Open-mindedness and flexibility are important qualities for success. Without them you don’t learn, and if you don’t learn, your life can’t improve. That’s why it’s crucial to avoid developing a rigid mindset that increases your blindspots. Here I’ll discuss what rigid thinking looks like and how you can move towards a growth mindset – which is the healthy opposite.
What is a Rigid Mindset?
When I use the phrase “rigid mindset”, I mean a pattern of thinking that stems from pessimistic beliefs about people’s ability to learn, grow, and positively change their circumstances. I would also include negative beliefs about the purpose of life – that it’s about “winning” or achieving material milestones rather than more rewarding things like transformation and relationships. Focusing on specific outcomes will make you far more likely to operate in fear, which brings out your worst self and makes you incapable of enjoying your life. Lastly, I include an an inability to admit your faults and resolve to change.
This last point may be the most important of all. I’ve seen a lot of people destroy their own lives slowly over the course of years because they didn’t address the problems in their life that they needed to. Sometimes these problems were pretty obvious ones like addictions or adultery, but other times they were more subtle. These people didn’t think these character flaws were urgent because they weren’t blatantly sabotaging their short-term success, so they stuck with business as usual. At best these folks ended miserable people with large bank accounts.
If you’re reading this, I imagine you’re someone willing to take responsibility for yourself. Therefore I doubt this will be you. That said, I still encourage you to check in with yourself and to see if you’re being held back by a rigid mindset. To do this, consider the defining statements of the rigid mindset below. If you feel that you identify with these statements, you may need to change your thinking.
Statements of the Rigid Mindset
The following are patterns of inflexible thinking that come with a rigid mindset.
- I often get defensive.
- Intelligence is fixed and can’t expand.
- I hate being wrong.
- Only results matter.
- I don’t like people who are different than me.
- I’m often critical of others.
- People can’t fundamentally change.
- I think very little about how to improve myself.
- Happiness comes from circumstances.
- I’m afraid of making mistakes.
- It’s hard for me not to hold grudges.
- Life is happening to me
If you identify with a number of the statements above, then it may be time to start working towards a growth mindset. While this may sound vague or daunting, don’t worry. It’s actually pretty simple. I’ll explain more below.
The Growth Mindset: A Path to Long-Term Success
At its core, a growth mindset is defined by the belief that you are capable of changing yourself and the world around you for the better. It also is centered on a strong value for learning and growth over immediate results. The growth mindset sounds like the following statements:
- I’m responsible for what’s happening in my life.
- People can change.
- It’s best to forgive people, including myself.
- Other people have positive traits I want to discover.
- Life is about becoming someone, not getting something.
- Intelligence can grow.
- It’s ok to be incorrect and make mistakes sometimes. It’s opportunity to grow.
- Any skill or trait can be learned and taught.
- I’m curious about what I don’t understand.
People with a growth mindset generally enjoy life more than those with a rigid mindset. Not only that, they actually experience greater levels of success in the long-run in whatever they pursue. Curiosity replaces fear and anxiety, and life becomes more fun and interesting.
How to Gain a Growth Mindset
If you want a growth mindset, I recommend the practicing following 3 steps to start.
#1 Accept Yourself
This point is crucial. The rigid mindset is fueled by low self-esteem. Most of the criticism we throw at others is really what we think about ourselves subconsciously. Moreover, nothing will keep you from positive thinking more than self loathing. If you hate yourself, you will want to punish yourself. When you punish yourself, you sabotage yourself. You must speak kindly and firmly to yourself if you want to enter a growth mindset.
Remember, part of of the growth mindset is being relaxed about outcomes and about making mistakes. Therefore, resolve to stop beating up on yourself. Trust me, it’s not helping.
#2 Listen to Your Dialogue
Start noticing more what you say, both out loud and in your head. Commit to challenging your negative inner statements out loud, even the ones that you feel like must be true. The reality is that they may very well not be.
#3 Step Out of Survival Mode
Most of us are trying to survive, and I don’t just mean people who aren’t making much money. You may not believe me when I say this, but so many people who are successful by conventional standards are in a constant state of fight-or-flight. Subconsciously, they never believe they have enough money, recognition, or accomplishments to be truly safe and secure.
The reality is that security is a state of mind. Some of the most secure people I know don’t have a whole lot in their bank account, but they feel a deep sense of belonging. They know they’re going to be ok, and they don’t entertain thoughts of doom, gloom, or disaster. And you know what? They always end up alright.
So if you struggle with feeling a sense of security, practice taking a step outside yourself. Start counting your blessings and things that you have going for you. I guarantee the list is longer than you think. Tell yourself out loud in a compassionate voice, “It’s ok. You’re ok. What you’re worried about won’t happen. Things are good and they’re getting better.” Remind yourself of some times when you thought all hope was lost and it wasn’t. Remember how things actually worked out for you in a way that kept you safe.
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