Updated: May 7, 2020
What do monks, successful entrepreneurs and elite athletes have in common? It’s something that influences your ability to learn, the success of your relationships, and how you view happiness and success.
The ‘secret’? It all comes back to Mindset! It seems simple but Mindset will impact all areas of your life, for better or worse. That’s why I believe Mindset is everything.
What does mindset mean?
To understand Mindset, I want to start with a few definitions.
Mindset, according to the Collins Dictionary, refers to someone’s general attitudes. It’s “the way they typically think about things”.
So let’s break that down. What is an attitude? That’s the way you think and feel. This reflects in the way you behave.
I also want to add a definition of belief in here as another point of reference. I see these three things (belief, Mindset, and attitude) as interconnected. So, belief is a feeling of certainty that something exists, is true, or is good.
Dictionary definitions aside, what does Mindset look like in our everyday lives? One explanation is that our Mindset is a collection of our attitudes and beliefs.
Our attitudes and beliefs are developed and influenced by our personal experience and upbringing. Psychologists have found attitudes and beliefs can change throughout our lives, shaped by things like societal norms and observing others in the environment.
How strong those attitudes and beliefs are will ultimately influence how we act towards a situation and how we behave.
At a base level, Mindset is a collection of attitudes and beliefs. But I also believe Mindset is an overriding ethos that permeates all aspects of your life and will influence what attitudes and beliefs you choose to adopt, maintain and discard.
The keyword there is CHOOSE. These are choices and your Mindset will determine whether or not you take responsibility for your attitudes and beliefs and the way you approach different situations.
Our Mindset determines how we deal with any situation. For example, if you have an open mind and you’re willing to learn, you’ll face challenges in a very different way to someone who hates change.
In fact, your Mindset can influence whether you even end up in that situation. Are you the type of person to get outside your comfort zone? That all comes back to your mindset.
How Mindset changed my life
My first encounters with the concept of Mindset were in my teens. I looked in the mirror one day and realised the kid looking back was not who I wanted to be. I could have blamed other people or felt sorry for myself. Instead, I did something about it.
This was the start of my fitness journey. I cooked healthy meals. I waddled up and down my lane until it became a jog. I played rugby. I joined the boxing gym. I learnt new exercises. I learnt more about nutrition.
In a year, I’d dropped 4 ½ stone and was unrecognisable to my own Nan bless her. That was my first realisation that if something is meant to be, it’s up to me. My Mindset transformed my life (although I didn’t realise at the time).
My dad was also an unwitting champion of the power of Mindset. When I worked for his company, we would spend our drives to work discussing all things business and life. Often we’d talk about what I was trying to achieve or what I wanted to do in life.
He always said: “to stand head and shoulders above everyone else doesn’t take a lot”. He believed in being prepared to do a little more and think a little differently to the crowd. Often he would also say “common sense really isn’t that common”.
This lesson rings true so often. Whether it’s having lunch at a coffee shop and the service is abysmal or dealing with contractors who are sloppy, inefficient and careless. Often the difference between delivering a good service and experience and a bad one doesn’t take much, but its impact is huge.
This is a Mindset and approach to life: be prepared to do a little more, set yourself apart and think differently and you are likely to stand out from the crowd!
The final thing which has transformed my Mindset is martial arts. The discipline has helped me develop commitment, consistency, respect, responsibility and taught me how to deal with pressure. All of these qualities develop your overall Mindset and make it stronger.
In my current sport of competitive Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), I’m learning to deal with a huge amount of feelings, thoughts and emotions before I step in the cage. I know that I have to fight in front of hundreds of people and that it will also be seen on YouTube.
It’s then up to my Mindset to help me deal with the pressure and perform. It’s my Mindset that will help me get the most from the fight and the experience overall win or lose.
Fixed vs growth Mindset
Hopefully by this point in the post, you understand Mindset a bit better. But I want to dive into the two most common ‘types’ of Mindset. The ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ Mindsets were developed by Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology For Success.
A fixed Mindset is the core belief that you get handed your metaphorical cards of life and that’s it. It’s up to you to make the best of what you have, but you can’t change it. The fixed Mindset says if you can’t do something it’s because you’re not intelligent/brave/good enough so you may as well move on.
