Mindset is one of the 8 Pathways to Mental Wealth. And it is the cornerstone to our wellbeing and our journey toward flourishing.
Mindset embodies how we view ourselves, others and the world around us. It is the lens that we look through as we move through our lives, altering our view of our reality with a negative or positive slant. It impacts the continuous self-talk that happens within our unconscious which in turn, reinforces all of our beliefs, attitudes and feelings.
The understanding of the mindset pathway draws on the science of Positive Psychology, which embodies the principles that happiness and fulfillment comes from:
- Learned optimism
- Focusing on strengths & solutions
- Having a growth mindset.
Let’s take a closer look at these 3 aspects as they relate to our Mindset.
Our mindset has been developed and solidified throughout the years by our experiences and our patterns of thought and behavior. We often tend to think of mindset in terms of being a pessimist and thinking negatively or being an optimist and thinking positively.
Is the world around us a threat to our wellbeing and safety?
Or is it seen more as filled with opportunities of discovery and experience?
We certainly have a general tendency one way or the other. But as is typical, our human experience is usually more complex than an either/or answer. And if you see yourself as leaning toward the negativity - don’t despair. Neuroscience has shown us that we do, indeed, have the capacity to retrain our brains and in doing so, open ourselves up to unlimited potential.
Learned optimism is the practice of challenging our negative thought patterns; asking ourselves what evidence supports these thoughts; and actively looking for alternative perspectives that could offer more positive outcomes.
This is the glass half full analogy. The reality is the glass is both half empty and half full. It's your choice as to how you wish to view it.
One version comes from a place of lack, the other of plenty.
One induces fear and doubt; the other hope and possibility.
Which do you choose?
Focusing on Strengths:
We have a tendency to look for what’s wrong, instead of what’s right. We easily zone in on the weaknesses, deficiencies, and problems. We think in terms of repairing the bad and fixing what’s broken.
A strengths-based approach does the opposite. Encouraging ourselves to look for what IS working - to pinpoint areas of strength and build upon them. When faced with a challenge looking to past experiences to identify what worked and draw upon these positive experiences to address areas of challenge in our present lives.
Rather than problem-focused, the focus is on solutions and possibilities. If you haven’t read my blog “Life’s Obstacles: Roadblock or Detour?” you might want to give that a read as well. In it I share about a recent experience I had that initially sent me into a spiral and ended up leading me to an amazing new opportunity.
You may have heard that the Chinese word for “crisis” is composed of two characters signifying “danger” and something akin to “opportunity.” Crisis does indeed bring both of these experiences into our lives. The immediate reaction is to the danger, and we may likely react with the Fight, Flight or Freeze stress response. And if we let our old patterns of thought and action take over, we may just continue to get drawn down into the rabbit hole.
But if we can catch ourselves, and shift into a strengths and solution focused mindset, we can likely begin to see this challenge as a gift, either for the lesson or for pushing us to a new and maybe better path.
This approach is incredibly empowering as it helps us feel capable and resourceful. Replacing fears and self-doubts with clarity and confidence.
Having a Growth Mindset
The concept of the Growth Mindset was coined by Psychologist Carol Dweck. Her research showed that individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, implementing strategies and routines, and utilizing resources) tended to achieve success more. These individuals had a Growth Mindset.
On the other end of the continuum is the Fixed Mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts - either you have them or you don’t.) These individuals showed little resilience when experiencing failure. They didn’t pick themselves up and try again. They tended to stay down.
Essentially, if our underlying beliefs are very rigid and we do not believe in the possibility that we can change or that we can experience a different outcome, then we will remain in the Stuck Zone. There has to be some inkling of hope - some inner desire to Stretch us forward. When you move into the Step Zone, you are embracing the Growth Mindset with more regularity and in the Flourish Zone, your nailing it.
To be clear, we are not either Fixed or Growth - this is a continuum. And we could be more Fixed in one area of our life or in a particular instance and more within the Growth mindset in others. As we build upon the Pathways of Mental Wealth, moving more consistently toward a Growth Mindset will happen naturally as we strengthen our resources in mind, body, relationships and in our environment.
Summary of how Mindset Matters:
Now that I have reviewed these different components of Mindset - Learned optimism; Focusing on strengths & solutions; and Having a growth mindset - you likely might be hearing some overlap in concepts. So here is a summary of why Mindset Matters.
Having a negative, fixed mindset keeps us feeling helpless, unable to believe we can change the situation. Chronic feelings of helplessness and hopelessness often leads to apathy, depression, anxiety, irritability, and sometimes a festering underlying anger. A fixed, pessimistic mindset encourages self-sabotage, dooming ourselves to disappointment before we are given a chance. Within the Flourish Framework, this will make it extremely difficult to move out of our Stuck Zone. It's draining emotionally and physically to the person stuck in a negative, tunnel vision mindset …and often toxic for others to be around.
A growth mindset sets us up to see the possibilities within our challenging situations; to see the lesson rather than ruminating on the failure. Seeing the world with a “glass half full” mentality is not the same as having “rose colored glasses.” It does not mean that we see a skewed view of reality. On the contrary, a growth mindset allows us to fully acknowledge the situation, see it as not ideal, and even allow ourselves to experience the sadness, anger, or disappointment that goes along with it.
The difference is that we don’t stay in that place of negativity but instead, move ourselves to a place of re-evaluation.
We expand our view of the situation, pulling ourselves out of the tunnel and going instead to a birds eye view. From this vantage point we can then see that our disappointments may very well be handing us a gift on a silver platter. The situation pushes us to be creative, take action, think out of the box, and grow as individuals in ways that we would never have if not for the adversity.
Our willingness to take calculated risks, to increase our resolve in attaining our goals, to boost our productivity and energy levels — these are all possible when we are able to shift our view of the situation to one that is open, hopeful and determined to persevere. This mindset is strength-based and solution-focused, rather than problem-focused and coming from a place of fear, doubt, and lack.
In so many ways, having a positive mindset flows outward, impacting every aspect of our lives. When we are implementing strategies within the Pathways of Mental Wealth, creating new routines and habits that support our wellbeing, the ripple effect is significant.
Our mindset can be seen as a barometer for our life satisfaction and overall well-being. When our mindset is more fixed and negative, our mood, self-esteem, and happiness takes a dive. But when we have a positive, growth mindset, our ability to rebound and to Flourish is unlimited - even during the most challenging of times.
I hope this overview of Mindset - what it means and why it Matters - was helpful. I truly believe that it is the cornerstone of Mental Wealth and the ultimate driver behind our life satisfaction and happiness.
For strategies to shift your mindset, improve your mental wealth, and lower stress and anxiety grab this free download.
To have access to the free video series that includes Mindset Matters as well as follow up discussion on the strategies through weekly facebook lives, join the group The Habits to Happiness Hub.
Questions or comments? Interested in learning more? contact Lisa here.
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