Three steps for changing unhelpful mindsets
A mindset is part of a belief system that can govern our behaviours, and it can be beneficial or limiting. Often, mindsets are passed onto us via parents or adults that are responsible for us in early childhood. Carol Dweck, in her book 'Mindsets', has written extensively how some people have 'fixed mindsets' and others have 'growth mindsets'. Fixed mindsets, where the individual feels that they cannot learn anymore, are particularly limiting. It’s accepted that it’s important to encourage growth mindsets where people believe that they are capable of changing, improving their skills and learning in many different areas of life. The good news is that if you have a growth mindset, then you should be able to change any unhelpful, limiting behaviours.
One example of a mindset that is limiting is when someone thinks they are hopeless at public speaking. It could be from an experience whilst at school when they were asked to give a presentation in front of the class and this didn’t go well for them.
When this belief lingers, then it’s worth asking the question whether or not it serves us. To continue with the example, if this happened to you, it might mean that you might be passed over for promotion, due to your reluctance to speak in meetings or to present to your team. If you challenge this mindset, although there will likely be some fear involved in doing this, getting over this belief may help you progress further in your career.
Other examples of limiting mindsets are:
- 'I’m not good enough' (also known as imposter syndrome)
- 'I’ve only got myself to blame'
- 'I’ve not succeeded well in the past, so I’m not going to in the future'
- 'Anyone who aims for perfection in everything they do'
Three steps to change limiting mindsets
Step one - Identify the limiting mindset
Identifying your limiting mindset is the first stage in trying to overcome it. A coach can help you to do this. Self-awareness is a useful first step in changing your thinking. Once you have identified a mindset, it’s a good idea to write it down. If there is more than one limiting mindset, then it's best to tackle each one at a time.
Step two - Analyse the mindset
Ask yourself whether you have an automatic reaction in certain situations. Is there a moment when these occur, where you can take some time to pause to think whether you have some choice over this reaction?
Recognising and reflecting on this automatic reaction will be crucial to having the ability to change it. Often this reaction is outside of our consciousness unless we take that pause to analyse our response. If it’s embedded in our unconscious, at this stage you have moved through the first stage and you’ll be aware of the mindset.
Change won’t happen overnight, as the mindset is ingrained and has become part of your habits, so don’t be too hard on yourself and take small steps. At this stage, you’ll be noticing triggers that will set off the mindset, and if you have an attitude of curiosity towards them, this can be helpful.
Step three - Reframe the mindset
To reframe the mindset is to introduce a new internal dialogue around the situation. At this stage, it would be helpful if you can tell yourself a more positive story when you are in a situation that triggers you. Challenge yourself to do this, try something new, and break your old patterns.
It can feel difficult to change a limiting mindset by yourself. However, help is out there, and engaging a coach can give you the confidence to reframe your old mindsets.
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