Mindset Matters

Hi!!! And Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays! 

We’re talking about well-being. 

A quick recap of last week before we continue.

Last week, we dove into our final element of PERMA - Accomplishment  - because feeling capable and accomplished has the ability to increase our personal well-being (1). We started by examining the question: How do we accomplish tasks and rise to challenges? Then, we turned our attention to self-efficacy or the belief that personal skill will result in desired outcomes within a certain situation. We discovered that self-efficacy provides a sense of control over our environment and is essential for well-being (2). 

Self-efficacy beliefs increase effort, persistence and performance (2). Why? People choose to engage in specific behavior and persist in the face of challenges when they believe that their actions will produce desired results. In this way, self-efficacy opens the door for meaningful growth and accomplishment. When harnessed towards action that promotes well-being, self-efficacy can be a powerful tool for positive change.

Let’s think about it for a moment. Have you every backed away from a challenge because you felt you felt you wouldn’t be successful? I know I have, and yet, there is actually no way of knowing if I would have been successful in that moment or not. The point is, if you lack self-efficacy and don’t believe that you are capable of accomplishing the task at hand, you may produce a self-fulfilling prophecy as you are less likely to attempt to accomplish tasks that stretch you, promote growth, or push you outside of your current comfort zone. However, if you take appropriate risks and engage in tasks that stretch you, desired outcomes are more likely to become reality. When this happens through intentional action, self-efficacy is strengthened (2).  

Self-efficacy beliefs are developed when we understand causal relationships and practice self-observation or awareness (2). So, last week, I invited you to develop personal self-efficacy beliefs. Did you accept my invitation to build self-efficacy by either writing down three examples of a time when you were successful and why or maintaining an “I did it list!”? I hope so! If you did, what did you notice? How did it feel? Was it affirming? Was it uncomfortable? 

Now, I want to be clear. Simply having the belief that you can accomplish a task does not guarantee success. We need to have the skills, strengths, and resources necessary for the task at hand to be successful. And there are some tasks we are simply not capable of… yet. Personally, I can not lift 100 pounds… yet. I can’t run a mile without stopping… yet. I am not able to perform at the level I desire at work… yet. I used some physical examples here to help illustrate our potential for development. Muscles grow, and so can your skills to cultivate well-being!

This week, I wan to turn our attention to the "Power of YET" (3,4) and talk about maintaining a growth mindset in order to choose appropriate goals and set ourselves up for success!

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

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If we believe in the “Power of YET” and maintain what Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset, we believe that our intelligence is malleable (3, 4). It looks like the belief that "we can change", the belief that "with effort, intelligence can be developed", or the belief that "the harder you try, the more you learn". When we cultivate a growth mindset we: 

  • attribute our success and failures to our effort/strategies or lack there of
  • pass up opportunities to appear smart in favor of learning new things
  • enjoy challenges and take advantage of learning opportunities
  • are more likely to persevere and succeed in the face of challenges

 Dweck contrasts growth mindset with a fixed mindset that suffers in the “Tyranny of NOW” and the belief that intelligence can not change (3, 4). It can look like the belief that "intelligence it genetic", "my personality is hard-wired", or "I am what I am". When we have a fixed mindset we:

  • attribute success and failure to our intelligence/ability or lack there of
  • are overly concerned about how smart we appear
  • avoid challenges and believe effort is ineffective
  • are more likely to abandon challenges when setbacks arise
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Are you beginning to see why mindset matters?

Our mindset impacts our capacity to learn and achieve. It shapes our motivation, behavior, learning style and performance (3, 4). Additionally, these beliefs will impact our willingness to take risks, be curious and exert effort. Not to mention our:

  • Motivation
  • Self Image
  • The Way We View Others
  • Goal Selection
  • Willingness to Seek Help
  • Even Our Romantic Relationships!
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Good news!

Research supports that you can change your mindset!

After all, it is just a belief.  While we may tend towards one mindset or another, it is possible to have different mindsets in various domains. Perhaps you believe you can improve at work by exerting effort and developing skills, but you feel that nothing you do will improve your dating life? In other words, it is possible to have growth mindsets in some areas and fixed mindsets in others.

To be clear, while mindset and self-efficacy are important as they lay the ground work for success and accomplishment, they are not enough. We need to intentionally, direct action to see accomplishment. Further, not all action positively impacts well-being, so we need to utilize awareness to cultivate action that improving well-being. This will look different for everyone. 

One way to galvanize this action is through goals. Goal-directed actions are evolutionarily advantageous (5). They stimulate planning and aim our actions through awareness. They help our mind guide our physical action. Research reveals that the goals which lead to the highest level of achievement are both difficult and specific (5)

Further, commitment is critical for success. (5) We must believe the goal is both important and possible in order to attain the motivation necessary for success. As mentioned last week, self-efficacy is key for positive performance and vital to well-being. Goals serve as a benchmark for self-satisfaction with performance (5). When we achieve a desired outcome or reach a goal we feel self-satisfaction that increases our self-efficacy and creates a positive spiral towards well-being. 

So this week, I invite you to think about an area in your life where you typically encounter a fixed mindset. Write down a wish you have in this area. Then, focus on the process you need to engage in rather than the overarching outcome you desire in this area. Write down some thoughts. Next, pick one specific step that you can complete this week.

Make a SMART goal.

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Ask yourself: What exactly do I hope to accomplish? How will I know once I have achieved it? Is it something I can reasonably complete this week? Is it relevant to my overarching desire? When will I complete this task? Then, write it all down. Put time in your calendar for the task, and ask a friend or family member to be your accountability partner.

Today’s SMART goal is a step towards an overarching with you have for yourself in an area where you want to cultivate a growth mindset and build self-efficacy. Remember, start small and build on little wins to increase your self-efficacy over time. Your SMART goal should feel achievable within the week, so be mindful of your commitments and do your best to set yourself up for success! Every step forward, no matter how small, is progress towards your overarching goal. Celebrate that progress! 

Finding incremental ways of achieving and honoring small successes will help you to develop a growth mindset by providing feedback and evidence of growth! 

I hope you enjoy exploring accomplishment by developing and executing a SMART goal this week! I look forward to seeing you next week we dive further into accomplishment!

As always, gratitude for the expertise of the following resources.

References

1. Seligman M. Authentic happiness. New York: Free Press; 2002.

2. Maddux, J. Self-efficacy: The power of believing you can. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology, 2nd ed. (pp. 335-343). New York: Oxford University Press; 2009.

3. Dweck, Carol S. (2000). Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development. New York: Taylor and Francis Group Psychology Press.

4. Dweck, Carol. S. (2006). Mindset: the New Psychology of Success: New York: Random House

5. Locke, E. Motivation through conscious goal-setting. Applied & Preventive Psychology, 5, 117-124; 1996.