A mindset is a way of thinking. It is how we motivate ourselves to do what we do and it is why we accomplish great, difficult things. It is also something that we can control, typically, and depending on how we think of the brain, our mindset can do more for our personal growth than just about anything else.
The brain, and what it is, and isn’t—and understanding that—dictates how we shape our mindset. Two terms of the brain, “fixed” and “growth”, explain how the structure of the brain gives volition, and control, to us and our mindset.
That was heavy.
And maybe confusing.
Dr. Carol Dweck, Stanford psychologist, author, and amazing pioneer and proponent of mental health, has explained this dichotomy—“fixed” vs “growth”—perhaps better than anyone else and has made the science of the brain and body palatable. Here is the essence, and the science, and why a simple understanding of the wiring of the brain can lead you to a mindset of absolute happiness:
- The brain doesn’t stop growing! Exclamation points are typically cringe-worthy, like laughing at your own joke, but I’m gonna stand by that last one. The brain does not stop growing, and wiring, as we age. Until recently—Dr. Dweck’s work seminal in this paradigm shift—science, and, basically everyone else, thought our brain was fixed. It would develop as infants and young children and teenagers aged, sure, but time, and genetics, basically set the terms to our mental and physical growth. We thought, because science and medicine told us so, that our mental and physical capacities were bound to things outside of our control. The development of the brain was on a shot clock, and a pretty quick one at that.
- Example: You’re a nine-year-old, third grade student. Your standardized test results come back and are opened by your parents. Your pops, not meaning anything by it, remarks about your low math scores. “Bad with numbers, too. Ah well, runs in the family.” You, as a nine-year-old impressionable child and student, think you aren’t good at math and there is nothing you can do about it, it’s simply how your brain works.
- The brain is plastic! … Explanation of “plastic”, before defense of another exclamation: plasticity is a term, predominately used in the medical world, to describe the perpetual growth and re-wiring of our brain and nervous system. This is what Dr. Dweck has brought to the forefront of education and personal growth. Brain imaging shows that we can learn new skills, also improving old ones, as we age (scans show this wiring in absolute terms). Like, really age. Retirement home type aging. But in inverse relation to that, and to tie in to the previous example featuring you as a dejected third grade student, our mental skill sets are NOT fixed. We are not subject to our DNA, not in that finite sense. Of course our genes give us basis and starting points, and some people are absolutely genetically advantaged, but if directed by the right mindset, our brains, and abilities, are capable of growth in perpetuity. So again: !
- Example: You’re a nine-year-old, third grade student. Your standardized test results come back and are opened by your parents. Your pops, an enlightened cat and owner of a vast array of Positive Vibes apparel, remarks about your low math scores. “It’s alright, buddy. Math takes time, and effort. You will continue to learn and only get better.”
A Growth Mindset and Positive Vibes
- Getting past science and the sometimes (mostly) intimidating world of neuroscience, understand that your brain is created for growth. That puts us, as thinkers and doers, in control of our lives and our successes. Knowing that your brain and body work together, and are both wired for improvement and progress, always, a world of possibility presents itself to you. Every day, in every opportunity, is an opportunity to improve. Where before we may have felt victim to events or circumstances—to things we just weren’t good at or “capable” of doing—we now know we can influence our brain/body.
- This means that difficulty and fears can be disempowered. Social anxieties and inadequacies can be combated, and remedied. It is not easy, overcoming areas we are deficient or fearful, but looking at everything through a prism of growth is how we do it. That way of thinking is in line with the optimization of mind and body, and it is a mindset we can take with us for the rest of our lives, for, we now know, our brain and bodies are able to help us for the rest of our lives.
- By making simple decisions, simply deciding to try new things and/or practice old things, you are changing the way you are wired. A mindset, cognizant of the ability to grow, in turns leads the brain to grow.
- Approach the world with curiosity, eager to try something new, and live in wonder, aware that you are bound by nothing. Growth and improvement is our wiring; positive vibes is our mindset.