Mindset has become one of those clichés that has led to confusion and uncertainty surrounding what it actually means. Every other article you read these days suggests that if you have the 'right mindset', anything is possible. According to the Oxford dictionary, mindset is 'the established set of attitudes held by someone'.
We now know that attitudes possess emotional, cognitive and behavioural components and these components have been influenced and formed from as early as within our mothers womb. It's no wonder people are confused because not only does mindset incorporate multifaceted concepts, but it started forming prenatally, which means it's actually a part of our DNA.
The good news is that whilst our mindset may seem fixed in nature, we have an opportunity to change and cultivate it, opening us up to infinite potential in terms of our own development.
Having this knowledge alone is what separates the average from the exceptional.
Your mindset is essentially your belief system that shapes your thoughts, habits and actions whilst your thoughts, habits and actions also shape your mindset. Pardon??? In it's simplest form, our mindset is the lens through which we view the world and our corresponding behaviours in that world.
A number of things can influence our mindset from our beliefs (both conscious and unconscious) to our environment, our intentional activities and even the company we keep. We all possess the capacity to change our mindset and it can vary from day-to-day, situation-to-situation; but to change it requires deliberate action.
Social psychologist Carol Dweck examined mindset from a learning perspective and determined that there are two types of mindsets ~ fixed and growth, and these may vary in context. Having the belief that intelligence, talent and creativity are static is the basis of a fixed mindset whereas believing that with effort these things can improve is the foundation of a growth mindset. In Dwecks' book "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: How We Can Learn Fulfill Our Potential", evidence indicates that the "view you adopt for yourself profoundly effects the way you lead your life". Having a growth mindset suggests that anyone and everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
"Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right." Henry Ford
Professor Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania has extensively studied the glass half full mentality (pessimism) and determined that we can actually learn to be more optimistic. Where pessimists approach life from a position of negativity and discouragement, optimists approach life from a position of opportunity and empowerment.
In his book Learned Optimism, Seligman suggests that through assessing your reaction to negative situations and journaling about them, and then exploring how to replace negative thoughts with positive, you can adjust your mindset from that of pessimism to one of optimism. To find out what your base level of optimism is, try this free assessment designed by Seligman here.
Things You Can Do To Tweak Your Mindset
Utilise Opposition Thinking : when you experience a negative thought, feeling or response to a situation, challenge it and go positive. Unfortunately, due to our negativity bias we are hardwired to go negative more often than positive. Making an effort to adjust so that you go positive more often can actually change the hardwiring in your brain. When you experience that negative self-talk, challenge it.
Try Reframing: when something happens that results in pessimistic thinking, reframe the situation so that you revert to optimism. According to research by Kelly McGonigal, our perception of stressful circumstances can be reframed so that our mental and physical responses support us rather than work against us.
Develop a growth mindset: science tells us that our potential can be continually developed. Equip yourself with this knowledge, embrace challenge, seek feedback and learn from failure.
When life throws a challenge your way, rise to it and if you fail ~dust yourself off, look to others who have been successful to learn from them, and grow from the experience. If the odds seem against you, view the world through a lens of optimism and remind yourself that we all possess the capacity to change our approach and develop our potential.
Kirsten works with individuals and organisations to create environments for developing positive cultures and growth mindsets. Contact her today to tap into your potential.