If you’re not where you’d like to be in life and if you’re suffering from depression and anxiety, it may have less to do with you “being defective” than it does with having a fixed vs. growth mindset.
I was guilty of this.
I was completely convinced there was something wrong with me. “That’s why I didn’t fit in and that’s why I suffered more than everybody else.” And this belief was supported by hundreds of excuses. I was broken, I could never change, my suffering was unique, it was unfair and life wasn’t worth living…
Until I discovered why I was feeling what I was feeling. I had a limiting fixed mindset and surprise, surprise, not because of a glitch in Creation. Can you imagine the horror on my face?
The solution? A simple change in mindset.
I won’t lie; I did not see that one coming and it took me a long time to accept it! For three reasons:
- It meant I was the cause of my suffering and not some mysterious outside force that was against me
- I had nobody to blame for where I was. Just myself.
- It was nobody else’s responsibility but my own to improve on my situation. I had to be my own silver bullet or knight in shining armour.
It’s hard to accept something about yourself when it does not fit the image you have of yourself. And this certainly didn’t fit the story of ‘my life’ in which I was more the victim than the hero. But the more I mustered up the courage to accept that I was indeed the source of my suffering, the clearer it became.
Most of the conflict I felt was just my thoughts about myself and life and not really life itself.
“I’m an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”– Mark Twain
How many of us agonise over all the possible worst-case scenarios that could happen (which never do)? Or get lost in a shadowy world, ruminating about an event that has since long past? In these cases are we really suffering Reality or is our suffering caused by our thoughts about it?
“We suffer not from the events in our lives but from our judgement about them.”― Epictetus
There is an incredibly liberating and empowering side to this coin. It meant I was the one who could get myself out of this deep, dark hole by changing my mindset. I didn’t have to wait for a miracle, saviour or for the world to bend to how I thought things “should” be.
And that’s where the adventure of living got a whole lot more exciting!
Consider this for a second
What if you could rig the game of life to guarantee your success, happiness and fulfillment. Would you do it? What would you do for that kind of certainty? And how far would you be willing to go to get it?
Imagine the peace of mind you’d get from that! Imagine what your life would look like instead. Would you still waste your time on a job that’s slowly eroding your spirit? Or would you discover what lights you up and build something special around that? Would you still be studying something because “it’s the safe thing to do”? Or would you study a subject that invigorates you, stretches your curiosity and creativity to new limits and use it to make an impact in the world?
What would you do if you knew you had the certainty of success, happiness and fulfillment on your side?
It turns out such a secret to almost guarantee this exists and many people seem to already have it. Except you don’t need to be part of a secret society, pay a million Dollars or disappear thousands of kilometers into the Amazon rainforest to find a shape shifting shaman in order to have it bestowed upon you. Thanks to psychologists and researchers, we now know what this secret is and how to put it into play so each of us can rig the game of life in our favour. Here it is:
Develop a growth mindset.
This seemingly small, intangible thing – mindset – accounts for the primary distinction between those who succeed and those who do not. Those who are happy and those who are not. Those who are fulfilled and those who are not. So, if it’s a life we want to live a million times over we’re after, an epic adventure, then it’s vital we approach it with a winning formula.
What is a mindset?
Mindset.com defines Mindset as:
“Mind-sets are those collections of beliefs and thoughts that make up the mental attitude, inclination, habit or disposition that predetermines a person’s interpretations and responses to events, circumstances and situations.”
Your mindset is your collection of thoughts and beliefs that shape how you think, what you feel and what you do. You can’t see it or touch it but you certainly feel its effects. It impacts how you make sense of yourself and the world around you and therefore has a massive influence over the quality and outcome of your life. We’ll take a closer look at exactly what this looks like but first, another question to ask yourself:
Is your mindset geared for optimum growth, happiness and success? Or is it holding you back from living the life you wish you were living?
Let’s find out…
Types of mindset: Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
Carol Dweck popularized the term, mindset, with the publishing of her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She found that one of the most basic beliefs we carry about ourselves revolves around how we view and inhabit what we consider to be our personality. Dweck also explores how simple changes made to this belief can have a profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives. She writes:
“For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value. How does this happen? How can a simple belief have the power to transform your psychology and, as a result, your life?”
She answers this question by describing two types of mindset: Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way. And success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard. You strive for success and avoid failure at all costs to maintain a sense of being smart or skilled. You may believe that intelligence cannot be enhanced. And that you either “have it or you don’t” when it comes to abilities and talents.
