Have you ever wondered why some people seem to always be progressing, while some others don’t? Maybe it’s with you even. Maybe you just feel like others around you seem to be better than you in almost everything.
There are times in my life, when I’m going through some challenges, that I think “You know what, I wish I was Dapo right now because this would never happen to him”; “People will never treat John this way, he’ll know how to handle them”; “Chidi’s very good at this. He’ll know exactly what to do right now”; “Only Akanna will have this kind of problem. Why me? When will this stop happening to me??”
We’ve had times like that. In fact many times we’ve wished we were someone else; someone richer, finer, more skillful, more intelligent, someone with more connections. But who told us we can’t have all that? Who told us that it’s only those guys who can have it, while we can only wish we were them?
I know who told us. It’s our minds! It is called a “fixed mindset”! In Personal Development, we learn to differentiate between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset assumes that who we are right now is all we can ever be; what we have right now is all we can ever have, and what we can do right now is all we can ever do.
A growth mindset thinks “I can do all things!”, “With God on my side, all things are possible!”
Imagine if all the great inventors had a fixed mindset. Today, there would be no cars, airplanes, telephones or computers. Even these inventions are constantly being improved upon, because there are always people who come along and think “we can do better than that”.
We have to cultivate a growth mindset in order to get ahead in life. No matter what you try; whatever new venture you get into, whatever lucrative job you land; if you have a fixed mindset, you’ll always find yourself going back to square one –broke again, losing friends again, fat again, jobless again.
In order to fix that, a mind renewal has to occur – a shift from a fixed to a growth mindset. You have to stop thinking and talking in certain ways, and replace them with a new way of thinking and speaking –a way that expands your mind and capacity to improve.
Let’s look at some specific examples of things to stop thinking or saying –things that limit your willingness and ability to grow –and things to start thinking and saying instead.
“I’m Not Good At This”
We say things like this about our abilities to: cook, play musical instruments, make friends, hold conversations, make presentations, organize events, drive a car, talk to girls, play a sport, remember people’s names, etc. But all these things can be worked on. Some people are born with natural inclinations towards these things for sure, but they are skills that can be acquired; abilities that can be grown into. Once we decide that we’re not good at them, our brains give up on trying.
A fixed mindset would say: “I’m not good at this”, but a growth mindset would ask: “what am I missing?”
“I’m Great At This!”
This may sound positive but it often is not, because it signals the arrival to your comfort zone. Once you consider yourself great or awesome at something, you start to think there’s no room for improvement. While it’s better than saying you’re not good at something, it is equally limiting because you should realize that learning never ends.
A fixed mindset would say: “I’m great at this!”, but a growth mindset would say: “I’m on the right track!”
“I Give Up!”
We usually give up when we think there’s nothing else we can do to improve a situation. We then settle. But most times, especially when you reach out to others for their perspective and insight, you would realize that there’s a lot more hope than you thought there was. People around us can teach us strategies on how to maneuver life’s challenges, as we are usually not the first to go through those particular challenges.
A fixed mindset would say: “I give up!”, but a growth mindset would ask: “Who can help me?”
“This is Too Hard”
This is when the “Give Up” button begins to look very enticing. It’s how we begin to feel when we lack proper perspective. I’ve heard the saying “don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better”. That’s very true but we all know that as humans, we crave the path of least resistance. However, should you find yourself in a situation you think is hard but you know you should do anyway, have a growth mindset toward it.
A fixed mindset would say: “This is too hard”, but a growth mindset would say: “This may take time and effort”.
“I Just Can’t Do the Math”
I pull out my calculator to compute any little math these days and I tell myself, and others who care to listen, that “I just can’t do the math in my head”. Then I get responses like: “but you’re smart”, “but you had a First Class”. And I shrug. One day though, I was watching my brother-in-law play scrabble with his friends and he asked me to be adding up their scores as they played. One player complained “What if he makes mistakes? We need to add this thing along with him!” My brother-in-law responded “But this is a first class brain, you can’t argue with it”.
I never felt so much pressure in my life. All of a sudden, I was doing math on the fly, adding up scores for a number of people correctly. The growth mindset kicked in right there, under pressure, and I realized I could actually do better.
A fixed mindset would say: “I just can’t do the math”, but a growth mindset would say: “I’m going to train my brain to do it”.
“She’s so Smart, I’ll Never Be That Smart”
Comparing ourselves with others doesn’t usually turn out good, because we tend to put ourselves down as a result. Instead, we should learn from others, find out what they’re doing to get ahead and apply those techniques to our own situations with our own unique tweaks.
A fixed mindset would say: “She’s so smart, I’ll never be that smart”, but a growth mindset would say: “I’m going to figure out what she does and how she does it”.
“This is Good Enough”
You know when you just do the bare minimum required to pass? When you get that ‘Let-My-People-Go’ grade in that course, just enough to let you meet the prerequisite to take the next course? Well, how you do one thing is usually how you do everything. This attitude of not going the extra mile could follow you throughout school, to your job and even to your marriage; if you don’t change it and develop a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset would say: “Well, that’s good enough”, but a growth mindset would ask: “Is this really my best work?”
“Plan A Didn’t Work”
That you tried something and it didn’t work out doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try other things. Sometimes, failure is only there to redirect you to the right path. This is why experience is sometimes more of a curse than a blessing. An old, experienced person would stick to his ways and be very certain in his mind about what would work and what wouldn’t work. A young adventurous person, on the other hand, would be more open to risk and would try a whole bunch of stuff, eventually hitting it big in one of them.
Don’t let your experiences cripple you, have a beginner’s mind and try new stuff. One plan not working out shouldn’t stop you from making other plans.
A fixed mindset would sulk and say: “but Plan A didn’t work!”, but a growth mindset would gladly say: “Good thing there are 25 more letters in the alphabets!”
I’m sure you get the gist by now, and you’ve come up with more and even better examples in your head. You’re probably realizing how you’ve limited yourself in the past and resolving not to do that anymore.
We’re in the same boat!
So, don’t be held back by today’s circumstances –where you’re at, what you can do, the friends you have, and the accomplishments you’ve made. There’s always room for growth; there’s always room for improvement. You’re not fixed. You can’t be stagnant. You’re better than that!