by Michele Parrish


At Parrish Partners, we believe in leading with your strengths and focusing on “that one thing” that holds you back to in order to get to a higher performance state.  For a large percentage of people, “that one thing” is “mindset”.  What is mindset?  Think of it as the overall philosophy or belief set of a person or group, the assumptions, methods, and even the meaning applied to a given set of circumstances.  You can think of mindset much like the operating system of a computer, it forms the basis for how work gets done, or doesn’t get done; it’s very fundamental.

How much do we really know and understand about this concept called mindset?  The field of neuroscience has exploded in recent years, yet mindset is still something we are gaining understanding of in terms of how it works and how to shift or change it.  If you do a quick search on Wikipedia for “mindset,” you will see that we are “missing” data and fundamental research on this concept.  The mind is still a mystery in many ways, and we are all challenged to become better masters of our mindset.

How can we check-in on our mindset and diagnosis if it is holding us back from making progress on our most important goals and initiatives?   Is our current mindset preventing us from setting new goals and thinking beyond our current situation?  Since mindset is like the operating system of our mind, we tend to forget that it influences everything we do.  Are we optimistic and willing to dream and explore new opportunities?  Or are we limiting what’s possible with our own beliefs and unwillingness to try new things or set higher expectations for ourselves?

One of the thought leaders today on mindset is Carol Dweck. Carol has made the distinction between growth mindset and fixed mindset and how these different mindsets respond to failure.  Those with a “fixed mindset” believe that abilities are mostly innate and interpret failure as the lack of basic abilities while those with a “growth mindset” believe that they can acquire an ability or capability provided they invest effort or study.  Dweck argues that the growth mindset “will allow a person to live a less stressful and more successful life.”  Why?  The growth mindset implies that we have more control over our life and our ability to create change for ourselves.

Yet, even those with a growth mindset can occasionally be limited by a mindset such as “thinking small” vs. “thinking big” or thinking they are not deserving of success (including high financial rewards).

What should we do if we find that our mindset is limiting us?  Like an operating system, a mindset can be reprogrammed.  Many tools exists for modifying mindset:  daily positive affirmations, awareness building (mindfulness), reading books and watching videos, mentorship, coaching, and more.  Use of tools produces deposits toward a positive, healthy mindset.  We must invest in positive thoughts to eliminate, or at minimum counterbalance, the negative thoughts that hold us back.

In our popular culture, we often talk of mindset by using labels that help us understand or identify the issue.  Just like saying the Microsoft operating system or the Apple operating system, we seem to instantaneously understand a complex operating system simply by knowing its name.  Here are examples of mindsets that have formal names:

  • Gratefulness Mindset (something we tend to practice more this time of year!)
  • Abundance Mindset (and it’s opposite, scarcity mindset).
  • Entrepreneurial Mindset
  • Service Mindset
  • Blue Collar Mindset
  • Theory X vs. Theory Y (in reference to a Management mindset)
  • Growth vs. Fixed Mindset (as shared above)

Most of these mindsets do not require a lot of explanation.   People typically understand what we mean by them.  A similar word for mindset is paradigm; a paradigm is a general way of thinking about life, success, and what is possible.

While mindset is more of a paradigm or way of seeing things, attitude is more fluid.  Attitudes can shift and change by the day or even the moment.  We may have a positive attitude in one moment and a negative attitude the next.  We are often more aware of our attitudes than we are our mindsets.   Perhaps it is because our attitude is always changing that we are more aware of it.

So what does it take to master one’s mindset?  First, it takes awareness.  What is your current mindset?  Take some quiet time to figure it out.  Name it if you can; there is value in being able to articulate or express your current mindset.  Note that we aren’t asking about attitude; that will go through more frequent swings.  Mindset is more static and stickier (i.e. more resistant to change).   To change one’s mindset, one must consciously decide to think differently.  This requires us to learn, to grow or otherwise to move from a previously unconscious or lower level state.

As I write this article, I realize my mindset about writing has been one that might be called “perfectionism.”   By expecting everything to flow effortlessly and into beautiful perfect form, I have been preventing myself from just diving in and getting started.  Conversations with accomplished writers and reading about writing were two things that helped to push me out of that mindset.  One article, in particular, was effective for nudging me out of my perfectionist mindset.  The article stated that all writing is simply the next revision.  You can always improve or attempt to perfect the written word.  The author’s advice is to think that whatever you are writing is just the next revision.  That seems to stick, or better yet, unstick me, from my rigid thinking.  Another author advised, “just get it out and get it done.”  This quantity based vs. quality based message also seemed to push me from contemplating to doing.   My new writing mindset is “get it done.”  I like that.  It moves me!  And so does a favorite quote by Vince Lombardi, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

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