How Is a Mindset Formed and Can It Be Changed?


A blonde woman leaning against a rail with her eyes closed.

This month our theme is "Mindset Reset." To reset our mindset, we first need to explore how our mindset is formed and whether we are currently working with a Fixed or Growth Mindset.


How is a mindset formed?


Beliefs

Once you believe something, it then becomes true, whether in reality it is or not. Our beliefs are developed over time through our experiences. Many of our beliefs are formed when we are younger and influenced by our parents and teachers. Others are formed from life experiences, such as those with our supervisors. Normally, the person that influences our beliefs also has authority.


Let’s look at your mindset in one particular area – your intelligence. What are your beliefs about your level of intelligence and ability to learn? Thinking back to your school experiences, what beliefs were created?


I attended 3 different schools between kindergarten and second grade. The changes between different schools and different teachers provided different experiences that began to create my beliefs. I recall sitting on a ledge and missing recess in first grade because I didn’t work as fast as the other students. I had nightmares for years about my second grade teacher and her level of ridicule and abuse.


Thankfully, I also have very positive and fond memories of a kind, silver-haired lady that seemed ancient to my 7-year-old eyes. (Although she wasn’t much older than I am today!) She helped me overcome my reading comprehension issue. If I did not have the savior in Ms. Nina Dare, my belief about my intelligence could have been fixed based on my experiences in first and second grade. She helped me see that I could learn and provided the necessary encouragement which in turn created a foundation that helped me become a life-long learner.


Some of you may read about my experiences and see yourself if you had a similar experience, or hopefully, most of you had nurturing teachers in your formative years. I had to reframe my belief – understanding that what my 1st and 2nd grade teachers conveyed to me was NOT the truth. For any belief you’ve been holding onto - ask yourself "Is it true?"


Thoughts


Thoughts can be defined as an idea or opinion that occurs suddenly. Researchers estimate that we have around 6000 thoughts per day. Do you see how your beliefs have impacted your thoughts about your intelligence? Using my example above – we saw how as a young person, I had thoughts generated because of my early beliefs around my intelligence. Our thoughts can change as we continue to examine and reframe our beliefs after the “truth test."


Feelings


Feelings are an emotional state or reaction to those thoughts. I’ve found as I continue to work on Self-Awareness, the more in touch I am with my feelings, the better I can trace back to the thought that preceded the feeling. I can then look back even further to examine if it’s a belief that needs to be reevaluated or reframed. You can begin to become more aware of your feelings by doing a check frequently throughout the day and naming your feeling. Then review the thoughts you had before that feeling.


Results


We all desire specific results. Ultimately, it’s how we feel that drives the results we see. Our feelings show up in in our attitude, actions, and behaviors. If you’re looking for different results, examine your Feelings > Thoughts > and Beliefs.


Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

Found within Mindset by Carol S. Dweck Ph.D., you can answer the following questions to determine if you’re currently working with a Fixed or Growth Mindset.


Read each statement and decide whether you mostly agree with or disagree with it:

  1. Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much.

  2. You can learn new things, but you can’t really change how intelligent you are.

  3. No matter how much intelligence you have, you can change it quite a bit.

  4. You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.

Questions 1 and 2 are the fixed-mindset questions. Questions 3 and 4 reflect the growth mindset.

How did you respond to the questions above? Are you leaning toward Fixed or Growth Mindset as your default? Let’s look at each in more detail.


Fixed Mindset


Dweck wrote, “Believing that your qualities are carved in stone – the fixed mindset- creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over."

When you think about your journey, were there many moments of struggle or have you frequently felt stuck? If so, you may be working with a fixed mindset. Any belief that goals are unachievable are reflected in your results.


If we believe an outcome is “carved in stone," we experience scarcity, that there’s not enough for us. As we observe others and see their accomplishments, we might begin to feel resentful or envious.


John C. Maxwell stated in “The Law of Curiosity” chapter in his book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, that an average person may ask “Can I do that?” Questioning our capabilities leans towards a fixed mindset.


Growth Mindset