After my recent post, My Three Most Important Insights, I realized that a group of three skills complement these insights and these have contributed much to my life.
These skills are:
- Maintaining a growth mindset, the power of yet.
- The attitude that everyone is doing their best.
- Keeping a positive attitude.
Maintaining A Growth Mindset
The term growth mindset is the brainchild of Carol Dweck, a positive psychology researcher who has studied how people’s attitudes affect their learning abilities. Not surprisingly, she finds that one’s attitude toward learning ability plays a big role in learning new skills.
A growth mindset is an attitude that I can learn new things, given my willingness to work at it. It’s the attitude that I can learn to do anything I wish if I’m willing to invest sufficient time and energy in it. It’s the attitude that nothing limits me, but me.
Whether you think you can or you think you can’t—you’re right. ~Henry Ford
At the opposite end of the learning ability attitude is a fixed mindset. This is the attitude that I can do certain things and I can learn certain things, but some things are just beyond my ability. It’s the idea that I’m fixed in my ability to learn by genetics. Obviously, if I think I can’t learn something I won’t apply any time and energy to trying to learn it.
I am what I am and that’s all that I am. ~Popeye
Dweck found that the mindset people held, whether growth or fixed, was a significant factor in learning.
I’ve always leaned toward a growth mindset, though not completely. There was a time when financial dealings baffled me, and I believed understanding was beyond me. A required Finance course showed me that my lack of understanding was simply a lack of education and effort.
Now, even at my advanced age, if there’s some area I wish to know more about, or if my life or the lives of those I care about require more than I now know, I know that I can learn what is required or desired.
A growth mindset gives me confidence that anything I wish to learn is within my ability to learn should I choose to apply myself.
Everyone Is Doing Their Best
This one is tricky. Obviously, some people’s behaviors leave much to be desired. When I recognize they are doing their best at the time, even though it’s not the best they can possibly do, it allows me to be compassionate and empathetic.
When I remember that he or she is doing their best now, I’m reminded to ask myself some questions, such as: What is going on in her life now that might account for her behavior? What happened today to him that could cause his explosive outbreak?
After all, I’m not always at my best, my all-time best. But some days I can do things better than other days. I’m always doing my best, even if it’s not the best I can possibly do. Other people are likewise doing their best.
When I keep this in mind I’m more tolerant, compassionate, and helpful. Keeping this mindset helps me better relate and reinforce the relationships important to me.
Keeping A Positive Attitude
Sometimes it’s trendy to be negative. Naysayers always have an audience. But there’s a price to be paid for negativity. Positive people are known to be happier, more productive, more creative, healthier, and produce higher quality work. The research on this is overwhelming. Positivism pays.
Being positive does not mean ignoring negative events and possibilities. Being positive means that one understands the negative factors in an experience, but as soon as practical moves toward a positive outcome given the negative experience.
I’m not happy if a family member is ill or worse, or if someone I care about incurs a negative experience. I accept the negative aspects of life, and as quickly as I can move on, I move to embrace the positive next steps available.
Maintaining a positive attitude gives me some measure of control when negative events occur. This helps me move forward in acceptance and helps me apply a positive action in response.
Is a positive attitude unrealistic? No, but that’s what some will be thinking and saying right now. Actually, a positive attitude is highly realistic, as the only thing that can be done when life throws a nasty curve is to accept what occurred and take some positive action in response.
Featured image courtesy Flickr user Prashanth Dotcompals, used without change, CC Attr. Lic.