Melissa and Siria for the first time overlap on research. Together they explore growth versus fixed mindset, share their thoughts and reflections from Professor Carol S. Dweck’s mindset research, and explore ways a person can shift from a fixed to a growth mindset.
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Melissa and Siria’s Mindset Mind-Meld
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In this episode, we are going to discuss the magic of mindset. For the first time in our thirteen episodes, we landed on the same research.
Even before we came up with the idea of discussing mindset, I shared a post on social media asking people what has prevented them from pivoting. I got such an amazing response from lots of different people on all social media. What it boils down to is our mindset. A few of the things that came up were overthinking and not feeling worthy. We have talked about it before, which is when we peel back the layers, what is driving this? What is driving our perceived obstacles to obtain our goals? It has to do with mindset. Let’s start off with how you would define mindset.
With us landing on the same research of the fix and the growth mindset, some people have already identified it and given us a definition, but what I’m thinking about is what is your state of mind and how you are thinking about things. If you are able to change your thinking on a situation or an experience, you are able to maybe have more control if that is what you are looking for or find a way to get past that experience if it was a negative experience.
Knowing when the talking heads talk about growth versus fixed mindset, they are talking about if you have a growth mindset, it is almost the same, but not exactly that you have a more positive outlook on things because you are not going to see trying something as a failure. You are going to see it as an opportunity to learn, grow and try different things, versus the fixed mindset, which is you were like, “I’m not even going to try that because I’m not going to be good at it. I’m going to fail.” Those are the two different things. Where do you think you fall on the mindset discussion?If you have a growth mindset, you have a more positive outlook on things because you're not going to see trying something as a failure. You're going to see it as an opportunity to learn and grow and try different things. Click To Tweet
Where I fall would be a growth mindset, but what got me thinking about mindset, in general, is when we were talking about social constructionism in a previous episode and how everything that we say, do and interact with the world around us impacts our perception, and mindset, and how we interpret information. That got the ball rolling for me in terms of if I am in a fixed mindset, or for those that are in a fixed mindset, can you move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset? You can, and we will discuss that in a little bit. I would consider myself to have a growth mindset. This was something I was thinking about earlier. I discussed with my mom about, which was, even as a small child, I never liked summer vacation.
You didn’t like summer?
No. I liked it for the first week or two. You didn’t have a bedtime.
This is going back to your productivity thing.
My parents were still together. I was a child. I’m in elementary school. I remember I did not like summer because I felt like, after the first two weeks, my brain was going to mush. I would plead with my parents to buy me math books or some activity book for me to do because I felt the need to constantly learn. The more detailed the task, the more I enjoyed it.
You are such a nerd.
I never disputed that. You are right. I’m a nerd, but I embraced that. What would you consider yourself to be a growth or a fixed mindset?
Once I got the language for it, I was like, “No, I got a growth mindset for sure.” I don’t think of things being limited or that I’m unable to do anything. I don’t know if that is a good or a bad thing because I’m willing to try anything and be like, “I’m going to try it.” I rather try something and not be good at it than never take the risk of doing that. I have been like that forever, but I did not have the urge to ask my parents for extra summer homework. That would never have happened at my house, besides the fact that there were all kinds of craziness going on. I would always use those opportunities to be creative. That is part of where the growth mindset can maybe not get out of hand, but sometimes I get big ideas. I was like, “How do I do that?”
There is always a balance for everything. Just because you have a growth mindset, sometimes you can be those dreamers. How do you put pen to paper? How do you start to execute some of these things? For those who may not know what a growth mindset is, the research that I did, and probably came across it in yours, was started by a woman named Carol Dweck. She is a professor of psychology at Stanford University.
She wrote a book on this. I read the book, and it is a fantastic book. I highly recommend it. Melissa, have you read it?
I have not read it, surprisingly.
I want to have you go on with that, but let me tell you how I got to the book. Part of what I do is when I have people I admire, I ask them questions. One of the questions that where I nerd out is I was like, “What do you read? What do you recommend?” One of the founding partners at my law firm was like, “You have to read Mindset. Have you read that?” I was like, “No, I have no idea what you are talking about.” As soon as he recommended it, being the good little brown noser than I am, I went ahead and read the book. The way that she phrased things was like, “I have a growth mindset.” What is interesting is that I could see where in certain situations, it might be fixed. I’m seeing those different things. That is how I got to it. How did you get to her and the research?
