Your 2022 (Growth) Mindset
(Republished from 2020 because it's so darn applicable and we all need a little reminder)
The new year is upon us! It’s a time of new beginnings and new resolutions. Many of which are actually old resolutions brilliantly disguised as fresh undertakings so we don’t feel so badly about not having achieved said undertakings last year. At this time of year, vision boards abound, gym memberships skyrocket, and promises are made to spend less on Amazon Prime. So with all the good intentions, why is it that so few of us actually follow through in changing our behaviors?
An article in US News and World Report stated that 80% of all New Year’s Resolutions fail, and most of those have fizzled out by mid-February. But before you start feeling down about your prospects for positive change, I’d like to propose that these statistics are not due to people being flawed in their intentions. Rather, they’re due to New Year’s Resolutions being flawed in their execution.
People have been using the new year as justification for changing their behavior for thousands of years, dating back to the Babylonians and Romans. But more often than not, these grand resolutions lose their novelty before any real progress is made. Are people not serious about their intentions when they set out to create this positive wave of action? I don’t think intentions are the problem. I believe it’s what people see in the mirror as they run into resistance on the way to their goals that stops them in their tracks. I believe that what’s being reflected back to people is their mindset, and therein lies the problem.
Your mindset is an established set of attitudes that guides your thinking and behaviors. The mindset you adopt has a significant impact on the way you live your life and whether or not you accomplish the things you set out to do. If you find yourself struggling to stick with the goals you’re setting, the key might lie in your mindset. According to mindset expert, Carol Dweck, “Mindsets are just beliefs in your mind, and you can change your mind.” So what’s needed to create positive change in the new year is a mindset shift, which entails shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
Having a fixed mindset means that you have a core belief that your qualities are fixed and “carved in stone.” In other words, you believe you’re this smart, you’re this attractive, you’re this successful, etc. And if you were smarter, more attractive, and more successful, your life would look different (and better). When you have a fixed mindset about something, your primary goal is to look good and avoid looking bad. When you’re in this space, the driving force behind your decisions will often be to feel better about yourself.
On the other hand, having a growth mindset means you believe your basic qualities can be developed through your efforts, your strategies, and support from other people. With a growth mindset, Carol Dweck explains, your true potential is unknown and unknowable; your capabilities are endless. When you’re in the growth mindset space, the driving force behind your decisions will be to develop your abilities through experience and learning.
Success and Failure
Let’s take a look at what both success and failure look like from a fixed mindset and a growth mindset perspective. In the fixed mindset world, success is usually defined as the ability to achieve a goal within a specific time frame. The fixed mindset is black and white, with little room for error. In the end, if a person sees that they’re not on track for success, they’ll quit before exerting any more energy toward failure. And failure to the fixed mindset is a stark indication that they’re inadequate or incapable of accomplishing a task.
In the world of the growth mindset, the definition of success is the ability to do your best, learn, and improve while striving for a goal. The growth mindset, in contrast to the fixed mindset, has a lot of gray area and wiggle room. From this perspective, a person recognizes that they likely don’t have the knowledge and skills to complete the task… yet. They understand they’ll acquire the knowledge and skills they’ll need along the way. The growth mindset knows there will be challenges, obstacles, and road blocks along the way. For this mindset, failure is simply what enables you to learn from your mistakes. In this space, failure helps you figure out what doesn’t work, helps you learn new strategies, and gives you the opportunity to do it differently next time.
It’s important to keep in mind that we’re all a blend of fixed and growth mindsets. You can have a fixed mindset in one area of your life and a growth mindset in another, so you’ll respond to challenges differently depending on which mindset is your driving force. I happen to have a fixed mindset about technology. Put a computer or a device in my hands and ask me to do a function I’ve never done before and my automatic response is, “I’m not smart enough to figure this out.” But I have a growth mindset about music. Put an instrument in my hands that I’ve never played before and I’ll get to work figuring out how to play it. What I’ve realized is that if I can apply my instrument mindset to my computer problems, my challenges will start to look completely different and I won’t have the tendency to give up so easily. This is exactly what I’m going to encourage you to do with your New Year’s Resolutions.
