How our mindset impacts our behaviours

I teach people how to develop new cognitive and emotional skills. Skills that are helpful. Helpful in leading a life that is happy, resilient, and thriving. For some people, developing new skills or learning new habits can be challenging. The biggest challenge, however, is usually getting over their beliefs.

Our mindset is powerful. Throughout our lives we tell ourselves stories about ourselves that can either hinder our growth or fertilise it.

Your behaviour is driven by your beliefs. If you want to achieve your goals, be happier, more resilient and cope better with unexpected setbacks, then keep reading.

How your beliefs can hold you back

Carol S Dweck PhD, is the author of a book titled Mindset and is a researcher at Stanford University. She’s well-known for her work on “fixed and growth mindsets”.

Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success - but whether we approach our goals with a fixed or growth mindset. The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.

A fixed or growth mindset, is just a belief. And if you have a fixed mindset (belief), it can hold you back. It can hold you back from learning new skills, developing better habits - even worse, a fixed mindset can create anxiety, fears/phobias, and other mental health issues.

For example, if a person was to say “I’ve always been an anxious person” then they’re virtually shutting the door on the possibility of learning new thinking habits. Their fixed mindset is preventing the development of vitally important skills.

The person with a growth mindset would subscribe to the view that personalities are not fixed, and that we are constantly learning and evolving. They would believe that any anxiety they may feel is not “part of who they are” but rather something they can overcome. They’d put effort into learning new thinking habits and be inspired as they start thriving.

Can simple beliefs hold you back?

Yes! We have thousands of beliefs about ourselves. These beliefs are simply thoughts that we’ve had over and over again. For example:

  • I’m hopeless at sticking to a diet

  • I’ve never been a runner

  • I’m not very creative

  • I couldn’t cope if my relationship ended

All beliefs. All fixed mindsets. All unhelpful. How do you think the next diet will pan out with that belief? Will you avoid the invitation to join in a 5km fun run with friends? What sort of anxiety will you be creating for yourself when your relationship faces a challenge?

What can you do? How do you change these things you believe about yourself, develop a growth mindset, so you can achieve your goals and the life you want?

Persistent and Continuous Effort (PACE)

We need evidence to change our beliefs. When you were little, you may have held a belief that the Tooth Fairy existed. Your belief would’ve been quite firm. Then one night your older sibling decided to spoil everything and told you there was no such thing. That evening, the tragic news was confirmed by your mum. Belief gone. In an instant. It wasn’t held deeply within the crevices of your mind needing months or years to overcome. It was gone overnight.

Other beliefs may take a little longer than the Tooth Fairy to erode, but with persistent and continuous effort they can change too.

I didn’t start cycling until my 30’s and only took it up so I could participate in a triathlon with a bunch of friends. A small triathlon goal was set and a plan developed.

There’s a lot of skill involved to learn how to ride a bike. You have to learn how to use the gears, change tyres, brake, unclip, clip back in, descend, ascend, and ride with a peloton. By reading books, watching videos, asking for advice, listening to advice, and practising every week, I started to improve. I could feel “a cyclist” starting to emerge.

Small incremental steps and a growth mindset can change beliefs and achieve goals. I now believe I’m a cyclist. And if you’d told me a few years ago that I would be capable of cycling 2,500 kms across Spain, France, and Italy, I would’ve thought you’d been drinking.

If my belief was “I’m too old to learn to cycle” then I would’ve missed out on learning a new sport, meeting new friends, cycling through incredible scenery both in Australia and Europe, and dining out on many wonderful memories.

What can you do now?

What beliefs do you have about yourself that are unhelpful; ones that fit within the fixed mindset category? They could affect you as a friend, mother, father, partner, worker, manager, or any other role you play in your life. They could affect your health or happiness. What are they? 

If you have a belief that “I could never run 10kms / I’m not a runner” then just start. Put in persistent and continuous effort and applaud your small incremental steps.

We can all learn new skills with a growth mindset (belief), a plan, and persistent and continuous effort. We can all learn to be better at whatever we put our (growth) mindset to.