In my line of work I get to meet people from all sorts of backgrounds, everyone has a story to tell, and everybody has a lesson to teach, including reframing or adopting a new mindset. A few days ago I met Brad, a fellow coach. He is also a world-renown speaker and author, and a running world record holder. This guy can run a mile in 4:17, and he was kind enough to gift me one of his books, Beyond Illusions. I started to read his book on a plane ride, the book is a real gem.
We Hear What we Want to Hear
At the start of the book, he tells the story of a woman that was not very happy with the way she looked. She was somewhat critical of herself and spent the time criticizing herself and others. In one occasion she went to a mall to buy a pair of pants to wear at work. She “knew” she didn’t look good in those pants, but she needed to have them as they were the required uniform. The line at the cash register was a little long, and it also happened that there was a shift change. So now, the wait was a bit longer. The woman was getting irritated by the second, when it was finally her turn, the clerk, with a smile and very politely said to her. “I am sorry for your wait, how can I help you?”. The woman started to cry, and shout at him “how dare you,” threw the pants in his face and ran out of the store. Everyone was shocked and didn’t understand why this happened. The woman was inconsolable and ran to her car, that is when she realized that the man had said, “I am sorry for your wait,” but what she heard was “I am sorry for your weight.”
You Are What You Tell Yourself You Are
There is a term for what she was experiencing, confirmation bias. She was fixed on her own faults that when she confused what the clerk had said, that confusion was “diverted” to confirm what she thought about herself. Research indicates that biased processing is the seeking or interpreting of evidence in ways that are partial to existing beliefs, expectations, or a hypothesis in hand. She thought of herself as an overweight and unattractive individual thus, her antennae was looking for messages that would confirm that. Pablo Coehlo, my favorite author wrote, “you are what you believe yourself to be” becomes even more real when you put it in this context.
The woman in the story, as Brad puts it, was creating a storm in a non-existing sea, but I have to say that the genesis of the storm originated in her mind. I have written about awareness, and we must be aware of what we tell ourselves about ourselves. Brad goes on to say “Our perceptions and interpretations powerfully induce our responses and reactions”, especially about ourselves. How we interpret things that happen to us and how we react to those things are driven by our mindset.
A Matter of Mindset
We either have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. Carol Dweck, a Stanford professor, has done remarkable research in the power of our beliefs, and how changing even the simplest of them can have a profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives. One of those beliefs, “a fixed mindset” assumes that the way we are is static and can’t change much. She also coined the term “growth mindset” which thrives on the challenges and sees failures and faults not as evidence of failure, but as an opportunity to improve. She has a wonderful TED talk regarding mindset in children, those principles are applied to everyone on every situation.
Nobody is perfect; we are all work in progress. But having a growth mindset makes us better at looking at learning opportunities in our daily life. With a fixed mindset, perfection is a top priority. You are always feel being measured thus you must always be perfect. In a growth mindset, you only care about improving and growing.
Next time you hear your fixed mindset voice saying, I can’t do that, simply add yet to the end of the sentence. It will become I can’t do that yet, a clear indication that you are not done.