Often those with a fixed Mindset will avoid tasks and situations where they may fail as this would mean they are not intelligent/brave/good enough. Having a fixed Mindset limits your potential and your ability to adapt, learn and grow.
The growth Mindset is the core belief that you are able to learn and grow in any situation. If you’ve cultivated a growth Mindset, you believe you can increase your intelligence, better your position and change the hand you were dealt.
The growth Mindset enables you to continually develop throughout your life learning from a variety of sources, situations, people, places and things.
The video below is a really great summary of these concepts putting this into perspective.
Mindset By Carol Dweck - Animated Core Message
I hope you can see a growth Mindset is going to be the most beneficial for us to adopt and develop. I believe that with an understanding of these Mindsets you can start to evaluate your own Mindset and begin the transition from a fixed Mindset to a growth Mindset!
However it may not be as black and white as this. (Let’s face it, it rarely is!)
In an interview with the Atlantic, Dweck explained there is also a “false growth Mindset”. This is when someone believes they have a growth Mindset instead of actually possessing one. They just say they do because they know it’s the best type of Mindset to have, or they’ve misunderstood the meaning of it.
Dweck also believes that our Mindsets change depending on the situation and triggers. While we might have a growth Mindset in most cases, perhaps facing a particular situation forces us back into a fixed Mindset.(On reflection I can certainly think of times where I am triggered into a Fixed mindset!)
Let’s say I wanted to express myself by learning an instrument. I believe I can learn because I have (at that stage) a growth mindset. But then somebody made fun of me and said I wasn’t musically talented. This may trigger me to fall back on negative feelings of childhood and old feelings of not being good enough. The result is a fixed Mindset and a new belief I can’t learn the instrument.
So our goal should be to develop a growth Mindset wherever possible and understand where our fixed Mindsets may lie and what may trigger us. Once we identify what these triggers are, we can come up with coping strategies to stop them negatively impacting us.
Where does Mindset affect your life?
Because Mindset is the way you approach situations, it inherently affects every single aspect of your life for better or worse. This is why we say that Mindset is everything. It really affects everything!
Here are some examples:
Fixed Mindset: I’m overweight, it runs in my family. I have tried every diet, but it's just the way we are built. I can’t cook and I can’t afford healthy food. I don’t have time to put into it.
Growth Mindset: I’m going to learn what to eat and how much I need to move in order to get to a healthy weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I may have not been taught these things, but there is so much information out there I am going to learn and change my life. I am going to find healthy, cost-effective recipes that can be cooked quickly as I value my health and will do what is necessary for me and my family to live healthy.
Fixed: I am the way I am and I don’t like being told what to do. Take me as I am or leave. I expect my partner to do this or that and if you don't then we can’t be together.
Growth: I realise that I am imperfect and human and therefore have the ability to learn and grow. Although I have certain values at my core, I am open to change. I understand that we each have our own issues and ideas of who we are and who we would like to be. That is for each of us to overcome and develop on our own. However, our relationship is a platform to understand each other and learn and grow together through life.
Finance and Work:
Fixed: I don’t have enough money. I hate my job and it’s unfair. Why do others get all this opportunity and money and wealth, it’s not fair. Look at them in their big houses and nice cars, they’re so lucky.
Growth: I don’t have enough money and I hate my job. I am going to learn a new skill in my spare time and either change careers or start a side hustle. I would like to have a nice car and a big house and I am going to get those things while doing something I enjoy. I may not have had the same start as others but there is so much opportunity in the world and many good role models to learn from all accessible from the internet!
So, from the above you can see a few examples of how the difference in Mindset can affect various situations. From nutrition, exercise, habits, work, finance, hobbies, friends, to relationships, sense of purpose and happiness: mindset affects everything.
Yes, some people get a running start in life. Some people are born in better countries, some people just know what they are meant to be doing and it all just clicks. However, if you’re not one of these people then there’s good news.
There’s a difference between the winners and the losers, the successful and the unsuccessful. For the majority, none of it has anything to do with the hand you are given!
The difference is Mindset. If you want to do well in life and have an abundance of success and happiness, then Mindset is where you start. This is what you focus on developing.
We all have the ability and opportunity to learn and develop our Mindset into one that will enable us to be everything we want to be...and much more!
“If it is to be. It’s Up to me” - William. H. Johnson