A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. If you have a growth mindset you believe that you can get smarter, more intelligent, and more talented through putting in time and effort.
How mindset impacts our lives
The consequences of believing that intelligence and personality can be developed rather than being immutably engrained traits are remarkable and quite terrifying at the same time. A small difference in belief in oneself may be the determining factor between you living the life of your dreams vs. going to bed every night filled with regret, anxiety and lack of fulfillment.
What does this mean?
Well, as mentioned, if you’re not where you think you should be or where you’d like to be in life and if you’re suffering from depression and anxiety, it may have less to do with you “being defective” than it does with you having a few limiting and defeating patterns of thought you learnt and adopted as a youngster.
Why the big difference between the two mindsets?
“When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world — the world of fixed traits — success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other — the world of changing qualities — it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.Carol Dweck
Dweck explains in her book that if you believe they are immutable traits, you’re not likely to put in much effort to change your inherent intelligence and abilities. Why study harder if my intelligence is fixed? Or why put in the effort to turn my depression around when this is just the way I am? What’s the point, it’ll never change?
On the other hand, if you believe you can change these traits you may be much more willing to put in extra time and effort to achieve more ambitious and fulfilling goals. If I spend more time studying (and learning how to study properly), I can improve my marks. And if I’m feeling depressed, I can find a way to overcome it. After all, intelligence, personality, creativity, and even things like love and friendship, can be cultivated through effort and deliberate practice.
Passion for learning vs. hunger for approval
With a growth mindset, you may achieve more than others because you are worrying less about seeming smart or talented and putting more of your energy into learning. Dweck’s research shows that having a growth mindset creates a passion for learning instead of a hunger for approval. With this mindset, there’s no such thing as failure or setback, only opportunity to learn, improve and grow. Therefore challenge is something to be embraced and welcomed. With a fixed mindset, failure and the need to exert effort is a sign of inadequacy. So instead of stretching ourselves, we avoid challenge where possible and seek out situations that affirm our intelligence and capabilities to ourselves and others.
“Your attitude, and not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”Zig Ziglar
Growth Mindset, resilience and mental health
Your mindset acts as your internal framework for how you deal with the world, including setbacks and problems. It therefore also plays a significant role in your level of resilience and how well you cope with life’s challenges.
People with growth mindsets are more likely to persevere in the face of adversity, turning them into enjoyable challenges and using them as opportunities to improve. While those with fixed mindsets are more liable to give up and avoid any sort of challenge that may reveal their inadequacies. It therefore isn’t surprising to learn that people who generally have a fixed mindset are more prone to experiencing mental health issues.
A growth mindset can decrease symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression
A study found that developing a growth mindset can decrease the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression in school students. Another study conducted on university students found that having a fixed mindset about their personality traits led to higher levels of mental health problems. The same study also found that university students with a growth mindset showed lower levels of anxiety, depression, and perfectionism. Dweck writes:
“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”
How a fixed mindset almost ruined my first adventure
When I set off on my first adventure, I had dreams of care-free travel and blissful freedom. I had watched Into the Wild and decided that that was exactly what I needed – an open-ended trip into the untamed wilderness to reconnect with myself and the Heart of Life. So I gave up a climbing and comfortable career in film and gave away almost everything I owned. I had reduced my life from a beautiful two bedroom apartment with a garden to just a tent and backpack. Freedom here I come!
I chose to walk alone along the rugged and sparsely populated coastline of South Africa’s Xhosa homeland, the Transkei. For the first time in my life, I had no plan and no destination. I wanted to just go into the world and see where it would take me. Keep in mind that I had never done anything like this before – not even the Boy Scouts. I would walk until sunset and pitch my tent somewhere sheltered. Then make a fire, cook some dinner, go to sleep, wake up and do it all over again.
But it was nothing close to what I expected…
It was brutal.
I didn’t have the right gear. So with the cold creeping into my bones each night I would wake up several times and then battle to fall asleep again because of the discomfort I was in. Heavy rain and flash floods left me and all my clothes drenched for nearly a week. I had over-packed, using every bit of space in my backpack to fit every “just-in-case” item I could think of. It weighed around 30kg… before I had packed my food.
So it was only five days in when I injured my foot badly. I had to spend the next five days on my back and negotiating the torrential downpours at the same time. I was often hungry and limited to three strictly rationed meals a day. For a 24 year-old who would eat five solid meals a day and snack incessantly in between meals, this was the definition of hell. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I had zero access to all the delicious foods that would lift my spirits in the toughest of times – just oats, rice and lentils. Every single day. These are just a few of the little challenges I experienced on my grand departure from society to live a life of adventure.
