So many times we’ve discussed how your thoughts create your reality. Now, let me clarify this right off. By this I don’t for one second believe that the terrible tragedies that occur in so many people’s lives are ‘self created’ – as clearly they are not. What I am talking about is how our brains are basically wired – in the words of Henry Ford who I am also fond of quoting: Whether you believe you can, or whether you believe you can’t – you are right. The world reflects our beliefs back at us. And now the latest research backs this up. According to Stanford psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, it’s all in our minds. Dr. Dweck has identified two basic brain types – the fixed and the growth mindsets. These two brain types hold the keys as to whether we are successful or unsuccessful as they govern our beliefs and our behaviours.
Successful people fall into the growth mindset. They focus on problem solving and self-improvement. They believe that their intelligence isn’t something which is ‘fixed’ but can grow. This in turn stimulates a desire to gain more knowledge. When they encounter setbacks they persist but learn from the experience. They embrace challenges and also know that they cannot achieve their goals without making an effort – and they see this effort as adding to their skills. They also learn from and are inspired by others. Dr. Dweck points out this gives them a greater sense of empowerment and free will and as a result are able to reach higher levels of achievement when it comes to attaining their goals.
Those who fall into the fixed mindset however, have a very different view. They believe their intelligence, their characters, their behaviours, their creativity or any abilities they have are ‘fixed’ and cannot be changed. Success – or the lack of it – is therefore seen as an affirmation of the hand they have been dealt. As Dr. Dweck explains: “Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.”
The trouble with the need to ‘prove yourself over and over’ – is that doing the same thing all the time and expecting a different result gets us nowhere! Fixed mindset people avoid challenges, give up easily and see repeated effort as a waste of time. In other words – they become a self-limiting prophecy.
So, you are what you think you are. But what if you want to change your mind – quite literally? Perhaps this has resonated with you and you feel you may be operating from a fixed mindset in certain areas of your life. Dr. Dweck has concluded that those people who remain in a fixed mind set achieve less and are less successful than those with a growth mindset. We all want to grow and experience all we are capable of and what we need to understand is that it is only ever a thought we need to change. Neuroplasticity has proved we can grow new neural pathways in the brain. So, looked at this way – anyone can quite literally change their minds. If you think you are being too fixed and want to open your mind to new possibilities and ways of thinking, try shifting your focus ever so slightly. See not getting the result you were expecting not as a failure but as an opportunity to learn something -about yourself if nothing else! Become your own experiment. If you would normally shy away from a new way of doing something or a challenge ask yourself ‘What if?’ – what will happen if you do try it? Then find out. Again, let go of judging your actions – and be prepared to surprise yourself – even if it’s just by attempting it in the first place! Praise yourself for trying even if you didn’t get the outcome you expected this time. The more you do this the more you will be willing to attempt doing more.
Our brains are not carved out of stone. Neither are our personalities, talents and skills. If you are indeed what you think as this research suggests, and if your success is determined by this, then success is just a question of a new way of thinking – and we all have the ability to do that.
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