Fixed mindset may be a relatively new term, but it is not a new concept. If you have ever said, "He is stuck in his ways", or "There's no reasoning with her", or "I don't see any options so I may as well give up," you are referring to a fixed mindset.
These mindsets often smack of negative thinking patterns and negative self talk. They can affect any and all areas of life, including healing, self image, relationships, finances, goals, and learning.
The good news is that although fixed mindsets are part of your thought patterns and beliefs, with awareness they can be shifted. You can adapt a growth mindset instead, which opens you to greater potential and possibilities.
According to Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, people with a fixed mindset basically believe they are who they are, and it is what it is. Their self esteem is based on specific attributes such as intelligence and talent that cannot be changed. Therefore they have to prove their superiority, blame others for problems, and avoid risks that might challenge their fragile egos.
This mindset often reveals itself in beliefs and comments such as these:
It is possible to have a fixed mindset in only one area of your life, or several. You may have heard other terms describing aspects of the fixed mindset - limiting beliefs, being stuck, closed minded, playing small, stinking thinking, know it all, and constriction.
With awareness, you can shift to a growth mindset, which values effort and challenges. When you have a growth mindset, you even value failure as a stepping stone in your quest for learning and improving other aspects of life that are important to you.
Before you can heal your fixed mindset and negative thinking patterns, it is most helpful to listen closely to your self talk. You will need to observe how it makes you feel and behave. Some negative self talk is so ingrained, and its accompanying feelings and actions so automatic, you may not even realize how detrimental it is to your health and happiness.
A good way to figure this out is to ask how a particular thought feels.
Does it make you feel more positive, energized, lighter? Or do you feel lower and heavier, like the life or joy is being sucked out of you? Does it cause you to take positive, inspired, creative action, or does it cause you to constrict, shut down, and stay stuck?
Also, if you find yourself attuned to particular negative patterns in others, they may well be your unconscious patterns. This is especially true if you find them annoying or repulsive. Funny though it seems, we are not always consciously aware of the mindsets and behaviors we easily see in other people.
If you especially brave and serious about changing, you can ask a trusted friend, family member, coach or therapist to point your sticking points out to you.
The following examples will help you become more aware of your limiting mindset patterns.
Not all negative thinking patterns have to do with a fixed mindset, although you will notice similarities between them. As your read through these patterns, do not be surprised if you recognize yourself in some or all of them at times.
Entertaining some daily negative self talk is normal. What you are looking for are regular fixed mindset patterns of thought.
No matter how many good things happened or may happen, you discount the positive and rehash or worry about possible bad things. If you do this often, it could represent a fixed mindset that fails to see the potential good or expansive opportunities that could come out of less than desirable circumstances.
Sometimes, you give so much energy to a situation, deserved or not, that your thoughts get caught in a loop. You review over and over what he said, you said, how you were wronged as though you pressed continuous replay and it will not turn off. If this type of obsessive thinking is habitual for you, it makes it difficult to focus on the joys of life instead of just its pains.
This was one of my very damaging negative self talk habits. I would rehash 'stupid' comments I made in a seemingly endless cycle of self-torture that could go on day and night for weeks. It did not matter that no one else gave it a thought or if everything else I said was brilliant. I focused on my foible with unrelenting judgment.
Watch for all-encompassing words with this pattern. Something always goes wrong or good things only happen to other people and never happen for you. Everything is hopeless (or great). There is nothing but trouble.
That one word injected into your sentence exaggerates and "awfulizes" something that could be true or partly true and makes it false. All life experiences are rarely, if ever, always, only, and never anything.
This type of negative self talk is a natural follow through of the generalization pattern. Perhaps you say, "I'm a failure and will always be a failure."
These false generalizations are a sure way to rob yourself of hope and happiness. They close your mind and limit the possibility for something better to happen. The future is a clean slate and an open book. You get to choose what is written in it every moment of every day.
You may have this negative thinking pattern if you make someone else's emotional experience about you. You take responsibility for how someone feels or for things that go wrong that have little or nothing to do with you. For example, if your spouse is unusually quiet or crabby you may wonder, "Is she mad at me? What did I do wrong?"
This type of stinking thinking is common in the fixed mindset. It is the opposite of making a problem about you.
In this pattern, you play the role of victim or the innocent one. It is always the circumstances or someone else's fault that something undesirable happened to you or you did not succeed at something. You accept little or no responsibility for the result your choices, your health or life circumstances, even when your role in the outcome is obvious to others. For example, it's the fast food restaurant's fault that you gained 50 pounds. It's your parent's fault that you still don't manage money well (20 years after leaving home).
Not feeling deserving or worthy is a very common pattern. You may have been teased, bullied, ridiculed, neglected or abused as a child. You may have been instructed to know your station in life, to not get too big for your britches. You may have been told that the good things you wanted were for other people, not you, that you got the bad thing you deserved, or asked, "who do you think you are?"
This programming led you to believe that you do not deserve good things and that you are no good. You may believe you are ill because you were 'bad' and deserve to be punished.
Why are these statements negative? You probably learned your "shoulds" and "ought-tos" from a parent, teacher, or other authority figure. How many times have you heard: "You should eat more vegetables, take a walk, get an "A" on the test, pursue a certain profession, clean the bathroom, buy this or that, fold the towels this way..." On the flip side, you may have been told to not take risks, to not try new things, not to eat or drink this or that, to not read certain books that put ideas in your head.
These should and should not statements may or may not be helpful, depending on the circumstance and the intention behind them. They become problematic when they set up expectations that may be unrealistic, rigid or undesirable. They can be controlling and inflexible, making it difficult for you to open the door to expansion and possibilities. They can keep you in a fixed mindset instead of a growth mindset.
Do you really have to (fill in the blank), right now (or later) or are there other possibilities or ways of doing it?
Two popular sayings are "Don't believe everything you think" and "There are three sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth."
Just because you feel, think, or believe something does not make it so. For example: Many stick-thin beautiful models think they are fat or homely because one of their features is imperfect. And whose standard do we trust to define perfect? Is there such a thing?
Sometimes we confuse emotion with fact. You feel afraid, so there must be something to be scared of, even when there isn't. You get the feeling someone doesn't like you, so it must be true.
It may feel discouraging to recognize these limiting beliefs and unhealthy patterns in yourself. Remember, engaging in some negative self talk is normal. It can even be helpful at times.
Negative thinking patterns are also normal. They reflect the beliefs you acquired, usually as a child. Even a fixed mindset patterns develops as a way to protect your identity and to help you feel safe. These patterns may have served you well for a time, but chances are now they are limiting you and doing more harm than good.
Take the patterns you have identified and use your newly found wisdom to empower yourself. Learn from your negative self talk, glean any enlightening, helpful messages from it, and begin to shift to better feeling, more expansive thoughts.
Developing an awareness of your stinking thinking habits is the first step to cultivating a positive attitude that will enhance your mental and emotional well-being. It help you feel better about yourself and others and embrace your life with an expansive growth mindset.
Fixed mindset page updated 12/2020