As you can imagine, I was not having fun.
When I would get stuck thinking about the trip with a fixed mindset, I could not for the life of me remember why the actual *#$% I was putting myself through such torture. I felt defeated and like I had failed at living the life of my dreams – this nomadic, adventurous lifestyle was not for me. I was too soft, weak and not built for the wild. This was too much effort and too hard.
On one particular occasion, I was crouched in my tent with my head squashed against the top. Water was leaking through the seams of the cover and dripping onto my face. The rain was coming down so hard the sound it made as it beat down on my tent was what I imagine several jackhammers and AK47s going off at the same time to sound like. Treacherous to the ears! I still cannot believe it never collapsed under all that pressure. With my head torch on its brightest setting, I was attending to my swollen, blistered feet and a bloody toenail. And in that moment I actually resolved to throw the towel in. I was ready to go home. As soon as I was able to walk to the closest town I would catch the first bus to Cape Town. I was done!
When I viewed the situation with a growth mindset
However, when I looked at the situation with a growth mindset, all I could see were the endless possibilities for learning, improvement, personal growth and more adventure. There was tremendous value and meaning to all the hardship I was experiencing. And that made it just bearable enough to push on. Because of that this isn’t a story about that one time I left home for two weeks, hated every second of it and promised to never do that again.
Instead it’s a story of a life-changing, 6-year adventure living out of my tent and backpack, traveling the world, falling in love and starting an award-winning social initiative. None of it possible if I had remained stuck with a fixed mindset. I was able to focus on the lessons I was learning about myself, the progress I was making with the trip and what I could do once I had learnt how to better choose and pack gear, read the weather and wilderness, prepare good food, strengthen my body and especially my mind. And that gave me the hope, grit and tenacity I needed to persevere. By navigating through adversity, we get to discover what we’re truly capable of.
Do you have a fixed or growth mindset?
Read the below statements and see which resonates better with you:
- People have a certain amount of intelligence, and there isn’t any way to change it. No matter who you are, there isn’t much you can do to improve your basic abilities and personality. People either have particular talents, or they don’t. You can’t just acquire talent for things like music, writing, art, or athletics.
- People are capable of changing who they are. You can learn new things and improve your intelligence. Studying, working hard, and practicing new skills are all ways to develop new talents and abilities.
If you agree more with the first set of statements, you have a predominantly fixed mindset. If you agree more with the second, you have a predominantly growth mindset.
Can you change your mindset?
For those with a fixed mindset, this is not a trick question 😉 And don’t worry; I was once in the same boat as you! With a little patience and deliberation, you can definitely develop a growth mindset to better your shot at living a successful, happy and fulfilled life. You’ve spent a lifetime shaping your view of the world and allowing it to be shaped for you too. So you will not change this overnight. It takes time and consistent effort. But it’s an inconsequential price to pay in comparison to the cost of a life of regret, unrealized dreams and unlived potential. Advice from someone who’s almost lost their life more than once and who has since made it his mission to LIVE? Don’t wait until it’s too late to do something about it.
One of the many beautiful things about the mind is that it’s malleable. If the way you’ve learnt to view yourself and the world is not serving your highest good, you can learn how to use it in a more effective, productive and efficient manner, making it your greatest ally in creating your ultimate life.
“You’re in charge of your mind. You can help it grow by using it in the right way.”Carol Dweck
How you can speed up the process of developing a growth mindset
If you want to 10X this process check out our Ultimate Resilience program at Flourish and Thrive. It goes beyond developing a growth mindset to developing a Hero’s Mindset. We use research-based tools, techniques and exercises that help you bulletproof yourself against stress, grow from trauma and adversity, overcome any obstacles holding you back from success and optimize the way you view yourself and the world around you so that you can become unstoppable in your pursuit of a purpose-driven and fulfilling life.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for rapid transformation, a quick jolt to shake you out of your “stuck-ness”, join our Transformation Coaching Program. We work closely with you to overhaul all your negative beliefs and emotions holding you back. We put an end to inner conflict draining your energy. And you get to let go of self-sabotage and to completely recreate your self-image. All of which will fast-track you on your way to becoming the person you’re most proud of and creating the life you’d want to live a million times over.
25 ways to develop a growth mindset
In the meantime, here are 25 principles and techniques by Saga Briggs you can begin implementing into your life right now to develop a growth mindset and begin living up to your full potential:
- Acknowledge and embrace imperfections. Hiding from your weaknesses means you’ll never overcome them.
