Do I Really Think I Can Do Or Be What I Want? Or Have I Boxed Myself In?
We can limit our opportunities by being too fixed in our mindsets. The ones who ultimately succeed believe in the word "yet", says Carol Dweck.
When we think "if I could go back in life and change anything", it can be pretty easy to come up with a couple of things (or more).
And that's fine, as long as we are not still hankering after the things on our list.
We might have taken a college course, say, and quickly wished we had done something else. And despite wistfully gazing over at our peers doing XYZ for the duration, we did nothing about it.
If, years later, we still find ourselves looking at certain types of people with a degree of envy, we need to ask ourselves this: What stopped us then? And what's stopping us now?
The Work Of Carol Dweck
Carol Dweck might argue it's a Fixed Mindset.
Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, is behind the psychological theory of Growth Mindsets.
Based on her research, she says that what keeps us from growing as individuals is our belief that we can't be or do what we want.
We hit a certain point and think we have reached our ceiling - or we think we were born with a limitation in the first place (or a number of them) and are lumbered with it/them for the rest of our lives.
The Magic Word Is "Yet"
Her TED Talk, "The Power of Yet" (below), delves into her findings that the kinds of kids who actually do well at school aren't necessarily naturally gifted at anything - they just take joy in challenges and, crucially, believe they can get better at things.
It is something we could all do well to remember. Perhaps we just haven't quite got to wherever we want... yet.
There Isn't A "Growth Mindset Type"
And, reassuringly, in an interview with ANZ, she points out that there isn't any particular kind of person who is blessed all round with this kind of thinking.
There isn't a "Growth Mindset Type" per se.
All of us can be optimistic about our abilities and ambitions in some areas yet crushingly pessimistic in others, she says.
And she advises we would do well to be aware of those areas of our life where we close off opportunities to ourselves in the mistaken belief we do not have what it takes to get there.
It might be wise to keep that in mind next time we catch a "fit of the envies"...
Barry Schwartz On Satisficing: When "Good Enough" Is Better Than "The Best"
It's not giving up and it's not settling for second best. Why learning the art of being "satisficed" is key to decision-making & happiness
Can "good enough" really ever be good enough? Your answer to that question will determine which of the following two categories you typically fall under: Maximiser or Satisficer (and yes, it is spelt that way).
According to psychologist Barry Schwartz, a Maximiser wants the absolute best of everything. It has to be perfect, nothing less will do and all options must be exhausted before the holy-grail-of-whatever is finally found.
While this might seem admirable - and in certain situations, it is - a Satisficer is often the one who actually wins out in the end, according to research.
Satisficers Vs Maximisers
A Satisficer has a clear idea of what they are looking for but will happily settle for the first option that meets their requirements.
They make their decisions quicker (saving time), maintain higher levels of satisfaction with their choice, have fewer regrets and are less likely to compare themselves to others, leading to higher levels of happiness.
Conversely, Maximisers might ultimately be more successful in life - including financially - but are less grateful for what they have.
The issue is perpetual dissatisfaction, always wondering if there is something better out there that they have not yet discovered. Not surprisingly, people in this category can be prone to depression.
Why We Need Satisficing
Being satisficed with your lot, then, might be something worth considering, at least in the a short term. Getting tangled up in a quandry over every single decision can be frustrating, self-defeating and demoralising.
It can also distract you from other things you can be getting on with and there is a lot of evidence to say you will come up with a "better idea" at a later point, anyway, if you switch off and walk away.
And if that's not enough, practicing satisficing as a technique can be a nice way of confronting any perfectionist tendencies you might be secretly harbouring. So the next time you spend an innordinate amount of time internally anguishing over the ramifications of that decision you just took, then this might be just the thing for you.
What We Can Learn From The People We Hate
People who trigger us beyond belief might be doing us a
pretty big favour - by dragging us out of denial
There's a well-accepted idea that we should look to positive role models for guidance on how to live. While that philosophy certainly has its merits, little is said about looking to those we hate.
There is an argument for focusing our attentions closely on the people we can't stand: the ones who seem to trigger us beyond all comprehension, whose actions are of such paramount importance to us, it becomes a point of obsession.
We resent these people because they are arrogant, pushy, loud, attention-seeking and overly critical or we despise them because they are complainers, small-minded, spineless and weak.
What Shadow Psychology has to teach us about this is key.
Me & My Shadow
It advises us to get to know our "shadow selves"; that is our repressed states, those parts of us we do not allow out to see the light of day. These traits and behaviours can get buried at a very early age. They can also get locked away later in life in response to highly stressful events.
Ever answered back and got punished for it? Expressed yourself freely and were laughed at or shut down? Had a "great friend" and get betrayed?
Your open and trusting side is likely to take a hammering if you get stabbed in the back.
Your natural exuberance might get diluted if you were repeatedly criticised for it ("stop being so annoying", "you're such a show off").
And your creative self-belief might dwindle to zero if you believed the person who criticised you more than you did your own natural inclinations.
How We Express What We Repress
This is why, later in life, when you have had years of practice being a "good" girl or boy, you have learnt to fit in, shelved those silly ideas of being an artist/writer/ designer etc and become skilled at keeping your mouth shut and your nose clean, that someone might come along and remind you of who you used to be.
And you might very well hate them for it.
We Are What We Project
Steve Mortenson, who teaches at the University of Delaware, says, in his TEDx talk, below, that we would be wise to become aware of the "shadow projections" we place on people: what they actually say about ourselves (and who we are not being) - and the power we give away when we fail to take ownership of the long lost traits, skills and talents that have got shoved to one side along the road.
Perhaps then, we will recognise that when we curse the people who are expressing them freely, that what we are actually saying to ourselves is that we can never do or be that too.
And when we do begin to re-integrate our "lost selves" we will find these people do not bother us so much in the end, after all.
Angela Duckworth On Grit: In The Long Run, This Is The Trait That Counts
Intelligence, talent or status can't guarantee you this skill. But in the long run, it could very well be the one that matters the most
Some words don't give their meaning justice. And some are just off-putting. "Grit" is one of these words.
It sounds harsh, mechanical, heartless; a "pull-yourself-together-and get-on-with-it" type word. It isn't particularly reassuring, uplifting or inspiring. And it can feel grating on the ears if offered as a suggestion when you are faced by what feels like an impossible task ahead of you.
But grit isn't about testosterone-fuelled chest-pounding. You don't have to be Tarzan to have it.
And you certainly don't have to be Tony Robbins to use it.
Who Has Grit?
Grit can be gentle, it can be slow, it can be plodding. The people who have grit are simply the ones who can marry their dedication to a wish or a task or a cause with a drive and commitment to carry it out (at whatever pace).
You can still be a loner, the shy one, a dreamer, the basket case in the corner - and have this trait.
Conversely, you can have the world's highest IQ, a god-given talent and come from a blessed background and not have it.
As Angela Duckworth explains in her TED talk, below, what ultimately counts is how we approach life and its obstacles - and how hard we work to overcome them:
"Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint."
It is the domain of (and can be learnt by) anyone who is willing to stick at it hell or high-water and, vitally, who is also able to adopt a "Growth Mindset", which is being able to admit that you can improve - always.
And, as Duckworth believes, it is these kinds of people who win in the end - in all walks of life.