I’ve been reading about mindset lately. It’s right in the name of our new nutrition program, and I have definitely seen a shift in my own mindset, so I got curious.
People talk about changing your mindset, developing a new mindset…and I can put out a goal and plan to do so with the best of them, but it’s not always so easy to stick with it. And I’m now learning why. There has been a ton of research into the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.
I’m currently reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S Dweck, Ph.D. She has literally written the book on mindset, and is the foremost researcher on the subject. Here are the basics:
According to Dweck, when a student has a fixed mindset, they believe that their basic abilities, intelligence, and talents are fixed traits. They
think that you are born with a certain amount and that’s all you have.
People with a fixed mindset always want to appear intelligent, because they believe that they were born with a fixed level of intelligence that cannot be modified. These people have a fear of looking dumb to people because they do not believe that they can redeem themselves once other people look at them as being unintelligent. They also believe that talent alone leads to success, and effort is not required. They rely on test scores, awards and recognition to continuously prove their value.
In a growth mindset, however, people believe their abilities and intelligence can be developed with effort, learning, and persistence. Their basic abilities are simply a starting point for their potential. They don’t believe everyone is the same, but they hold onto the idea that everyone can become smarter if they try. They value learning, the challenge of trying something new and continuous improvement.
It seems that sometimes mindset is born, but it usually comes from a moment in time that framed the future for that person. A parent or teacher with a fixed mindset can have a (likely) unintentional but profound effect on a child. An IQ or aptitude test, a poor or high test score…even feedback such as “you must be really smart at math” can create a fixed mindset that the student has natural ability and doesn’t need to try.
I am struggling to see which mindset I fit into, but Dweck does say that people can be in BOTH, it doesn’t need to be either/or. Sometimes it depends on the topic – artistic ability, intelligence, and sometimes digging right into a school subject. Some people might have a fixed mindset when it comes to math, but a growth mindset when it comes to music, for example. Another area this might apply to would be weight loss. People may have a growth mindset when it comes to learning, but then switch to a fixed mindset when it comes to their ability to lose weight.
I began my weight loss journey in December 2009. Until then I had a fairly fixed mindset about weight loss, but something clicked. All of a sudden I had a growth mindset and BELIEVED that with hard work I could be successful. Then I thought in July 2010 I was “done,” when I reached my goal and then achieved lifetime member at status at Weight Watchers. But I was FAR from done. Over the next seven years I started falling back into the fixed mindset, and lo and behold I started gaining weight. I believed that nothing I was going to try would get me back on track.
I have learned so much since then. I may have learned how to lose 80lbs eight years ago, but I wasn’t eating healthy food. It was largely processed, pre-packaged food. I hadn’t learned about good nutrition. I learned to game the system to get maximum treats. I was only working out to earn more points and lose more weight, not to get my body strong or improve my fitness. I am so grateful that at that point I realized my journey wasn’t over. Even though I was “successful” back then, I think I was probably still in a fixed mindset. I wasn’t learning how different foods affected my body and energy, and then adapting where needed.
Something about this new nutrition program, 2B Mindset, brought back that “click” and kicked me back into the growth mindset. I believe again. And it’s changed the way I’m thinking about weight loss and nutrition. I am LEARNING new principles of eating. How to look at the scale as a data point, not a measure of worth or even “success.” I would say that I am now firmly back in the growth mindset camp when it comes to fitness and weight loss, and it’s also driving me to get there in the other areas of my life.
To the outside observer, I might appear to have a growth mindset for most things, and the truth is I WANT to grow and learn. But the other truth is that I am scared. I often avoid things that have an unknown outcome. Things that I’m not sure I’ll be good at. Situations where I might appear not good enough or not intelligent enough. Where I might fail. I am working on this, because everything I read and listen to tells me that failure is where the MAGIC happens. Where the learning happens. Where the GROWTH happens.
The Power of Yet
Here’s the best way I’ve found to start kicking yourself from fixed into growth: add the word “yet” to any sentence that includes “can’t.” “I can’t run a 10k…YET.” “I can’t lose weight…YET.” Or “I am not good enough at that (fill in the blank)…YET.” By adding “yet” to your sentence you will create the possibility, and the potential that you actually can (or even better – WILL) accomplish or learn that thing you’re shying away from. Sure, it will take effort, but who cares if it means you actually accomplish that goal or dream?
What sentence could you add “yet” to?