Mindset is everything!Heidi Hadley
Over the years in clinical practice I have seen many lovely clients all wanting to achieve a better quality of life. Some clients have been very dedicated to their goals and been consistent with their health and wellbeing approach. They have looked for opportunities to change their diet, lifestyle habits, incorporate exercise and other issues pertinent to them to see and feel the changes in their mind and body.
Other clients have found this to be challenging and find that they have the best intentions, but either obstacles or events “get in the way.” This has resulted in them feeling very frustrated with themselves due to not being consistent with a routine and still feeling the pain, restrictions or other complaints.
So what makes the difference between these two types of individuals? It is their mindset. We all fluctuate between different mindsets depending on how we feel each day. This could be influenced by how much or little sleep we have had, hormonal issues, everyday pressures and so on.
But an expert in Mindset, Carol Dweck has researched this area of psychology extensively and termed the expressions “Fixed Mindset” and “Growth Mindset.”
What is a Fixed mindset?
A Fixed mindset is the belief that your qualities are carved in stone. Who you are, is who you are forever. You can’t change. This includes characteristics such as intelligence, personality and creativity. A fixed mindset believes these are fixed traits rather than something that can be developed.
A Fixed mindset says that things are the way they are and cannot be changed. The person may say, “I am ............ Forever, so I won’t try.” Or they may say “ that person is successful or happy because they got lucky.” They may even say “That is an obstacle I am not willing to overcome, so I won’t even bother trying.”
A person with a fixed mindset can make life very hard for themselves and those around them. It creates a belief that something is not possible, before they have even investigated if it is or not. Research conducted by Carol Dweck, the leading expert in Mindset and psychology noted that children from low socio-economic communities with the influence of a fixed mindset were at a huge disadvantage in their education and aspirations. I will develop this area a little further shortly.
What is a Growth mindset?
A person with a Growth mindset comes from the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort. They believe people differ greatly in aptitude, talents, interests or temperaments. But everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
Let’s consider a classic example of a growth mindset. We have all seen a child trying to walk for the first time. He or she may stagger and fall many times. But at no time do we or the child give up. We don’t laugh at the baby for trying. We keep encouraging the child to keep trying. The baby does not second guess whether they can do this. If they have the cognitive reasonings of an adult, they may say to themselves that they can’t do it because they have been reliant on others to carry them around this whole time. Until they suddenly start trying. This is the conscious brain focused on looking for opportunities to keep trying and learning from previous bumps and falls.
I would like to consider the point I raised earlier regarding Carol Dweck’s research into school children and the previous point, whereby we continue to encourage a baby to keep trying.
The research with Carol Dweck and the school children looked at what a fixed mindset did to the children as opposed to a growth. The lowest test results in Mathematics and science were in these low socio-economic schools. Carol Dweck spent time with the teachers and children and taught them to switch their fixed mindset to a growth mindset. But how?
She coached them all to go from a “now” mindset to a “not yet” mindset. So instead of saying “If I’m no good at science or maths now, I will never be any good,” she switched the language in their head. She taught the teachers to encourage the children just like we do with a baby learning to walk. The teachers changed their speech to “not yet”. So the teachers would encourage the children with expressions such as “your understanding of mathematics or science may not be now, but with effort and focus, it is achievable,” So their attitude and approach altered to saying to the children, “don’t worry if you can’t do it now, rather it is ‘not yet’.” So by encouraging the children with “not yet” and working with them, that school in Washington, went from being one of the lowest scoring schools, to becoming one of the top scoring schools in the district.
Then we have another area of mindset, Progress mindset. We can see a great example of this with people who work out in the gym. If we are new to the gym and haven’t lifted weights before, we know that we can’t lift huge weights immediately, unless we want to cause ourselves real damage! We know we have to build up to it over time. We know we will get stronger and better with progress.
So how can we apply this to our health and wellbeing? We can look at our mindset around health and see what the language is in our head. Do we say to ourselves and maybe others “I cannot keep a routine because....” Or do we say expressions such as “If I don’t see results within the next few days I am jacking it in.” These expressions are limiting us with our progress and is classed as a fixed mindset.
Could we change the language in our head and intentions so that we develop a progress mindset which will allow us to change our routine gradually over time. Then it becomes a lifestyle change rather than a “flash in the pan.” We start feeling the positive results of the progress mindset and look for other opportunities to grow. Once we develop this mindset, we will notice that it changes our thoughts, words and intentions in other areas of our life. This has resulted in us switching our focus to a Growth mindset.
Remember from articles and tutorials in my previous blogs, Total Somatics videos on You tube, Facebook, Google+ and the Online Total Somatics Programme; we have discussed how our brain is not hard wired. Due to amazing neuroscience discoveries, we have identified that the brain is constantly changing. Neuroplasticity allows the brain to become stronger with whatever we focus our attention on. This focus could be on anxiety, fear, doubt and worry (Fixed Mindset). This leads to stress centres in the brain becoming stronger and dominating the way our subconscious and conscious mind operate. A fixed mindset reduces the activity in the prefrontal cortex.
Neuroplasticity is very powerful and we can change our brain make up to our advantage. If we increase our focus on a Growth Mindset, looking for opportunities to grow and develop as a person, we reduce the activity in areas of the brain linked with stress. With a growth mindset and mindful behaviour, we thicken the Prefrontal Cortex. When we utilize the prefrontal cortex, we increases our focus, attention, awareness, concentration and emotional intelligence.
Remember when you change your thoughts, you can change how you see the world. It all begins with how you choose to think. Our brain has the capacity to change. Many people don’t realise how powerful their brains are designed to be. But with your increased awareness of neuroplasticity allowing you to change your “cortical landscape,” make today the start of new intentions, thoughts and actions to improve your health and wellness.
In my next blog I will discuss another amazing new area of science which fits perfectly with neuroplasticity. We really can change aspects of our health and wellbeing with scientific research to back these claims. Stay tuned! Xx