The Happiness Connection  

What's your mindset?

Are you in competition, or in collaboration with the world? Do you try to be better than others, or do you work with them to create something more amazing than you could create by yourself?

Your answer to this question is probably linked to your mindset, those values and beliefs that affect how you view yourself and the world around you.

Do you believe that you were born with abilities and intelligence levels that never change, or do you believe that with work and perseverance you can get smarter and more skilful?

If you read my column on a regular basis, you will have read about mindsets before. I believe they are one of the most important characteristics of robustly happy people.

If you believe that natural ability is fixed from birth, you have a fixed mindset.

If you believe that natural ability is the starting point, but you can grow your abilities and intelligences with effort and perseverance, you have a growth mindset.

It is easier to live a happy life if you develop a growth mindset, because you don’t feel attached to where you are now, you can always get better. You are more willing to take calculated risks, because if they don’t work out, you won’t have failed, you will have been given an opportunity to learn and grow.

With the fixed mindset, you feel pressured to live up to the expectations of those around you, and the ones you place on yourself. You compare yourself to others to prove you are smarter, and more talented than they are.

You live your life in competition.

The fixed mindset sees the world in the context of winning and losing. We are programmed to believe that winning is linked to survival, which it was in more primitive times. Put any human into a win-lose situation, and they will do whatever it takes to make sure they come out on top.

The outcome is all important. Not winning means you failed, and for someone with this mindset, failing means you are a failure.

Negative emotions assist you when you are in a win-lose situation; they give you a better chance to win. This is one of the reasons why people with a fixed mindset aren’t as robustly happy, as those with a growth mindset.

With a growth mindset, you can concentrate on the journey you are taking throughout your life, knowing that you are the master of your own fate. You decide what you want, and then put all your energy and resources into achieving it.

You aren’t trying to prove yourself to other people, nor do you feel you are in competition with them. There isn’t any pressure to measure up to others, only a desire to improve and become better today than you were yesterday.

If you have a fixed mindset, you will probably think you have a growth one. You can see the advantages of it, and because you want to win, that’s the mindset you think will help you come out on top. Let me give you some characteristics of the fixed mindset to help you make an honest evaluation.

If you have a fixed mindset you are more likely to:

  • See life in terms of right and wrong
  • Have difficulty making decisions, because you want to get it right
  • Always want to be right, and usually think you are
  • Defend your intelligence and natural ability, and get upset if you think someone is suggesting that you are lacking
  • Be motivated to be better than other people, and find reasons to justify why you are
  • Avoid taking risks if you aren’t sure you will be successful
  • Blame other people, or things when you think you’ve failed
  • Be more interested in the outcome than the process
  • Give up if something doesn’t come easily

Breathe deeply and read the list again. Most of us display the fixed mindset in some areas of our lives. Rarely are you all fixed, or all growth.

You may view things in your work life one way, and in your personal life see things with the other mindset.

I was raised with a fixed mindset. It wasn’t until I read Mindset by Carol Dweck that I realized there was another way to view the world. Since then, I’ve worked hard to develop a growth mindset.

The best way to shift your viewpoint, is to become aware of your fixed mindset thoughts and statement, and then reframe them into a growth mindset perspective.

Fixed: If I can’t do it right the first time, I am going to quit.

Growth: I’m not very good at that YET, but I want to get better, so I will keep practising.

Fixed: You didn’t get a single A on your report card. What have you been doing at school?

Growth: How do you feel about your marks? Did you try your hardest? What can you do to improve? If you have done your best, then that’s all you can do.

Fixed: We lost the game because the ref was useless. His calls always went against our team.

Growth: We did our best, but the other team was better on the day. Some of the calls didn’t go our way, but that happens in games. Sometimes they go your way, and sometimes they don’t.

Fixed: I hope he falls, so I can win.

Growth: I want to win against the best.

As I mentioned, I was raised with a fixed mindset and have put a lot of time and energy into developing a growth one. I thought I’d done a pretty good job of shifting how I see the world, until earlier this week.

I was learning a new skill, when I suddenly found myself right back in the clutches of a fixed mindset. I began to measure myself against everyone else in this group, and then began to think about quitting.

If I wasn’t as good as everyone else, then what was the point?

The point was that I couldn’t rest on my laurels and assume that I had exercised my fixed mindset demons. As I digested the situation, I found myself wishing I had been raised with a growth view of the world.

If that was my natural mind, I wouldn’t have to worry about falling into old habits.

Starting with a good habit is so much better than having to break an undesirable one. You may think the old habit has been buried, but when you least expect it, it crawls out of its grave to haunt you.

If you have young children at home, I urge you to develop a growth mindset in all areas of your life. Do this for your children. They learn by copying the significant adults in their life.

It is never to late to change your mindset, and if your children are teenagers, your efforts will still be worthwhile. But if your children are young, or you haven’t started a family yet, but plan to, this is the perfect time to become growth minded.

Give your children a huge boost of happiness in life, and model a growth mindset for them to copy. 

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories