Mindsetting 101

I believe many people already know about Carol Dweck’s research about mindset. Way before that, I was being taught in 1988 about something called the “leader” and “victim” mindset. And to be honest, aside from empirical verification, the idea of the “fixed” and “growth” mindset didn’t seem to me like all that big of a deal.

As I looked at how the research and popularity of Dweck’s research grew, however, I realized a few things. First, people who loved the research literally thought it was the whole world. And here I was thinking it wasn’t much. Mindset realization number one.

Second, people often started to use the dichotomous term fixed or growth mindset as if there were only two mindsets. In that sense, they were in a fixed mindset because they did not think that it was possible to have both at the same time. I’m not sure that the research looks into this. Or, that you can have growth mindset at work, but a fixed mindset at home and why.

So, let’s define a mindset.

If it is an established set of attitudes held by someone, it must mean that all mindset is contextual, and that we hold multiple mindsets. I checked to see if Dweck had the same definition:

In deeper examination, this means that Dweck’s definition of mindset is even narrower – a belief about one’s own identity. If mindset causes people to operate in the world, why not acknowledge that there are millions/billions of different ways of operating in the world and I could adopt the mindset that any of them could be helpful?

I’m not really sure that after reading Growth and Fixed mindset examples that Dweck’s theory is even understood well. For instance, much of the talk about Growth and Fixed mindset centers around the willingness to learn. To me, learning is the context. Just because I learn well in mathematics (specific subject behavior) does not entail that I am a good learner (statement of identity).

In fact, one of the drawbacks I find about the growth and fixed mindset is that one could identify it, but it was not really intuitive to be able to make shifts. In fact, it seems like fixed mindsets, in their technical terminology, are all bad. How’s that for “mindsetting”?

I believe that we set our minds either intentionally or unintentionally. Take driving for example. I hate driving. Never enjoyed going for lessons. Never felt the reason to drive in Singapore. Don’t need a car. This is a mindset that was unintentional, and shaped by the surrounding environment. In 10 years, say I want to migrate to Costa Rica and live in a house by the sea. Cool. Will my mindset change due to the circumstances? Sure – I’ll probably need a car or truck or jeep more than ever there. However, this is a conscious realization of my future plan or goal that shapes my awareness of mindset and seeks to adjust or change it due to the circumstances.

Another example: the attitude toward goal-setting. I love setting goals because I know they have helped me progress. When I embarked on creating Destiny Discovery, I was aware that the specific and clear goals I set enabled me to drive myself purposefully. I was taught goal setting way back in 1988. It was an intentional mindsetting process. Today, nothing has changed other than the fact that I no longer need to convince myself of the goal-setting mindset. However, a coachee I work with does have a problem with goal-setting. He doesn’t like it and says that it has never really helped compared with his natural “unconscious” way of doing things. He is a low six-figure earner in a business. When I found out how he was setting goals, I discovered that his goal setting skills were limited, leading to the mindset that goal setting was useless. After I upgraded his skills, he started to realize how important correct goal setting was.

So here’s the pinch: you need to intentionally “mindset” something helpful and valuable by (1) recognizing the unconscious unhelpful mindset that was happening to you already; (2) having a goal to accomplish that you didn’t really think about yet.

Change and Mindset

When we say we have a growth mindset, it means we are willing to change. But in my exploration, fixed mindsets are purposeful even if they are not useful. As a psychotherapist, I know so many people who carry around a fixed mindset because of their perceptions. They may have justified anger toward their teachers, for example, because they were hurt by their actions in the past. But these interpretations were made decades ago. Without some context and perspective, this interpretation is obsolete at best (after all it is an old memory of the past), foolish at worst. Why let a bad teacher (or anyone else for that matter) tell you what you can or cannot do?

Mindsetting begins with expanding of perspective.

If data is introduced that shows a new perspective, you have the ability to make new decisions about things. For example, I used to throw money at hiring problems. If I had a problem I would hire someone to deal with the problem. However, because I lacked conscientiousness about it, it caused me even more problems when I hired the wrong person!

Is mindset, as a concept, useful then? Why the big deal?

I think we have to acknowledge that the mind is a complex piece of machinery. In order to get something working, you need to understand its mechanics and know how to make it work. In that sense, if the human body were a car, then mindset would be the ignition that kickstarts the ability to get it going.

Mindsets for Living Life Well

Has it occurred to you that you don’t have to live the way you do? Most people never think about that. You maybe working 9 to 9 for a savage boss. You don’t need to do that. You may be self-conscious about how big or small your waistline is when you go out on a date. You don’t need to do that. Depending on your responses to these examples, you may either think it is difficult to change, or that it is easy to change. Again, this mindset is nothing more than an attitude that you hold strongly within.

Here are some mindsets for living well in different areas of life:

    • Choosing happiness and joy as your default state throughout the day;

    • Allowing quality of life as a focus instead of quantity of money;

    • Knowing that people will have differing opinions and that’s okay, maybe even welcome;

    • Decide to be in awe of life rather than complain about problems;

    • Treat a loved one’se outbursts as a need to be heard and seen rather than anger and defensiveness.

Doesn’t that mean that Choice is the ultimate power?

It is! But we need to apply the choice intentionally.

I could choose to get frustrated developing my marketing content, or I could choose to get clear about what I am about to do. I can choose to be upset with my family member’s actions, or I can choose to accept them and support them. I could choose to be angry at life or God, or I can choose to make a difference to the lives of people who were treated unfairly.

It’s not just all positive thinking. I would say it is alternative thinking.

Applying Mindset to Business

A lot has been done in business. One person I totally love and respect for this area of work is Jack Canfield. Growing up, I listened to his tapes from CareerTrack until they burst! Success principles are often a set of belief patterns that are simply viewed as new information from someone’s research. In reality, they are potential mindsets to adopt.

One such statement “if it is possible for others, it’s possible for me” is one of my favorite. But I feel that no matter what happens, reviewing and being deliberate about them is what makes a difference. I know people who used to come for Patterns of Excellence and learnt beliefs like these. But they never really set it in their mind. Once they are out of the program, it takes regular reminders to keep the mind “reset”. I think of it as a fresh “reboot” of the computer.

In business, we often have mindsets that are inappropriate with the developmental stage of growth of the business. For example, many people seem to value income ahead of meaning at the start of the business. They make some money, but there’s no purpose and energy poured into the business at all. Hence, business dies a natural death.

Conversely, those who have found their purpose, don’t adjust their mindset for growth and scaling. They may be still happy to solve problems in the same way, talk to customers in the same way, and do business, as usual. But when you want to scale your business, you need to examine your mindset so that you can make business more than usual!

If you are curious about what your emphasis is relative to the stage of business you are in, you can opt for doing a Mindset Map Inventory. This has helped thousands of leaders and entrepreneurs worldwide to achieve greater clarity as to where to put their energy in the current phase of their business, leading to substantial gains.


Mindsetting is about clarity, conscious choice and constant change and resetting until it becomes embedded in your being. That may take years, even decades. But one thing is for sure – exposing yourself to the mindset of other people makes you arrive at new possibilities. Knowing that someone successful has adopted some practice might make you change your mind about what you need to do. Seek out mentors, coaches and communities that can massively impact your mindset, so that the way you live your life will flourish.

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See also  How to Change your Mindset: From "I Can't" to "I Will"

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