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Change your mind: Change your life!

Like many people, I kick off each New Year by setting some goals. It’s my way of being sure I’m heading in the direction I want to go for the next 12 months, not just where the tide takes me. It’s a shame that New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap. I get it; year after year, the number of new gym memberships soars in January, and workout classes are packed for the first few weeks of the year. Then enthusiasm yields to old habits, and life returns to normal. The optimist in me thinks it doesn’t have to be that way. For me, staying committed means writing down what I want to accomplish, then taking the small steps to move towards each goal. It is passion and dedication in tiny increments.

In 2019, I focused on improving my health (daily meditation and personal training have made a difference in my life), my personal space (I still try to follow the wisdom of Marie Kondo to keep my life in order, and we redesigned our workspace last year), and setting new financial goals (like investing in a big family vacation, which was fabulous!). I was able to do these things because paying off my mortgage in 2019 freed up some resources. I don’t achieve every goal every time, but my success comes from what I learn in the process—and sometimes the lesson is simply, “Nope, this doesn’t work for me after all!” 

This year, one goal is to change my mindset from a ‘fixed mindset’ to a ‘growth mindset.’ One source of my inspiration is the bestselling book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck. Though I realize I am very late to the party on this one (the book came out back in December 2007), I’m finding that the lessons have stood the test of time. The ideas also mesh with an advisor-coaching program I’m enrolled in, much of which focuses on developing more effective ways of thinking rather than doing. (After more than two decades in financial services, I have most of the doing down to a science!)

In Mindset, Dweck writes about the differences between two types of mindsets. A ‘fixed mindset’ is rooted in the idea that our fixed traits can’t change. A ‘growth mindset’ embraces the possibility of change and progress through intentional effort, smart strategies, and learning from our mistakes. While I’m still working my way through the book, here’s why I’m so excited about where this change will lead me—and why you may want to consider giving it a read:

  • A growth mindset quells the fear of failure.
     Does the fear of failure ever haunt you? Do you hesitate to try something new because you might not be great at it… or even good at it? Pushing yourself toward a growth mindset enforces the idea that failure isn’t as tragic as fear, and it certainly isn’t the end of the game! Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because his editor felt he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Twelve publishers rejected J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone before Bloomsbury Publishing offered her a modest advance to “give it a try.” As Winston Churchill once said: “Failure isn’t fatal, and winning isn’t final.”
  • A growth mindset gives you the freedom to stretch your limits.
    Many of us learned our limitations early on. We’re told we’re not geniuses, that we should accept our station in life (especially as women), or not to get “too big for our britches” and strive for greatness. And yet, in reality, IQs are not fixed, new approaches often create new outcomes, and only you have the power to limit how great you can be. Whether your goal is to build on something old or explore something completely new, choose the mindset that gives you the freedom to stretch yourself and reach for new outcomes and opportunities.
  • A growth mindset allows room for change.
     I hear opinions stated as truths every day. “My husband is better with money... I’m the creative one.” “My sister was always the student… I was always the troublemaker.” “I’ve always been intimidated by investing… I’m too old to start now.” And yet, time and again, I’ve seen those “truths” shattered when a spouse dies, or a job change happens, or something shifts to challenge those old beliefs. Whether the change is forced on you or you are proactively choosing to take a new path, embracing a growth mindset gives you the perspective you need to push ahead and allow room for changes big and small. Start by recognizing that many (or most!) of those old “truths” are not absolute, then figure out where they came from and strive for change.

When you learn to look at the world with a growth mindset, you can really soar—and believing in that possibility can give you a sense of personal freedom. You realize that the limits are self-imposed; that they are truly all in your mind. If you’re looking for ways to make some personal changes this year, Mindset can help you take some important first steps. James Clear’s Atomic Habits is also a great read (and seems to be the book everyone is talking about at the moment!), and Getting Things Done by David Allen offers some valuable insights into productivity. Whether you choose to dive into a bestseller or find inspiration somewhere else entirely, I wish you a wonderful decade ahead full of positive change and personal success—whatever your vision and goals!