As we emerge from our deep winter hibernation, we move toward a spring thaw of love and growth. It's the perfect time of the year to transform our fixed mindsets into growth mindsets.
We are not born with a fixed or growth mindset. Instead, our mindsets develop as we grow. As such, we tend to take on mindsets similar to those that belong to our family unit. To illustrate this pattern, I’d like to share my personal story, which highlights how we can develop fixed mindsets from an early age. Keep reading to learn about the traits of both fixed and growth mindsets and how you can practice a growth mindset.
Understanding A Fixed Mindset
The relationships we have with our parents early on play a key role in the foundation of our mindset, which in my case, was fixed.
As a child, I didn’t feel good enough for my parents. It was as if I couldn’t live up to my mother’s expectations of me and while my father certainly loved me, he eventually left Michigan for a new life in Florida and I was left behind. Frankly, these things left me feeling like I wasn't lovable or good enough.
As a young teenager, I would shy away from activities and hobbies that made me feel stupid, uncoordinated, or bad about myself. My mom signed me up for various lessons: guitar, clarinet, organ, tennis, horseback riding, posture, swimming, and art. But, I never stuck with any one thing long enough to become skilled or interested in it enough to pursue it further. And during the time spent on each activity, I didn’t put forth the effort needed to get better. I would give up long before that. Why did I do this? Unconsciously, I was validating my core belief — which was that I wasn't good enough. Deeper than that, I was unlovable.
A bit later, this insecurity played out in my relationships, which always seemed to be full of drama. I tried to be what others wanted me to be, never really knowing what I wanted, or what my opinions or were. As I was not aware of my own needs, or how to ask for them in a healthy way, I became passive aggressive and instead, codependent on my partners’ needs. This wound rippled into all areas of my life, keeping me stuck in a fixed mindset. Here was my old thought process:
If you resonate with any of the above examples, you might also benefit from a growth mindset.
Understanding a Growth Mindset
A person developing their growth mindset practices a different thought process:
To truly live a growth mindset is to find value in the effort that it takes to create the life we want to live.
Practicing A Growth Mindset
I now value curiosity in new activities, people and places. The fear of ‘failure’ is gone. Instead of running away, or feeling unlovable, I now look at it as if I have something to learn. But, getting to this point takes practice.
And remember, practice means practice! For example, it’s unlikely that you’ll become a rockstar overnight if you decide to pick up guitar. It takes continuous effort. The key to changing your mindset is to practice daily. Start small, make it doable, find accountability and put forth the effort.
Need an accountability buddy? We are here to support you in the Attuned Coaching private Facebook group, Mindset Masters Unite! Our community comes together to share our daily mindset accomplishments and struggles. Find daily motivation and tips on kicking ass with a Growth Mindset by joining us here!
Start with these growth mindset practice activities:
1. Acknowledge which mindset you generally fall into — fixed or growth. Come out of hiding and truly own where you are right now. Look back and have compassion for your child-self that unknowingly developed this mindset.
2. Start a growth mindset journal and ask yourself these questions:
a) What can I learn from today’s fixed/growth experience(s)?
b) What step(s) did I take to achieve growth today? What step(s) can I take tomorrow?
c) Where am I falling short and what do I still need to educate myself about?
d) Do I still have some exploring to do? What is the root cause of my trigger? (You might want to find a coach to work with when practicing this step).
e) How did I keep going when things were tough and I wanted to quit? How can I continue to be my own cheerleader?
3. Decide on an area of your life that you’d like to improve. Now, focus on that area for 15 minutes a day, or less. Within two months, you’ll have dedicated around 15 hours of focus to this area of your life!
4. Practice active listening. Seek to first understand, then be understood.
As you begin your adventure, remember:
Now, close your computer or turn off your phone and go BE in the present moment. Stay curious and have fun!
I spent most of my February in a dark place. It was depressing, scary, and cold. Yes, I spent most of February in a basement storage area tackling my big decluttering project. And it only took me thirty-six years to start on it!
While I was digging through one of many boxes, I found a paper I wrote my first year of college called “The Art of Packing.” How odd — to be finding it as I was unpacking my life, thirty-six years before I started packing it all up.
I was only a senior in high school when my mother passed away. Since my parents were divorced, I was left responsible for packing up a three-story colonial home. As I worked my way through each and every drawer, dresser, and cabinet, I divided the items evenly between me and my two siblings.
Yet, my brother and sister did not want much to do with the memorabilia I saved for them. So, I took on the role of caretaker. For thirty-six years, I held on to everything. Each time I moved to a new home, so did the boxes. I carried them around like a heavy weight from place to place.
