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3 Ways to Identify and Overcome Fixed Mindsets

Remember when you were a young kid and the thought of not being able to do something never even occurred to you? Instead of worrying about repercussions, possible consequences or whether or not you’d actually be able to fly, you just jumped off the roof. Of course, you learned a valuable lesson when you hit the ground, or when you rode your Tonka truck down your steep driveway and fell hard at the bottom, but the lesson didn’t stop you from having the flight, or ride, of your life in the moment.

We learn valuable lessons from encountering situations that are harmful to us, but these lessons are never meant to hinder our overall ability to overcome obstacles. It’s true, we are all incapable of defying gravity, and if you hit your head hard enough on pavement it can be damaging, but as a kid you might never have learned that lesson without discovering it for yourself. In other words, failure is inevitable, but failure defines us -- without it, we would not know the meaning of success.

Now, think back to the first time you were told you couldn’t do something and believed it. Maybe you can’t remember the distinct moment, but you can surely remember one. Reminiscing on that moment, or those moments, doesn’t feel great, does it?

Now consider this. How many times, on a daily basis, do you tell yourself that you can’t do something? Let’s be clear, no one is immune to this sort of inner-dialogue, no matter how confident they are. It’s inevitable because we as humans are fallible and lack the antidote to doubt and disbelief. However, we are also privy to the fact that each and every one of us are distinctly unique from one another, and this uniqueness affords us the ability to do extraordinary things.

Never forget that. Understanding that we are capable of doing extraordinary things is what allows us to discover new abilities and pursue new avenues of learning.

There is a particular joy associated with encountering something for the first time, a joy unlike any other. Unfortunately, when we grow older we can lose sight of this joy, becoming fixed in what we can and cannot do and allowing the comfort of what we know to overpower any thought we have of venturing into the unknown.

As Wallace Stevens once said, “It is the unknown that excites the ardor of scholars, who, in the known alone, would shrivel up with boredom.” We are all of us scholars once we recognize that we are constantly learning, and constantly students of life and the moments that string it together.

A fixed mindset makes this impossible. You tell yourself that you are incapable of doing something, and thus make it true. You tell yourself that there is no way you could continue to develop a certain skill set, and therefore halt its growth. Or maybe you are constantly driven to be perceived a certain way instead of focusing on the authenticity that encapsulates who you are. Or maybe you avoid challenges because you fear failure.

The point is, fixed mindsets permeate our existence and if we don’t take the time to identify this stressful and negative thinking on a daily basis, our focus can be diverted from what really matters: having the diligence to keep pushing toward our discoverable capacity to achieve truly amazing feats.

Hopefully it goes without saying that your students experience these same mindsets, and that it’s important to encourage them to identify the times when they are allowing negativity to dictate how they approach a moment.

How can you go about identifying these mindsets and eventually overcome them?

Let’s get started.

1.) Is It True What You Are Thinking?

Identify the Thought and Ask Yourself If It Is Accurate

Pretty simple right? In theory it should be, but often times we are so absorbed with the undeniable truth of something that we do not take the time to reflect on the possibility that it could inherently be wrong.

So, instead of believing with the unshakeable fortitude of a mountain that you are without a doubt incapable of building a website, or learning how to code or of teaching your students something new that you haven’t yet tried, consider the fact that you can, and will, bring a unique flair to any task.

Life can be the culmination of all the moments where we’ve believed we can’t do something because someone told us we can’t or because we told ourselves we can’t, or it can instead be a bunch of tiny strands, where we’ve tested our limits, all roped together. You get to choose in each and every moment what you tell yourself.

2.) Use the Unknown As a Means To Growth

Take a Step Off the Edge

“One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end,” Jiddu Krishnamurti profoundly stated, when speaking of the everyday troubles that we encounter as humans.

We are comfortable in what we know, plain and simple. When we venture into areas outside of our comfort zone it can be unnerving. Often times the results of these escapades outside our comfort zone confirm some lingering suspicion we have and keep us from continuing the adventure.

You can’t test your limits unless you’re willing to flirt with the idea that you could fail, or that the results of your venture into the unknown may be disappointing.

Take some time to identify an area outside of your comfort zone, and instead of dipping your toe in and automatically determining that the water is too cold, dive in and see what you find.

Again, success could not exist without failure and failure is not permanent.

3.) Setbacks Are a Means to Development

Abilities and Talents Can Be Cultivated

Challenges are obstacles that are meant to be overcome, and through our abilities and talents we are able to overcome them. When we encounter something that pushes us to our limits we often balk at the challenge, and mark it as something that is out of our reach instead of utilizing the setback as an opportunity to develop some of the weaker aspects of our attributes.

Next time you encounter an obstacle that seems too steep to overcome, use your more finely tuned skills to strategize on a plan you can use to develop your weaker skills enough to overcome the challenge.

We are all extremely gifted and talented individuals capable of far more than we give ourselves credit for, all it takes is one encounter where we overcome something we previously thought to be impassable to convince us of this fact.


Remember when you were a kid and you never even considered the thought that you couldn’t do something?

Stop reminiscing about that time in life as a fond memory unreachable now because you’re an adult and have developed to your “fullest”. Make it a reality again.

Just don’t go jumping off any roofs because you think you can fly, that theory has already been proven.


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