What colour has your mindset: blue or green?

My coaching clients know that the main focus of my coaching is on communication, on the way we talk to others and to ourselves. Why? Because the way we talk to ourselves – our inner talk or internal monologue – reveals a lot about how we perceive ourselves and the way we react to the world around us.

Carol Dweck inquires into the power of our beliefs – both conscious and unconscious – in her Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (public library). I experienced myself that changing even the simplest of them can have profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives and this is the experience  I like to share with my clients. By describing the two fundamental mindsets we have, she distinguishes between the “fixed mindset” where it’s assumed “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” and the “growth mindset” that “thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities”(cit). Although we usually tend to think that we are “trapped” in one or the other of these mindsets – either because we don’t know any option or because we think that we can’t change the way we are (or the way people around us see us…). 

I think that we all are a combination of these two mindsets, depending on the area of our life. This has to do with our “comfort zones” in the different areas of our life (I’ll soon publish a post about this topic and link back to it). We all have areas where we feel confident, comfortable and where we have a more open mindset, according to Dweck’s study. But we also have areas where we feel more “restricted” because less confident and constantly “challenged”.

These are the areas where we tend to react more irritated, defensive and feel more alienated (and lonely). An interesting fact is, that if we know about what these areas are and what makes us feel more defensive, alienated and what makes us have this “fixed mindset”, we have the key to work on them – if we want, of course.

So, if you would like to transform your “fixed mindset” in an area of your life into a “growth mindset”, I can help you. We don’t need to hide deficiencies, we can overcome them. We don’t need to look for friends or partners who shore up our self-esteem, we can look for those who will also challenge – and support! – us to grow.

Of course, it makes us feel good to know exactly what is tried and true, but we also need to stretch ourselves to grow. We need to get back into our comfort zone to load our batteries, to fill our cups, but what makes us feel better is to foster our mindset that allows us to thrive during some of the most challenging times in our lives.

It is not about being able to do anything. It’s about changing also our way to consider failure.

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.

In one world, failure is about having a setback. Getting a bad grade. Losing a tournament. Getting fired. Getting rejected. It means you’re not smart or talented. In the other world, failure is about not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you’re not fulfilling your potential.

In one world, effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort. In the other world, effort is what makes you smart or talented. (cit.)

What is intended here with “world” also applies to different cultures! Internationals often go back and forth between different sets of values, beliefs, ways to behave, communicate (verbally and non-verbally), which adds another dimension to this topic.  And, when thinking about our children who grow up internationally: how is intelligence assessed in the different cultures? How is praise expressed by teachers, care-givers, parents and society?

The growth mindset says all of these things can be developed. All — you, your partner, and the relationship — are capable of growth and change. 

With a growth mindset we can acknowledge the imperfections of our partner, friends, the culture we live in, without blaming anyone or anything and still enjoy the relationship or the life we’re leading. If conflicts arise, they are considered as problems of communication and not related to our personality or character!

I apply Dweck’s research also to international life experience: If we embark on an international journey we may experience that our partner, the people around us, the whole situation is different from what we expected, but we can develop skills that help us to grow and to deepen our relationships with our partner, family and with locals. But for this to happen we need to embrace a “green mindset”and trust into our own capacities to develop and grow.


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