I KEPT THE BOXES FOR
I’ve patiently waited for my siblings to show up at my house so I can pour them each a glass of wine, turn on some music, and go through the memorabilia together. I had this vision of a happy-go-lucky gathering. But, it never happened and it might never have happened. So I had my own party. Except it didn’t go exactly as I had envisioned.
There was no wine, no music, and no laughter. Just me alone, venturing into the dark storage area to retrieve box after box. Each item, whether it be a piece of paper or a picture, was painfully examined. Throughout the process, it felt like I was re-attending the funerals of both my parents. And even my own.
"We all lived with my mother in a three story colonial house. The house now stands silent filled with the lives of four people. These possessions that fill up our house now needs to be packed and put away." — An excerpt from my college essay, The Art of Packing, 1983
In the end, I filled up twenty contractor bags of trash, made two trips to Habitat for Humanity, dropped off two loads at my local second hand store, sold some items, and gave others away. This decluttering project was messy, heavy and depressing as hell. And I was left thinking about why I had held on to all of these things?
Keeping all of these mementos meant that I valued my life and the things I’ve helped create. These items represented my years of motherhood, building a business, banding birds in the field, and being part of my small, Upper Peninsula community. And keeping all of my family’s memorabilia meant that I cared about my parents and valued their lives. Otherwise who would? I thought, ‘why do we live these lives if nobody remembers or cares about us after we’re gone?’ But, this thinking kept me stuck. And it kept me feeling heavy.
"My mother had forty-five teacups and saucers. To be fair about the division, we cleared the family room floor, smoked a joint and preceded to put all forty-five cups and all the saucers on the floor." — Wendy Wagoner, The Art of Packing, 1983
I had to let go of my parents, again. I had to let go of the belief that I am a ‘bad’ person if I let go of my mother and father’s childhood pictures or their yearbooks. And I had to drop the role of caretaker that I had shouldered for thirty-six years.
In the end, I could feel in the deepest part of my being, that no picture or box filled with memorabilia represented a life well lived. It was just stuff. And that stuff doesn't define me as a child, sister, or mother. And that is what truly sparks joy in my heart!
"There is no graceful way for me to way good-bye, even to a house. The house is packed and gone, school has ended and I must move onward." — Wendy Wagoner, The Art of Packing, 1983
Are you keeping yourself small? I have a hard time “BEing big” or putting myself out there.
I can feel how the tension lives in my body and my autonomic nervous system. When I dive deeper into this fear, I connect it to the self-thought that I am someone who has great ideas, but often fails to bring them into existence. This tension is directly related to my fear of failing, which developed during my childhood. If I still believe that I am a failure, then I struggle to prove that it is NOT true.
A core belief from my childhood was that I was a failure. This belief has been validated over and over again in various ways, which keeps me stuck in this pattern.
When I don’t finish something, I want to argue, rationalize, and/or collapse (child behaviors). While I want to convince everyone, including myself, that I’m not a failure, shame arises nevertheless because the core belief from my childhood comes creeping back - and I know this feeling too well.
I can distract myself by watching TV, posting on social media (“look at me!”), or eating too much food - but I still feel these feelings. So, how can we move away from this fear of failure and instead embrace a “bigger” life?
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us."
The first step is to be aware of the internal voice that controls our life. The “judge voice” is relentless and says, “you can’t pretend - you are a failure and I can give you examples to prove it.”
When that happens, turn TOWARD the judge, harness energy from deep in your body and say, “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” This stops the judge and allows you to question whom exactly you’re yelling at.
For me, this inner judge is my mother’s voice. I can visualize and feel my parent’s disappointment that I took on as a child. But were my parents really disappointed in me? Probably not. So, what is the fear truly about? Did I want my parent’s love, but was afraid of losing it?
As a child, I took on their feelings and mixed them into how I thought about myself - a failure. This is what we call a double bind. Visualize a rubber band that is pulled so tight on both ends that I can't let one end go. I can’t win in a double bind. Instead, I stay stuck in the middle and if one end goes, it will hurt since the love will go away and I will be alone on the other end. In this scenario, my judge wins. I can’t allow that.
So, as I turn toward the rubber band, I know that the sting will hurt, but afterwards I will be free of the double bind - and my prison. Isn’t it worth the pain? If I can get away from this inner judge voice that is truly not me, I can feel how much it is causing me pain and suffering, making me small and collapsed on a daily basis.
Ultimately I decided to let me mom go. I now feel compassion for my younger self and see that I am not a child now, but an adult. Life is really good in this very moment. I can be in the world without my mom (ironically she died when I was a teenager) and I can let go of the lingering fear that I am alone and afraid of the world. This relaxes my nervous system and the tension I have been holding. I feel a gentle warmth and appreciation for myself.
