Listening to some experts talk can be depressing. So I listen to the ones that give me a bit of hope and tools to move forwards.
Without going down the list of those experts who talk about mindsets, today, we’ll touch one part that has really revived my dreams and given me ample umph.
The age old question of teaching an old dog new tricks has been settled by science. The answer is yes. Of course, there is a little more to be said, for clarification purposes. So, let’s touch a small sliver of this answer.
Growth vs Change
The popular way to look at a person’s mindset is from the lens of growth versus fixed. People who have a growth mindset do grow and improve. They’re the ones doing what everyone else says is impossible.
Those with the fixed mindset get a lot of bad press. As if keeping the status quo is always evil. We do need people to maintain things. Like, maintain civility, safety, organization, and humanity.
The flaw behind the fixed mindset is the inability to quickly adjust to changing times and realities. Being fixed in one set of skills in a position of life that is relatively constant is smart. Example, if your work is predictable and consistent, change for the sake of change is not good. However, if your work is susceptible to change, you’ve got to have the ability to grow and adapt.
This brings about a very interesting layer. How does one adapt?
People have their own unique personalities. Most of who we are is pretty consistently set in place. A joker will tend to be a joker. A serious person will tend to be serious. A type-A person will tend to stay a type-A.
When facing difficult situations, most will address their problems from the perspective of what they know. Sadly, often times, that means relying on their emotions and past experiences. This is not discounting those who pull in the wisdom of others and research to make more informed decisions.
This is how patterns tend to emerge. Some folks have very predictable sets of responses. You can spot them by their dating pattern, their types of jobs and friends they gravitate to or attract, as well as how they handle stress.
In long term relationships, the question of change does come up. How do I change myself or change my partner? For starters, no one can change anyone. They’ve got to give consent to the changes… and do the necessary work to change.
Unlike the popular notion of Western Culture, you can influence the direction of change a person will take by influencing their circumstances. We don’t give enough credit to what the environment does to change. We will make changes in accordance to what we know is possible as well as what is available to act on. (how can someone know their dream career if they’ve never even heard about it… one prime example of the environment influencing the options one has for change)
This is where it gets tricky
Change implies being different. We can change the way a building looks by remodeling it or tearing it down and erecting a new one in it’s place. Objects can be manipulated. People are a bit different.
We can trace most of our habits, which informs our character, down to the level of neurons. How our brain builds pathways is how habits form.
When we speak of change, what is really going on? We’re leaving one pathway alone and building up another. That is why it takes a while to build a new habit and why it is so easy to fall back on the old habit we’re trying to change.
So, in essence, we’re growing a new set of habits. What we call change is really growth. If someone is not happy with who they are, they have to grow into who they want to be. Just like a baby who has to learn to walk by growing up to the point of walking, we have to grow ourselves to change.
That is why the growth mindset is so beautiful. It means that at any age, one can put sufficient enough repetition to grow new habits and new character traits.
This does not mean the past is gone. This does not erase the old habits. Some habits do extinguish. But most just fade out of use. The ramp up back to those habits is relatively easy to do. That’s how a person can stop riding a bike and pick it up quickly some twenty years later.
New growth is hard. It’s work. And some new growth have biological limitations. A one hundred year old person is not going to pick up a physically complex and demanding task and master it like a twenty year old can (think race car driving or world class martial arts). But they sure can do a lot with proper effort. A healthy centenarian can learn new concepts, earn new degrees, pick up new activities, much like anyone else. The limitations are not as great as some believe it to be. Just look at those who picked up adventure sports and new degrees very close to 100 years of age.
Stagnation is horrible. Well, most of the times anyway. Things get rusty when they stagnate. Things get fossilized when they remain in place. That is why the fixed mindset is dangerous. Also, in nature, when one stops growing, one starts to decay and die.
The mind is a horrible thing to waste. We have to keep it engaged so that the skills it has can stay fresh. Most skills can be relearned and refreshed. However, certain core losses can’t be regained once lost. Simply because the degree of flexibility in the brain changes over time. While the brain never gets to a point where it can’t adapt, how much it can changes.
When someone thinks of change… there is a degree of resistance. No one wants to feel that they aren’t good enough as is. Plus, for reasons that eludes this writer… change in Western Culture has a small implication of destruction to it. Maybe because of the individualistic society in which this blog is written from… change means giving up and replacing.
Growth however does not offer the same challenge. It implies that the core is the same but more is added. One can still be true to oneself and grow. One can become a better version of themselves when growing. Growth is incremental. Change doesn’t always happen incrementally. It can be swift, painful, brutal. Other times, slow, steady, beautiful, and refreshing.
As we start this week, let us work to grow through our problems. Find ways to augment what you have and what you’re able to do to face what you have to face. It does not involve denying oneself… not that self-denial cannot be a good tool to employ in certain cases.
Instead of limits, let’s continue to see the world as a continuum of opportunities that can be reached if we grow sufficiently enough to reach our goals.
Celebrating the growth mindset in an ever changing world because humans can and often do adapt. It’s our superpower as a specie. It’s what gives us the “glass half full” view. I may not be a best selling author… but I don’t have to change to become one. I just have to grow into being one. And that is way more fun and doable than changing entirely.
Sure, sounds like a play on words. To a degree it is. However, the application of these words makes a huge difference. It was scary to think about changing into a blogger… but… I definitely enjoyed growing into one 🙂