Have you ever been asked for advice only to have everything you suggest be shot down? If so, you already know how frustrating it can be to try to help someone with a fixed mindset. They are certain they’ve already tried that one thing, or that that other thing won’t work. No matter how many good suggestions you offer, they see only dead ends. They might have eloquent reasons why nothing will work for them, but when it comes down to it, they just don’t believe that it will. They are stuck in a fixed mindset, and see no opportunities for learning, self-improvement or growth. They don’t even want to try. When you encounter these situations, you intuitively know that something’s not right. You might not have the words, but what you sense is the limitations of the fixed mindset butting up against the possibilities of the growth mindset.
All of Us Have Choice
Perhaps you found yourself in that “stuck place” at some point in your own life? Maybe you’ve told yourself you will never lose those last 20 pounds? Or maybe you’ve felt frustrated that the advice you receive is all worthless? Maybe you’ve even wallowed in self pity because “nothing will ever change?”
But, you might say, you didn’t choose to suffer. You had no control. All the good choices were taken away from you, so you had no choice. You were forced to suffer!
If this sounds like an experience you have had (and haven’t we all?), then you know first hand what it feels like to be stuck in a fixed mindset. You know how hopeless, depressing, and disempowering it can feel. Why would anyone willingly want to stay in such a place?
Fortunately, we can always change our minds. Our brains are capable of profound change in ways we’re only beginning to be aware of. It is completely possible to make a conscious choice to cultivate a growth mindset, leave the fixed mindset behind, and open up ourselves to self-improvement and growth. And this is crucial if you want to make a successful transition to a ketogenic lifestyle and achieve your health and fitness goals. There is no room for a fixed mindset when you want to make big changes.
We Are Always Learning
We are constantly learning that our previous beliefs about even the most basic things are wrong. How many of us still think, for instance, that the most important factor in your diet in terms of losing or gaining weight is the number of calories you eat versus the number you expend? We’ve all certainly learned this, multiple times in multiple ways from multiple trustworthy, generally well-intentioned sources. And yet even this information is likely wrong, based on the latest studies and our cumulative scientific understanding of diet and exercise.
The ninth planet you grew up with isn’t really a planet. We are still discovering organs and entirely new physical systems in the human body. The mesentery and the brain’s lymphatic system were just discovered in 2017!
So why wouldn’t you be able to discover new gifts and abilities in yourself?
The Power of the Mind
The mind is very powerful. It determines the nature of our reality. Luckily, all of us can always choose to change our minds. One effective way to do this is to switch our approach to life from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. One of the first steps to consciously shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset is to become aware of our own beliefs about ourselves. When we recognize these beliefs exist, we can examine them to see if we agree with them or not. Have we been telling ourselves lies? Have we been undermining ourselves with negative self-talk and limiting beliefs?
What if we aren’t being forced to suffer? What if we really can choose to stop suffering?
The Limiting Beliefs of a Fixed Mindset
If you are operating from a fixed mindset, you believe that it doesn’t matter what you do, your body just looks the way it does, and your health just is what it is, so you don’t even bother finding out that this can be remedied. You won’t ask your friends what they do to feel and look good. You don’t research ways to change the situation. You just wait, maybe try the same things that you’ve done in the past again (crash diets, anyone?), maybe groan and curse when you regain all the weight a few months later, but in the end, you accept it. A fixed mindset also means that if you do manage to try something new, you are likely to give up after just one attempt rather than changing more variables or giving it more time, because you feel it’s just not going to happen. That’s just the way it is. And what’s the point?
What Psychology Tells Us
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, who discovered that people tend to respond to failure in two main ways, and coined the terms “fixed” and “growth” mindset, explained the two in 2016. To a person with a fixed mindset, she said, risk is scary because failure seems like proof that they and their abilities are fixed and will never change. And this implies that any and all failures prove that they are not good enough and never will be. It also means that risk averse people are less likely to set and achieve goals.
People with growth mindsets, on the other hand, are excited by challenges. Dweck explains that they believe that “setbacks and feedback are information” rather than a judgement on their character. They also believe that this information can be used to improve their outcomes—even if they fail. In other words, people operating from a growth mindset recognize that even if their abilities aren’t where they’d like them to be (just yet), they can still reflect on their experiences and identify opportunities for new learning, self-improvement and growth. And this keeps them moving forward, towards their goals.
Sometimes the fixed and growth mindsets are misunderstood as being permanent states, as though we just need to shift from one to another once and for all and then stay there. Dweck herself says,
Nobody has a growth mindset in everything all the time. Everyone is a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets.
What we can do is to first encourage ourselves to recognize which state we are in, and then, to practice shifting our state. This is of course especially useful if we find ourselves stuck in a fixed mindset. So what kinds of things can help you shift into a growth mindset?
Meditating Promotes a Growth Mindset
Meditation practices are very effective at shifting states. You might think of meditation as a time during which you are not doing other things, like dishes or Facebook. You might think of it as a noble pursuit that might pay off somehow in the future. Fortunately, it can have a much quicker result than that. (Learn how you can start a meditation practice, too.)
A meditation practice can be an activity you may already enjoy—walking through the woods, for instance, or skipping rocks in a river—during which you stay mostly silent, breathe mostly peacefully, keep your mind busy with a simple task, and allow your busy thoughts to drift away.
Fixed and growth mindsets appear to correlate to the states associated with different brainwave frequencies. For instance, the fixed mindset is more associated with qualities of the higher electrical frequencies of our brain activity, in which we spend much of our waking time. The lower frequencies are more associated with insight and optimism.
If you don’t have time to meditate, you can try to quickly access those lower frequencies by sitting quietly and closing your eyes. In fact, one of the earliest discoveries about brainwaves was that opening the eyes increases their speed. So next time you’re feeling stuck, why not find a quiet place and sit with your eyes closed for a few minutes? You may find an insight you can bring back to the higher frequencies with you.
Look at Your Successes
Another way to bring a growth mindset into more areas of your life is to recognize the times when you already operate from one. “What would my own self do,” you might ask. Maybe you are an experienced cook? At home in your kitchen you are able to create any desired dish without a recipe, but when you venture into a gym you feel uncertain and awkward. Take that energy of yourself cooking up a storm in the kitchen, where you know that a mistake is just a mistake and not evidence that you can’t do anything right at all, and bring it with you into the weight room.
Tell yourself, “It’s OK to make mistakes. It’s OK to learn from mistakes. Next time you’ll do better.”
Affirmations are a simple tool that is a lot more powerful than many realize. We can use affirmations to consciously replace the negative scripts in our minds with positive ones. Affirmations work best with our literal brains when they are positive rather than negative, and stated in the present tense.
Practice saying these sentences aloud to yourself, or under your breath, or in your mind, to your mirror or not. “There is always a way.” “I feel good in my body.” “I am loved.” “I am learning.” “I can try again.” Doesn’t that feel so much better? Now keep going!
When we begin to replace our programming with statements like these, our world begins to shift in order to make them true. We grow. As our minds expand their perceptions and beliefs, so do our lives. So does our world.