If we want growth and change, we need to turn toward the pain, specifically this double bind. Let’s allow ourselves to un-merge from our old stories. We are enough. We are not worthless, ugly, or weak. We don’t need someone else’s love - the source is within us. Nobody can do this for us - our shift in consciousness is the key and the key is to look inward.
Why would anyone need a coach or therapist? Would connecting with one mean something is wrong with you, and you need to be “fixed"?
"We are products of our parents before us and their parents before them. It is like a giant wave and we are a ripple in the current"
One reason why you might seek out an attuned coach or therapist is based on John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory. John Bowlby (1907-1990), along with his colleague, Mary Ainsworth (1913-1999), developed the attachment theory based on the idea that an infant needs a secure relationship with a primary caregiver in order to fulfill the child’s social and emotional development. Through extensive observational studies of infants with their primary caregivers, Bowlby and Ainsworth noticed that security is a basic need for toddlers to grow and explore their surroundings.
So, how does this apply to you as an adult? The attachment theory states that as adults, it allows us to feel secure, enabling us to go out and explore the world without stress and anxiety, but instead with trust that we will be taken care of by life. Bowlby published many books in this lifetime (all worth reading). But, in summary, I’ve posted two charts (below).
If we fall into the insecure avoidant, insecure ambivalent, the insecure disorganized or a mixture of these styles, we were missing that consistently attuned primary caregiver. Having a consistently attuned primary caregiver available would have installed in us the feeling of having a secure base, or safe haven during our first 3 years of life.
So how do we develop this feeling of having a secure base, or safe haven if it is not in our systems from our childhood? How can we change this for our future children and grandchildren? This change from one type of attachment to another does not happen overnight, it is a process. One of the ways to start is to work on moving to a secure attachment type, which takes having a secure base and a “safe haven person.” This person’s role is to be consistently attuned during sessions and to help develop trust. With an attuned coach or therapist, one can work through their old wounds and issues. The coach or therapist plays the role of the parent (or original primary caregiver). Therefore, it’s an authority role, not a love relationship role as peers.
We are born with the need to be taken care, touched and held for our brains and nervous systems to hook up properly. We are products of our parents before us and their parents before them. It is like a giant wave and we are a ripple in the current. Why would we think that just because we are now adults that we need to do this alone, if we have the wounding of insecurity? We need to develop a relationship with another person that becomes our so-called, “parent” to work though these issues, to heal them. Then, when we learn to really trust in life, we become a secure attachment person.
Do you ever feel that someone else is running your life and it isn't the life you actually want?
I recently witnessed a true shift in consciousness. For the first time, this person (let's call her "Julie") identified and then let go of her inner judge voice.
When I started working with Julie, who is in her 70s, she didn't know what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. Julie struggled with depression and merging with her children. She felt as if her life was going by so fast, but she was stuck in this double-bind of not being able to fulfill her desires while simultaneously keeping everyone happy.
In her processing, Julie recognized that she had difficulty moving toward what she truly wanted because of her strong inner judge. After recognizing this hurdle, we went through the following steps together.
The first step was working on identifying who the judge was and how it controlled her daily life. While grounded into her body, Julie found that she was collapsed by her mother’s energy riding on her back (metaphorically, of course). Julie's mother has been dead for 16 years. She allowed herself to feel how this energy lived in her body.
The second step was being the judge voice. Julie preceded to voice out loud what the inner judge voice was saying. The true energy of her mother was allowed to come out in that moment and we could feel that this voice was not actually Julie's voice (it even sounded like her mother).
The next step was standing up to the judge voice. Julie had to STOP the judge and not rationalize, defend, or collapse (all childhood strategies). She needed to ground her body again and feel how the inner judge voice was crippling her from moving forward. She had to feel how this inner critic had caused her pain.
This was not an easy step. Julie practiced many different strategies to try and stop the judge. But, finally, she found the strategy that set her free. She now feels and exerts a new strength in her mind and body.
Now that Julie is free of the judge, she is fully in her body - relaxed and standing without her mother on her back. She is full of strength, which allows her true essence to shine - a playful joyfulness.
If you want to experience true joy and your true essence, like Julie has, and let go of old wounds that keep you 'stuck' or un-empowered - consider signing up on the link below and Commit to Freedom from your inner judge today!
Wendy Wagoner has explored numerous avenues of disciplines over the last 30 years. She is a professional Awakening Coach, healer, and experienced workshop leader.
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