Your mindset is your individual set of cognitions that shape how you make sense of information and react to experience. Your individual style of cognition influences how you think, feel, and behave. Context is how we interpret experience. However, mindsets create the context. In our brain we have set standards for evaluating in flowing data, these set standards significantly impact the manner in which we see the world. Accordingly, our mindsets have a powerful impact on what we see, feel, and how we react.
Many therapies focus on adjusting mindsets, theorizing feelings and behaviors will naturally follow. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a prime example of this style of treatment.
The term mindset became popular with Carol Dweck’s 2007 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dweck focuses on two different mindsets in her book: fixed and growth mindsets. The general premise of Dweck’s book is that people tend to have one of two mindsets: a fixed or growth mindset. A fixed mindset “sees ability as inborn and largely unmodifiable.” And a growth mindset “sees ability as something people can develop by making persistent effort and learning new strategies” (2019).
In regards to growth and fixed mindsets, Angela Duckworth wrote “mindsets have been shown to make a difference in all the same life domains as optimism” (2016, Kindle location 2,613).
Implications of Mindset in Psychology
The implications of mindset are far reaching. We develop theories about ourselves and the world we live in that become the underlying force of what we do and how we feel. Aaron T. Beck theorized that “theorized that “depressed persons have distorted negative perceptions of themselves, their world, and their future” (1986. p. 566). Basically, Beck’s theory of depression was centered on three basic mindsets: self (I am worthless), the world (the world is dangerous), and the future (I will never achieve anything worthwhile).
A fundamental principle about mindsets is that it is a changeable pattern of cognition. Because our mindsets have such a tremendous to motivate action, psychologists see them as a fundamental focus for change. Current theory is that teachers, parents, and therapists help children develop attitudes of change by focusing on mindsets rather than skills and abilities.
We should encourage “Tommy you really worked hard on that. Great job!” instead of the more traditional “you did a fantastic job on that. You are really good at this!” In this way, we encourage effort rather than an innate ability. Dweck’s basic advice is to praise the effort not the person (Jacobs, 2019).
Other Significant Mindsets
Brené Brown suggests that a significant attitude that can lift or destroy is whether we have a mindset of scarcity or sufficiency. She explains, “sufficiency…is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough. Sufficiency resides inside of each of us, and we can call it forward. It is a consciousness, an attention, an intentional choosing of the way we think about our circumstances” (2010, Kindle location 1,351).
Joseph Burgo refers to the growth mindset. He wrote an entire chapter on this in his book Why We Do the Things We Do. he wrote, “the mindset for genuine and lasting change begins with accepting that a cure or total transformation is impossible. Only by coming to know yourself very well, to recognize your trouble spots and the characteristic ways you cope with them, can you start to grow. Only then can you develop new skills and capacities that help you better navigate your emotional world” (2013).
Similar Psychological Concepts
The idea of “mindsets” was not introduced by Dweck, rather she brought the actual word “mindset” to popularity. I found that most the books written before Dweck’s book, referred to the concept using the spelling “mind-set.” Most of the psychological and motivational books since use Dweck’s spelling without the hyphen.
A Few Words by Psychology Fanatic
How we see the world, experience, emotions, others and everything else fundamentally creates our reality. A basic path to change is addressing faulty mindsets—the thought patterns preventing growth and happiness. Because our patterns of thought are so engrained, we don’t even notice their existence or impact, we may need help unearthing these powerful agents directing our perceptions and motivating our actions. However, our thought patterns, once identified are amendable to change, and once changed our reality transforms as well.
Beckham, E., Leber, W., Watkins, J., Boyer, J., & Cook, J. (1986). Development of an Instrument to Measure Beck’s Cognitive Triad: The Cognitive Triad Inventory. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54(4), 566-567.
Brown, Brené (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Hazelden Publishing; 1st edition.
Burgo, Joseph (2013). Why Do I Do That?: Psychological Defense Mechanisms and the Hidden Ways They Shape Our Lives. New Rise Press.
Duckworth, Angela (2016). Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Scribner; Illustrated edition.
Dweck, Carol (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House; Reprint, Updated edition.
Jacobs, G. M. (2019). Review of Mindset. International Journal of Pedagogy and Teacher Education.