A lot of the work that I do has to do with positive psychology. I have heard of her before. If you want to make sustainable changes, it is best to come from a growth mindset. What I found interesting is I was watching a video of hers. She was talking about how she had conducted studies with thousands of young children around the age of ten.
In these studies, she would present them with a task that was difficult beyond their cognitive abilities. Those with a growth mindset looked at it as the ability to grow their skills through hard work, whereas children who maybe didn’t do well found it tragic. They felt that their core intelligence was tested, and they left feeling devastated.
It is not to say it didn’t matter how well the kids did because there were some that didn’t complete the task, but that didn’t necessarily mean that they had a fixed mindset. Regardless of how they did on the test, there were kids who maybe didn’t finish it but were excited about being challenged, whereas those with a fixed mindset said they would cheat next time. They would try to find someone who did worse than them, or they would run from difficulty.
Carol came up with this amazing thing, Now Versus Yet. Those with a fixed mindset get upset and gripped by the tyranny of now because they don’t understand how to do it now. Whereas those with a growth mindset say, “I may not understand, and maybe I can’t do this yet.” It comes down to the now versus the yet.
This probably comes from the book that you were talking about. She wrote, “After many years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.” In her study, she worked a lot with young kids and talked about growth and the fixed mindset, but for me, as I was looking more into her work, I was curious, how do our childhood and our reinforcement by parents, teachers, and family impact or encourage our mindset?
It is going to cement you into one of these two categories. One of the things I remember her talking about in the book, particularly with young girls and math. They would have these math skills and be good at math. When things got more difficult, they would be like, “I’m not good at math.” They wouldn’t want to challenge themselves and go into a science-type degree later on, or they get to that point of, “No, I’m not good at that.” It is like, “You are not necessarily good at it. You just stopped.”
That was one of the ways that I saw in myself. I was like, “I was good at math through middle school.” It got to a point where things started to get more challenging. I was like, “I don’t know math.” That is something I say now as a lawyer. I was like, “I went to law school, not math school.” It was a running joke among attorneys because a lot of us will say stuff like that. We were like, “No, we don’t do that.”
It was like, “Why not? We can do that. We can figure it out. It is not that hard.” Math always gets on me, especially if something is on sale. He makes me try to calculate the percentage of what I’m going to save, and I’m like, “Please do the math for me.”
That is one area, but that comes from being younger. This was easy to figure out and be good at, but as soon as it started being difficult, it was like, “I can’t learn this.” I was like, “I did it there.” Not that I want to be a mathematician or anything, but what other areas have I limited myself by being like, “I don’t do that. I’m not good at that.” I will rather be more intentional with something I’m not interested in. If I’m not interested in it, that is different than me self-eliminating something because I don’t know it now. I want to know all the things now. I want to know everything about podcasting now. It takes time.
When she mentioned the now versus yet, that resonated with me. She mentioned that if you are trying to move from a fixed mindset to one of growth to replace the word now with yet. I don’t know this yet. I don’t know how to podcast yet. I don’t know how to hit that sales mark yet. With that, it can slowly change your mindset because our inner dialogue drives a lot more than we probably think because the things we tell ourselves almost become the law that we abide by.The things that we tell ourselves become the law that we abide by. Click To Tweet
Not only that, your brain and subconscious are listening. If you tell yourself, “I don’t do math,” your brain is like, “I guess we don’t do math. That is something we don’t do.” It reinforces that with pulling up stories and other things where you didn’t do math well, but instead, it was like, “I’m not good at this yet.” If you are telling your brain that, your brain is like, “You are right. We are not out there yet, but we are going to keep going.” You have those reinforcing messages, which is where it can get difficult if you have a fixed mindset and you have decided, “No, I can only do this.” You are not even going to try anything else because you are too afraid of failure.
In the segment, when we were talking about fixed versus growth mindset, some readers might say, “I do get de deterred from challenges pretty easily. Maybe I do have a fixed mindset.” There is good news, which is you can change the saying, “Old dogs can’t learn new tricks.” That is wrong. The brain isn’t fixed, and neither should the mind.
