ability comes from. Dweck established that everyone was on a continuum of “implicit views” about where ability originated.
If you believe your abilities are innate and given from birth, you believe in the entity theory of intelligence, also known as a fixed mindset.
If you believe your abilities are based in endeavour and always changing, you believe in the incremental theory of intelligence, also known as a growth mindset.
As a practical example, if you tend to say things like “That’s just who I am” or “I’m simply not good at such-and-such”, you’re likely to be exhibiting a fixed mindset.
If you say things like “I’ve not been good at that in the past, but I’m improving” or “I’m getting better at that” or “I can’t do that yet”, you’re likely to be exhibiting a growth mindset.
Over the years, I’ve come to realise it’s not as simple as a person having either a fixed or a growth mindset. Like our learning styles, emotional capacity, anxiety levels and energy, our type of mindset fluctuates depending on where we are in our life and what we’re focused on.
Another way to think about these mindsets is the stories we tell ourselves about who we are.
Some of the ‘fixed stories’ I’ve told myself about who I am include:
I can’t do creative writing.
I don’t fit in.
I struggle to look after myself.
I’m a size 12.
I’m not a materialistic person.
None of these things are good or bad. (You may have a different moral response to them). What they all have in common is they are stories, and they are inaccurate.
They suggest a fixed state of being – when, in fact, life flows and fluctuates much more than that.
I hadn’t done creative writing before.
In the past, I didn’t fit in with some of my friendship groups.
I used to struggle to look after myself, because I didn’t know how.
I was told I was a size 12, but all sizes are different.
I’m not a materialistic person in the common sense of the word.
When we, and life, and our creativity, and our work, flows and fluctuates, we have to be more specific. We have to get detective-level specific on our mindset.
This is what will help you develop a positive, flexible, growth-centred mindset.
You have to look at the evidence, not just your assumptions.
What’s really happening here? Whose stories am I listening to? What’s an objective fact, and what is the subjective experience I’m having?
The evidence often shows us that:
- What’s happened in the past doesn’t have to happen today
- What happens today doesn’t have to happen tomorrow
- What happened in one context doesn’t have to happen in another
And most importantly
- What’s happening right now is entirely up to us
We are quick to fix the stories of ourselves in a solid place so they can become something to rely on in a chaotic universe. But fixing them like that doesn’t always bring the structure and grounding you want. Instead, it can bring rigidity and a lack of flow and flex.
True growth doesn’t happen in a straight line. It happens in a winding, wiggling route, at different rates and at different times.
Let your mind grow in this way.
I was told art is a waste of time, but I don’t want to believe that any more.
I sometimes find it hard to prioritise, so today I’ll do something different.
To-do lists don’t work for me, but I want to find something that does.
I never thought of myself as an artist, but now maybe I can.
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