Your mindset is the most important foundation in life – but the key is a GROWTH mindset, rather than a fixed one, says guest writer and neuro-linguistic programming practitioner Olivia Chitty – here are her best tips to change yours (and check out her previous stories on how to boost your self-confidence and how to work with your cycle – not against – for optimal health.
So what is a mindset and why is it actually important?
Your mindset is a set of beliefs that shape your experience of life. These beliefs affect what you think about yourself, what you think about others and how you make sense of the world at large. They influence your attitude, actions and emotions and therefore affect your levels of success and fulfilment in life.
Your mindset is the one thing that will determine whether you last the long run and reach your goals, or give up too soon. That is why understanding and developing an empowered growth mindset is so important.
How our mindset and beliefs are developed:
In our early years of childhood our brain is like a sponge, soaking up all of the information from the world around us, especially the significant people in our lives such as our parents and primary caregivers and teachers. We didn’t only absorb the things we were intentionally taught, we observed how they interacted with us, their interactions with others, what they were passionate about, how they worked, what they believed and how they dealt with different situations.
All of this information comes together to create our own behaviour patterns, core beliefs and values which are usually formed by the age of seven. This programming lives within our unconscious mind and either propels us further in life with confidence, or it can hold us back because of underlying limiting beliefs which create fear, and prevent us from reaching our full potential.
So what’s the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset?
Those with a fixed mindset believe their abilities are set in stone – they are either good at something or they’re bad at it, and that is that. Someone with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believes they can always learn new things, develop their skills and improve themselves as a person.
The way you were praised, labelled or insulted during your upbringing determines which mindset you will adopt. For example; a child received an average mark on her maths test in school, so her parents grounded her and told her she was bad at maths. This creates a label and puts her in the box of being ‘bad at maths’, so she begins to identify with that narrative and because they didn’t give her any encouraging feedback, she fails to see the opportunity to improve.
This promotes a fixed mindset and the limiting belief “I’m not good enough”. The parents’ response and the punishment she was given forms a fear of failure and rejection, which can then lead to future perfectionism, negative self-talk, procrastination or pressuring herself to succeed in order to gain acceptance.
If her parents continually give her the cold shoulder whenever she receives a bad grade and solely focus their praise on her academic achievements, talents and the things she does rather than who she is as a person, it teaches her that she is only worthy of love and attention when she achieves, performs well or gives something in return. This pattern will lead her to continually seek external validation by people pleasing, overworking or wasting her money on material things to prove her worth in the eyes of others. This will play out in her relationships, workplace and all areas of life.
However, her teacher, on the other hand, may have acknowledged her efforts and praised her perseverance with the learning process, whilst still providing constructive criticism and specific feedback on what she could try differently. This creates space for the child to grow and gives her the confidence to continue trying and learning to develop her skills.
Although her initial results may have seemed like a failure, she learned that failure equals feedback and gives her an opportunity to improve. This approach promotes the growth mindset and forms the belief “I can learn anything I set my mind to”. With this mindset she will move forward in life with the desire to grow, she will be comfortable embracing new things and tackling challenges because she knows she has the capabilities to learn, adjust and improve and she’ll be willing to embrace the process.
A lot comes down to past experience.
Have you ever wondered why you find it so hard to say no? To step outside of the comfort zone? To be your true self around others? To stay committed to your goals? Or secure healthy relationships?
You can now start to see that your past experiences have shaped who you are, what you believe, how you behave and your self-esteem. The beliefs that have been living within the depths of our minds since childhood affect us on a daily basis without us even realising it.
Your mindset is like the foundation of your dream house, but if those foundations are wobbly and they don’t believe they are strong enough, when you try and build that dream house it will continue to fall down until you fix and strengthen those foundations.
It seems pretty straightforward when you put it into a basic analogy like that, but we’re all too often focused on fixing the creaky floorboard or the drafty door. To truly change our mindset and move it into the growth zone, we need to peel back the layers to process those past events and reprogram our beliefs.
Think of it like taking a computer apart and replacing the worn out or faulty pieces with brand new parts that allow the computer to function at full capacity, rather than freezing or shutting down all the time.
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Start to bring your awareness to the stories that run through your mind. What limiting beliefs arise when you set goals or start dating someone new? When you stop and listen to the voice in your head you may hear something like “You’ll never manage that! You’re not good enough” or “He’ll never stick around anyway, you don’t deserve him”.
- Ask yourself, ‘When was this story originally created?’ What past experiences made you feel that way? Find the evidence that discredits that belief and proves that the story is just a story and it’s not a fact. Focus on how that struggle gave you strength and create a new empowering belief to replace the old one.
- Seek support from a coach or counsellor, someone who will help you create the psychological safety to process past pains and release the emotional baggage that’s been weighing you down and clouding your perception of self.
- Work on your emotional intelligence to understand your triggers, where they are stemming from and what messages your emotions are communicating to you.
- Embrace new challenges that give you the opportunity to grow and help you create the evidence to strengthen your new beliefs. If you ‘fail’ take the feedback and keep going.
- Stop saying you can’t! Change your language and incorporate the word “yet”. Talk to yourself with kindness and self-support, using positive affirmations on a regular basis. The more you hear something, the more credibility it gains within the subconscious mind, therefore strengthening the positive belief and helping you make empowered choices.
- Stop comparing yourself and finding threats in others’ success, choose to see it as a pillar for what is possible for you. Use that inspiration to fuel you.
- Stay curious, and have an open mind to new perspectives and new approaches.
- And finally, focus on progress, not perfection. Detach from specific results and enjoy your unique journey!
Visit Olivia’s website here to learn more about letting go of your emotional baggage. She uses neuro-linguistic programming, such as Time Line Therapy, to help ditch negative emotions and limiting beliefs tied to past experiences.