Neuroscience supports that our brains continue to develop and change regardless of age. There is a term, neuroplasticity, that refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experiences. What I was reading was that neural pathways are created by doing and thinking. In other words, the more that we say and do, tend to become hardwired. These are things that we know as habits. We can form new habits, but we have to be mindful in trying to create them and execute them often, so it becomes second nature to us.
You have to think about it as you are creating new paths in your brain. The first time you are excavating a mountain to create a trail is going to be hard. The National Forest Service gets the people together. The Forest Service went out, and they put people to work. That is when they made the Hoover Dam. That is when they started making national parks and trails. All of that was under President Roosevelt. If I got that wrong, don’t hate me, and don’t send hate mail on that.
The first time you are going to do that, those paths are going to be difficult to make. There are going to be a lot of terrains that need to get undone. You are going to have to possibly break old habits that you have, but little by little, that path is going to get wider, bigger, and stronger. Before you know it, we are all walking up Mary Jane Falls and being unimpressed by the waterfall at the end of it. That is a local joke for Mount Charleston.
Mary Jane Falls is a hike here in Las Vegas that, in theory, has a waterfall year-round. It is a lie. I spit more than that.
We can get there. When you think about it, it was okay. It is something you have to build on, and the more you do this, the stronger that path is going to be within your brain, and it is going to be a no-brainer. It goes into your subconscious, and you were like, “I can figure that out.” What is interesting is if you give somebody a task, some people will be like, “You can’t give me that task. I have never done this before.” Other people will be like, “Yes, I will take it,” even though they have never done it before because of that mindset ability.
Coming back to Carol Dweck’s work, they did brain studies images. For those with a growth mindset, those neural pathways are firing like crazy. You see an active brain, whereas, with a fixed mindset, there is not much activity going on because that person isn’t being challenged. What is interesting is when you are starting to develop those neural pathways, you will find that other tasks are easier to take on because your brain is operating at a higher rate than it is at fixed. You are more productive and efficient when you are operating from a growth mindset.
Trying to find ways to nurture that within yourself is important. Luckily, I have steps. Number one, become a lifelong learner. That can include seeking out new challenges and reading new books. More importantly, go outside your comfort zone, which is what I heard a lot when I was asking people what held them back from doing something was going out of their comfort zone.
Number two, embrace imperfections, failures and setbacks. We talked about the word yet. Try to incorporate the use of the word yet, and replace the word failing with learning, “I’m not failing at something. I’m learning something.” That is powerful. Next is your viewing of learning as an opportunity. One thing that I came across was to try different learning tactics. Learning style is important because, in school, we are only taught one way.
In your case, math, “If I don’t understand it, that is it. I can’t learn,” but there is a better way to learn it. I have found that, as I have gotten older, I’m a visual learner. I have to see it. If something is trying to explain it to me auditorily, I can’t do it. It is not going to resonate with me. Understand your learning style. If it is not being taught to you the way that you know that you need to learn, fix that.
Value the process over the end result. Sometimes we have a timeframe. We were like, “I want to quit smoking by the end of the month. I want to do X by the end of the year.” Understand that you are creating those new neural pathways, and it is going to take some time. If you don’t quit smoking by the end of the month, at least you are taking steps toward that goal. Give yourself some faith and breathing room to learn these new skillsets.
Valuing the process over the results is true when you are managing a team. Anytime you want to reinforce something good that they are doing because they are building those neuro pathways on how to do the work that you want them to do, it is much better for you to praise the effort than it is for you to praise the result.It is so much better for you to praise the effort than it is for you to praise the result. Click To Tweet
That is something that Carol Dweck mentioned in her studies. We are focused on getting that A. If a kid does not understand something, that grade should be whether you are there or you are not. She was talking about by giving kids a pass or fail grade deters them from wanting to try anything new. I found that to be interesting.
The next would be to celebrate your growth with others. We talk about celebrating small wins all the time. That reinforces those neurological pathways. Five is to provide regular opportunities for reflection. This could include asking for feedback and finding different ways to grow and learn. The last one is to take ownership over your attitude.
If you have a fixed mindset, own it. If you have a growth mindset, own it. Knowing how we operate and understanding that can allow us to shift. If you are in a fixed mindset, you have the ability to shift. You don’t always have to be stuck in that fixed mindset, but you mentioned it earlier, even if you have a growth mindset, sometimes that is not necessarily a good thing. If you are trying to get things done, you need that fixed mindset but knowing where you are and taking ownership of your attitude.