Reframing Your New Year's Resolutions
Let’s take a look at four of the most common New Year’s Resolutions: exercising, saving money, eating more healthily, and losing weight. All of these endeavors have one word in common: should. “I should be exercising more.” “I should be saving money.” “I should be eating a healthier diet.” “I should be thinner than I am.” Often, New Year’s Resolutions come from a place of lack, which is a sense that we’re not good enough as we are and we need to do something different to be better and feel better about ourselves. I’m not saying these aren’t good goals to strive for. Rather, I’m encouraging you to be aware of the self-talk that could cause you to fall into a fixed mindset.
In her book, The Crossroads of Should and Must, visionary Elle Luna defines should as “any expectation or obligation that’s put on you from the outside in.” So any time you make decisions based on what others (parents, spouses, media, culture) say is best for you, you’re handing your power over to the fixed mindset. Luna describes should like cracking an egg on the counter; a force comes from the outside and kills life on the inside.
In contrast to this, she introduces the idea of must, which is the force at the core of your being. It’s who you must be because that is who you truly are. She describes must like an egg cracking because something is being born; a force comes from within and brings life into being. Must allows you to grow by nourishing the parts of you that crave a better, healthier existence. Must is the growth mindset that encourages you to manifest your potential.
From this growth mindset, the four New Year’s Resolutions above might sound more like this: “When I exercise my body feels stronger and healthier. Adding more exercise to my routine will add vitality to my life.” “When I make conscious choices to resist the urge to spend money unnecessarily, I feel empowered and I set a good example for my family.” “When I eat healthier food, my body feels better and I’m happy knowing I’m doing something good for myself.” “Learning to make the choices necessary to lose unhealthy weight will help me gain powerful habits that will benefit me for life.”
Here are four practices you can use to help shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset when moving forward with your New Year’s Resolutions:
1. Be Aware Of Your Fixed Mindset Triggers
Listen to your self-talk and gently be aware if it sounds like the following. “I have to do it all and I have to do it now.” “It has to look a particular way.” “If I deviate from my plan, it means I’m not capable of my plan.” “If I don’t hit my goals, I’ll feel like a failure.” If any of these are the voices in your head, think about ways you can shift the conversation to be more flexible, loving, and growth-oriented.
2. Make Your Growth Mindset Declaration
This is your chance to find all the ways your journey is going to help you grow and to focus on those growth opportunities as your goal. Revisit the paragraph above where I reframe the four most common New Year’s Resolutions from a growth mindset perspective and create a declaration that helps you feel empowered on your New Year’s journey. And remember, your declaration isn’t for anyone other than you. As NBA basketball star, Lebron James, said in the book, The Path Made Clear, “I get off my game when I start playing for others rather than myself.”
3. Be Prepared To Respond To Resistance
New Year’s Resolutions, and goals in general, are difficult. If they weren’t, you’d have already achieved them. What usually stops people on their way to the finish line is an opposing force that seems to work against them, also known as resistance. Some people call them bumps in the road, road blocks, or unexpected obstacles. Either way, resistance often causes us to doubt our ability to continue. Being prepared for resistance and reframing it in a positive way will make all the difference when working toward a goal.
Resistance is nothing more than discomfort and isn’t something to be afraid of. In fact, resistance is absolutely necessary for you to hit your goals. As fitness champion and motivational speaker, Lori Harder, explains, “Resistance + Time under tension = strength.” The more resistance you face, the stronger and more skilled you become toward achieving your dreams. This is the ultimate growth mindset.
4. Focus On Moving The Needle
Remember that your personal goals are a marathon, not a sprint. It’s good to pace yourself and not exert all your energy off the starting line. Instead of focusing only on the finish line, focus on “moving the needle” and narrowing the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. You may not make all the right choices on day one, but if you focus simply on making better choices tomorrow than you did today, you’ll find yourself moving forward in no time.
Setting a goal and striving for it requires courage because there is always a risk that you won’t hit your goals in the way you desire. But when you reframe your goals with a growth mindset, the question becomes when and how, not if, you achieve them. In the growth mindset world, the worst that can happen is it takes you longer to achieve your goals than planned. The best that can happen, however, is next year at this time, you find yourself encouraging others to do the thing you did and reassuring them with great satisfaction that the effort is worth it.
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