For a few decades, researchers have been studying the way mentally healthy people thrive. I love this field of science, called Positive Psychology because it helps us understand how humans operate at their best using their character strengths and values.
In her book, “Mindset: The Psychology of Success,” Stanford professor Carol Dweck coined the term growth mindset. It’s a way of thinking that focuses on our human capacity to solve problems instead of staying stuck (what she calls a fixed mindset.).
Being in a growth mindset helps me see challenges are puzzles to solve instead of ways the universe is conspiring to be a pain in my ass. In the past few years, a growth mindset has helped me work through some tough sitches (my beloved spouses’ cancer, kids leaving the nest, etc)—circumstances that would’ve previously sent me facedown into a deep-dish pizza as I lamented the impossibility of it all.
We know we’re in growth mode when we can see an obstacle as an opportunity—approaching challenging events as problems to solve instead of places to stall. This way of thinking can help you avoid shutting down when hard stuff shows up in your life (and it will.)
It’s not about becoming pollyanna and declaring, “I’m so happy this is hard.” It’s not pretending that everything is always perfect. It’s about dealing with life—even when things are hard.
Right after I became a certified life coach, I launched my business with the riveting tagline “Finding Your Path.”
Unclear who I was helping or why they were lost? True.
Ironic because this tagline was leading my business on a dead-end? Absolutely.
Not many people seemed to need my path.
For a little while, I swirled in shame, “Why can’t I figure this out?” and blame. What’s wrong with my potential clients, can’t they see they need this?” Then, I decided to reframe the situation. I got curious.
I asked some of the folks I had coached if anything specific had benefited them. I noticed a theme. My clients all appreciated the way I helped them with their time issues, task management, and stress management. Going from a fixed mindset, “What’s wrong with these people?” or “What’s wrong with ME???” To a growth mindset, “How can I creatively best serve these people?” led to a major breakthrough in my work.
How do you immerse yourself in a growth mindset? I think the easiest way is just to ask yourself, “Am I in growth mode or fixed mode in this situation?”
If you’re in a fixed mindset, you’ll likely feel stuck and find yourself blaming and shaming (yourself and those around you.)
If you’re open to considering options, solve the challenge you’re facing, and are willing to commit to using some grit to work through it, you’re on the right track.