Having a Growth Mindset

In her book “Mindset”, Stanford University professor of psychology, Dr Carol Dweck, describes how her over 20 years of research has determined that “the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life” and, if I may add, what you get out of life.

She describes two different mindsets:

If you have a FIXED mindset you are most likely to believe that your qualities (and those of others) are unchangeable. That you are born with a certain IQ, a certain personality and certain other characteristics and these cannot change. Then you fail at a task it is a bad reflection on you, so you are less likely to take chances, acknowledge when you do make a mistake, and are more likely to blame others. Failure is an indictment of your worth.

However, if you have a GROWTH mindset, you believe that with effort you can improve your qualities and attributes, moderate personality traits and other characteristics. When you fail at a task you use it as a learning experience, you are open to new experiences and challenges, and you take responsibility for your own actions. You accept that outside factors can affect your success or failure, but you are less likely to blame other people. Failure is a learning experience, a problem to be solved.

As you might have guessed from the previous paragraphs. having a growth mindset is the option which best allows us to flourish, though for many people it is doesn’t come naturally. For myself, a growth mindset did not come naturally but developed over time as I observed and reflected on the world around me. If you do feel you have a fixed mindset I would recommend reading this book for its many examples which can guide you towards a growth mindset.

It is worth noting that mindsets may vary in different aspects of our lives. For example, I find it easier to have a growth mindset about my ability to learn something technical than I do about my ability to draw or to sing. Our previous experiences do have some effect on our mindsets.

A growth mindset is not only important in how we view ourselves, it is also important in how we view others. Research has shown that children do better in class when their teacher has a growth mindset. Similarly, a growth mindset in the workplace is likely to encourage collaboration, ongoing professional development and reduce stress.

In conclusion, “Mindset – How you can Fulfil your Potential” by Professor Carol Dweck is a very thought provoking and potentially life changing book, especially if you find fear of failure or the need for constant validation holding you back from what you want to achieve in life.

Resources

There is an excellent visual summary of Mindsets here which is particularly directed towards how to support children to growth.

Mindset – How you can Fulfil your Potential by Carol Dweck

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Wisdom from History

There is a lot we can learn from those who have come before us, particularly those who have made the world a better place through their thoughts and actions. The following are a list of links of inspiration words and quotes from some of history’s great minds.

Mahatma Gandhi – 10 rules for changing the world – An insightful collection of inspiring and thoughtful quotes from Gandhi whose view that to change the world you had to take responsibility for yourself and others

Top 10 Eleanor Roosevelt Quotes – My favourites are numbers 9, 6 and 3

 

 

Art and literature also provide wisdom through the words of their authors and characters:

29 Wise and Inspiring Shakespeare quotes

 

 

Quotes from Science Fiction Writers

I love science fiction because it pushes us to think beyond what we already know and understand (and spaceships and lasers are cool!).

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” (Foundation series – Isaac Asimov, author)

“We have to create the future, or others will do it for us. … we have to care for each other because if we don’t who will? “(Babylon 5 TV series, written by J Michael Straczynski)

“Understanding is a three edged sword. Your side, my side and the truth.” (Babylon 5 TV series, written by J Michael Straczynski)

 

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Five Factors to Flourish

In his book “Flourish” (how could I NOT read a book with that title!), Martin E.P. Seligman, describes 5 key elements which help us to flourish:

  • Experiencing positive emotions
  • Feeling engaged
  • Having meaning
  • Experiencing accomplishment
  • Having positive relationships

Let’s look at these one by one.

 

Experiencing positive emotions

It probably seems rather obvious – if we experience positive emotions it puts us in a happy mental state where we achieve more and enjoy live. The challenge is that life isn’t always a series of Pollyanna sunshine moments. The trick is how do we maximise positive emotions and experiences in our lives while minimising our negative ones. There are a number of ways to do this. The Stoic approach to life is one I find personally useful. Learning not to take negative behaviour by others personally is another thing that has helped me. Taking pleasure in the little things every day, whether it be the sun on the back of your neck, a favourite food or smell, stepping into a warm room on a cold day – when appreciated fully these create a positive emotional experience.

 

Feeling Engaged

Feeling engaged means that you are doing something you enjoy. It is probably something which challenges you enough to keep you interested but doesn’t create too much stress. While you don’t have to enjoy everything you do, it is important that there are some things in your life which you find engaging. Ideally, you find at least some aspects of your job engaging, your relationships with others, your sports or hobbies. Looking forward to doing something signifies engagement. You may find that the things your are engaged with also connect to the next factor.

 

Having Meaning

The happiest people are often those who have worked out what they want to do with their life, i.e. they have worked out what gives their life meaning. Some people find this easier than others. It can be useful to use different tools to try and understand what gives our lives meaning – one good place to start is by identifying what our values are.

Identifying your core values is a start. Another thing to consider is that many people find meaning in doing something that contributes to the wellbeing of those around them or to the greater good of society in general.

 

Experiencing Accomplishment

Taking satisfaction in the tasks we accomplish every day, big or small, contributes to a happy life. It is important to take time to congratulation yourself on the things you accomplish, whether it is landing a new account at work, making a freshly laundered bed or doing something special for a friend.

If the idea of acknowledging your accomplishments seems foreign to you, try taking five minutes at the end of the day to identify three things you achieved during the day and how you contributed to the success. I predict you will find it boosts your happiness levels.

 

Having Positive relationships

No one is an island. Modern society connects use with hundreds if not thousands of people every year, either in person, or more often via media such as Facebook. Having some positive relationships has been demonstrated scientifically to contribute both to happier and longer lives. I’ve emphasised the word “some” in the previous sentence because it is not healthy to expect to have positive relationships with everyone. Sometime we have fleeting negative experiences with other people. Most often these a due to other things going on in their lives – so we should not blame ourselves or dwell on it. Sometimes we meet those who have such a negative effect on us we need to minimise our contact with them. Most of the time, however, if we approach others with a positive and thoughtful attitude we will get a positive experience back.

 

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About Eudaimonium

Eudaimonium is a concept often associated with Greek philosopher Aristotle, and most accurately translates as “human flourishing”. This concept was core to Aristotelian philosophy which explored how to maximise human flourishing/happiness. It is a concept that strongly resonated with me the first time I read about, and understood, it.

If you google “eudaimonium” you will most likely find the term “eudaimonia” come up first. This is the plural form of eudaimonium. I have purposely chosen to use the term eudaimonium in naming this website, because while there are many common features in what makes us happy as human beings, we all flourish under slightly different conditions. In life you need to find your own path – what I offer are some general guidelines based on my experience.

This website comes from over thirty years of me trying to understand what makes use flourish. It started for me as a socially awkward teenager – What was the purpose of life? How did/could I fit in? What did success mean for me? Then as an educator, what was the best way to help my students flourish? Finally as someone now responsible for the development of the teams I work with, how do I help them flourish?

Over the past 35 years I have read broadly to try and answer these questions. This has included studying and reflecting on a wide range of topics including communication, leadership, negotiation, psychology, leadership and happiness. Because eudaimonia varies from individual to individual, you may not agree with everything I write, but hopefully it will provoke some helpful thoughts and reflections. Given the thousands of hours I have spent studying these topics, and applying them where I can, I hope at least I will be able to save you some time. I will be as concise as possible, and will include references to other resources for topics you find interesting and wish to find more information on.

I recommend you start with the Main Topics menu to get a feel for what this site covers.

 

Note – I started this website/blog on 1 January 2018, so it is still in its early stages. I will try and add content as quickly as possible.