That is true with anything. You have to take ownership of what you are doing and understand how that could impact others. Looking at this list that you have talked about, there are a lot of different things here that we try to do. Celebrating growth is important, and taking everything as a learning opportunity. I’m going to learn something new every day.
At the end of our day, Matt and I always ask each other, “What did you learn, and what made you laugh?” Those are our end-of-the-night questions. We are reflecting back on the day and the days when I didn’t learn anything frustrates me, and it makes me sad. We know frustration is a catchall. What is it? It makes me sad.
I like learning. If I don’t have an opportunity to learn something, even if it is a little tidbit fact or something improving my skills, I feel like that was a waste of my day. It is probably not even a waste. It means I was wrapped up in whatever else I had going on that I didn’t have the opportunity to play to that strength of mine. That is one of my strengths. Anytime I can incorporate more things that are going to touch on my strengths, my overall happiness is going to be better.
I like the fact that you and Matt ask those questions, “What is it that you learned?” That’s great. That feeds into that lifelong learner that I know you are. Out of this list for me, I enjoyed viewing learning as an opportunity like you, but the different learning tactics. I didn’t realize how much that impacted me until I was putting together that mystery puzzle you gave me. For readers, it is a puzzle you have to put together. It has no picture, but it does have this little book, and in this book, it has clues to help figure out who killed so-and-so.
I put it together, and I’m reading it. Vince, my husband, was like, “I will read it.” He was reading it, and I could not retain the information he was saying. It wasn’t until I was able to read it for myself. This was after I had already done this research. It reaffirmed for me how important it was. If I have to learn or do a task, I need to be able to see and read it to put pen to paper or whatever it is. It has to be visual for me. Knowing that allows me to engage in more opportunities for learning. I’m trying to find ways to put it in a visual way for myself.
That goes to my number one thing. You have to know yourself. You know you are a visual learner. We have done a lot more visual background things to make sure that we understand we are on the same page. You prefer to storyboard things, and my mind might work a little bit differently, but that is okay. You have to know what is going to work for you.
That is the same thing if you are dealing with kids. Neither of us is a parent, but there are children in our lives. Part of helping them with these mindset issues is because we are all interacting with people. We help and compliment them. Not on, “That is great. You got an A.” It is like, “You must have learned a lot. Tell me about what you learned.”
What Carol was saying was don’t worry about the grade. If your child is putting in the work and process, praise the process, not the grade. That helps them not feel detoured if they didn’t get that A.
They will try new things.
It encourages them to keep trying.
Were you in the band?
I was an orchestra.
What was your instrument?
I played the flute. It comes in three pieces, and you have to assemble them before you play it. The first day I put my flute together, I tried to make my flute go to the left, which is not the way you hold a flute. If I had let that moment define all of it, I would have stopped at that point. Instead, I was like, “How about we get it in the correct direction, which is to the right, and you hold everything up here?” He was like, “How was I supposed to know? I have never seen a flute.” I went to the music store, and it was like, “That one looks good, and my dad didn’t have to buy reeds.” That was probably a big portion.
With any other wind instrument, you typically have to have reeds.
Yes. I’m not having to make additional purchases for my instrument. It was what led me there. You are not going to know how to be a perfect viola or flute player at the beginning. You have to keep going on. It is the same thing as learning a new sport. First, you have to learn the basics. You have to be able to add layers of what the difficulties are as you go forward. I’m thinking of these other terms. Be kind to yourself and know, “I’m new at this.”
That is coming back to what Carol Dweck said, which is, “You are your mode of operandi. Are you operating from growth or a fixed?” A lot of her studies have to do with children. It made me think of my childhood, and I was fortunate to be in a household that gave praise, but that makes me think because there were times when my household wasn’t nice. Still, at such a young age, I was blessed, but to those who maybe didn’t, what is nice is that just because you have a fixed mindset now doesn’t mean you can’t have a growth mindset yet.
As adults, we have control over who we surround ourselves with, how we view ourselves, and how we view ourselves can sometimes be critical. I hope our readers can start to look at how they view themselves. You are worthy of learning new things. You are capable and incredibly smart. I encourage you, and I hope you start to view yourself that way and take chances on new learnings, opportunities and people.