Mindsets are all about internal cognitive wiring. Some mindsets are rigid and fixed, kind of like a broken clock only having the correct time twice a day. Other folks have a cognitive maze where thoughts can get lost, confused, or stuck in dead ends. I’ve encountered mindsets which remind me of wide open field of daisies where the occupant happily meanders around without specific direction. We’ve all found it exhausting to try and keep up with the “squirrel” mind who jumps from topic to topic.

Raise your hand if you’ve every eavesdropped on a conversation in a restaurant. Yup, every hand in the room went up! I have a “Spidey sense” for conversations illustrating mindsets. I’m fascinated by opportunities to get inside someone’s head and see all the wiring. It’s like opening up the back of a cuckoo clock and looking at all the mechanisms and how they work. I went out for breakfast this week and was completely intrigued by a conversation at the table in front of me.

“This is wrong,” said a man who looked to be in his late 50s. He was talking to the waitress who’d just brought the table’s food order. “I ordered this sandwich with the other kind of bread that I like,” he continued. “I want what I always get.” The waitress took the plate away saying she would check with the cook.

The man righteously complained about the incompetence of the restaurant staff to his two female companions for the next couple minutes until a manager approached the table. The manager explained they had experienced supplier difficulties and recently replaced the bread. He asked if the man wanted to try the sandwich he liked with the new bread.

“No, I don’t do change!”

Again, the manager explained the rationale for changing the bread, asking the man if he wanted a different type of bread or to change his order. Stubbornly, the man told him, “I don’t do breakfast” and insisted they look in the kitchen for the old bread. Eventually the man told the manager to leave the sandwich. I was hanging on every word, completely absorbed by the unfolding fixed mindset drama. It reminded me of watching Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory!

As the man picked up the sandwich, he shared with his companions how a dietician recently told him to change his diet, but he also informed her, “I don’t do change.” Two bites in, the man admitted the sandwich “actually tastes OK if I close my eyes but it’s not as pleasing to my open eyes.” There was absolutely no way on earth the man was going to be flexible and admit change could be good. His negative mindset was summarized by his concluding statement. “I got screwed once again,” he declared. “I finally found a sandwich I like and they go and mess it up. That’s the story of my life!”

Mindsets are the glasses through which we look at life. If you want to move forward toward your goals, examine your mindset. Fixed mindsets focus on the negative and bring discouragement and hopelessness. Growth mindsets look at hurdles as opportunities and challenges resulting in confidence and empowerment. Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck wrote an excellent book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” explaining how mindsets can be changed. I highly recommend listening to her Ted Talk on the power of believing you can improve.

Be an eavesdropper now and then and identify the mindsets around you. Negativity always limits growth. Change your mindset and you may change your life!

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