- View challenges as opportunities. Having a growth mindset means relishing opportunities for self-improvement. Learn more about how to fail well.
- Try different learning tactics. There’s no one-size-fits-all model for learning. What works for one person may not work for you. Learn about learning strategies.
- Follow the research on brain plasticity. The brain isn’t fixed; the mind shouldn’t be either.
- Replace the word “failing” with the word “learning.” When you make a mistake or fall short of a goal, you haven’t failed; you’ve learned.
- Stop seeking approval. When you prioritise approval over learning, you sacrifice your own potential for growth.
- Value the process over the end result. Intelligent people enjoy the learning process, and don’t mind when it continues beyond an expected time frame.
- Cultivate a sense of purpose. Dweck’s research also showed that students with a growth mindset had a greater sense of purpose. Keep the big picture in mind.
- Celebrate growth with others. If you truly appreciate growth, you’ll want to share your progress with others.
- Emphasise growth over speed. Learning fast isn’t the same as learning well, and learning well sometimes requires allowing time for mistakes.
- Reward actions, not traits. Tell students when they’re doing something smart, not just being smart.
- Redefine “genius.” The myth’s been busted: genius requires hard work, not talent alone.
- Portray criticism as positive. You don’t have to use that hackneyed term, “constructive criticism,” but you do have to believe in the concept.
- Disassociate improvement from failure. Stop assuming that “room for improvement” translates into failure.
- Provide regular opportunities for reflection. Reflect on your learning at least once a day.
- Place effort before talent. Hard work should always be rewarded before inherent skill.
- Highlight the relationship between learning and “brain training.” The brain is like a muscle that needs to be worked out, just like the body.
- Cultivate grit. With that extra bit of determination you will be more likely to seek approval from yourself rather than others.
- Abandon the image. “Naturally smart” sounds just about as believable as “spontaneous generation”. You won’t achieve the image if you’re not ready for the work.
- Use the word “yet.” Dweck says “not yet” has become one of her favourite phrases. Whenever you find yourself struggling with a task, just tell yourself you haven’t mastered it yet.
- Learn from other people’s mistakes. It’s not always wise to compare yourself to others. But it is important to realise that humans share the same weaknesses.
- Make a new goal for every goal accomplished. You’ll never be done learning. Just because your exams are over or that you’re comfortably employed doesn’t mean you should stop being interested in learning. Growth-minded people know how to constantly create new goals to keep themselves stimulated.
- Take risks in the company of others. Stop trying to save face all the time and just let yourself goof up now and then. It will make it easier to take risks in the future.
- Think realistically about time and effort. It takes time to learn. Don’t expect to master every topic under the sun in one sitting.
- Take ownership over your attitude. Once you develop a growth mindset, own it. Acknowledge yourself as someone who possesses a growth mentality. Be proud to let it guide you throughout your career.
Carol Dweck’s TED Talk on fixed vs. growth mindset
There’s a reason why millions of people have watched this 10min TED talk – it’s incredible! I’ve already watched it several times since its release and will no doubt watch it several times more. It’s all about the power of believing you can and the research supporting it will blow your mind.
Much like trying to drive a car with the handbrake half-cocked or climbing a mountain with shoes two sizes too small, having a fixed mindset will cause unnecessary resistance and may actually prevent you from flourishing into the greatest version of yourself. It will impede and limit your overall experience and quality of life. Not because you were born impeded, incapable or with a defective brain but because of a defective pattern of thought. I cannot begin to explain how making the choice to intentionally develop a growth mindset has benefitted me. Other than I have since made it my mission to help others do the same for themselves.
You have an enormous amount of power over the way you perceive yourself and the world around you. And you have a lot more control over your daily experience than you give yourself credit for. When you choose to fully own this, you begin to access the infinite depths of your potential. It’s the secret to expanding and enhancing your entire experience of life and the lives of those around you too. Your success, happiness, health and fulfillment are nobody else’s responsibility but your own. And you owe it to yourself to set your sights high. Now go out and rig the game of life in your favour.
An epic adventure awaits you!
Are you ready to level up and become the best version of yourself?
If you want to become the version of yourself who is not held back by fear, who relentlessly pursues their dreams and what’s meaningful to them, who isn’t held back by life’s challenges but instead thrives on them, book a free 30 minute Curiosity Call with us. Let’s get the ball rolling with the new, unstoppable YOU!