What Is Mindset?
Mindset is defined as “an established set of attitudes held by someone.” This essentially boils down to what you think and feel about something or someone. That’s it. No other connotations, self-help lingo, etc. on that simplest definition.
Many of the other definitions I read were also more self-centered and introspective. For example, one of these definitions was “a series of self-perceptions or beliefs people hold about themselves that determine behavior, outlook, and attitude.”
Another definition was “established set of attitudes, esp. regarded as typical of a particular group's social or cultural values; the outlook, philosophy, or values of a person; frame of mind, attitude, and disposition. It may also arise from a person's worldview or philosophy of life”
These more loaded definitions are self-reflective on how a person relates to the world and their view of themselves and gives more weight and responsibility on the person with that mindset.
The word “mindset” is thrown around every 5 minutes now in conversations if you’re discussing an issue with something or someone with somebody then suggesting to you, “you just need to shift your mindset about it.” Which means just change how you think about it…
But what if someone is awful, a situation is awful, and you’re out here constantly trying to shift your mindset instead of working to fix the problem. What if the problem is not your mindset but the actual person or situation?
Mindset Talk & Types
The two kinds of mindset types I see the most hype around are:
Abundance vs. scarcity and growth vs. fixed.
Abundance vs. Scarcity Mindset
An abundance mindset believes that there are enough resources for everyone to “win” vs. those with a scarcity mindset believe that there is a limited number of resources so that someone’s win is their loss.
Growth vs. Fixed Mindset
Someone with a growth mindset views intelligence, abilities, and talents as learnable and capable of improvement through effort. On the other hand, someone with a fixed mindset views those same traits as inherently stable and unchangeable over time.
So you’re born with a set amount of skills or you’re not. So you’re either good at doing math or you’re not. You can either play guitar or you can’t. I will always struggle with XYZ. I’m the smart one in the family, therefore my brother is the athletic one.
In some capacity “enough” is the key to this mindset. Enough money, enough brains, enough time, enough clothes and things, enough attractiveness, enough of anything.
We’re taught to have this scarcity mindset all around us. Time is money and we need to make money because look at all the stuff we can buy with more money.
If a woman is conventionally beautiful then we should want to look and act like her because she’ll get all the men’s attention, which means there will be none left over for us-we get her scrap men. We now need to compete with her for something we’re told to want (all these men fawning over her for her physical appearance).
Whatever we have is never enough, for whatever reason, and anyone that has perceived “more” is better off and therefore taking it from us.
But this isn’t true and creates a hostility for anyone perceived to have something that you don’t. Capitalism feasts on this thought, flames these fires, and creates competition where there hadn’t been previously.
Capitalism thrives and in many ways is built upon this win-lose environment. This competition for market share (competing for customers to buy your stuff and lots of of it) and always grasping for more helps breed within us internally a scarcity situation.
In self help and business circles there’s a lot of talk around “mindset” and just shifting your thinking to become more positive and grateful. And I get where it’s coming from— if you shift from a negative attitude that you can’t fix something into a positive, you’re able to be more creative in your problem solving because you now think, “I can fix this if only I think of solutions...” Very helpful indeed.
But the issue I see is when any problem or real feelings arise the answer tends to be “shift your mindset.”
That’s cool in theory…but in reality, what if something needs to physically change, not just what’s going on in my brain in a vacuum?
We are taught to reframe our thinking, to just “be more positive”, “more grateful”, to self-affirmate your way to self love and manifest success with imagery and structured goals… but there’s evidence to suggest that a lot of these ‘gold standard’ control based techniques may not be as helpful as we’re encouraged to believe.
For example, if you’re in a bad relationship where you’re not feeling secure and loved because they keep ignoring calls, they’re in and out of your life, and you have to nag them to spend time with you, does it make sense to shift your mindset to think things like, “well, I know they want space so I just need to be okay with them wanting it. I need to stop being so clingy…I can love myself.”
Or would it make more sense to accept that this person is just flighty, doesn’t seem to actually care, and you can find someone else who can treat you better? Then you take the action to leave them once and for all?
YOUR mindset is not the issue here. The issue is the situation you’re in. Solution: get out.
Positive Mindset Doesn’t Equal Action
Just because you have a positive mindset doesn’t mean you are working on taking positive actions. You can still procrastinate, make excuses, and just generally not move forward. You still need to plan and get things done. Having a positive growth and abundance mindset doesn’t mean the battle is done
The mindset work is like the soil to grow your crops. There’s still actual work of planting, watering, weeding, tending to, and harvesting that needs to be done. This is way more than just making sure the soil is good for planting.
Related: “Why Manifesting Doesn’t Work Ep. 22"
Don’t Disregard My Feelings
When someone says to “shift” or “change” your mindset when you’re talking about real feelings and issues, it’s mildly insulting to say the least.
Yes it could be that you can shift how you’re feeling if you just take a different perspective on it but it might be best for you to instead take yourself away from the thing, person, or situation that’s causing this “mindset issue” to bubble up in the first place.
And trying to force yourself to shift your mindset and then feeling bad about your inability to do so might do more harm than good.
Forcing Positive Mindset
For me, I was in a relationship that I just couldn’t forgive the person and get past things that they had done and the hurt these actions had caused me. All the self help books and positive mindset stuff said to work on forgiveness as it’s only a toxin you carry with yourself and to move past it and see the good in someone and blah blah.
So for like 2 years I worked on my mindset of trying to reframe things by looking at okay these are the good aspects about them, here’s why they did the things they did, they didn’t mean to hurt you, blah blah, seeing their perspective.
But I was still having physical reactions in the presence of this person and couldn't “get over it.” I started to then feel bad about myself and like a mean person for not just moving through it like all the mindfulness stuff tells us to. Am I mean? Am I not compassionate for a person learning? Why can’t I just get over this?
Forcing myself to shift my mindset was creating more anxiety in myself and I realized it was better, for me, to just cut that person out until I felt ready to talk with them again.
Who knows if that day will come but the point is I kept putting myself in a situation with a person that I didn’t actually want to be around in an effort to kick myself into a different mindset and attitude towards them and the issues between us, but when that repeatedly failed I felt worse about myself because it was then a failing on my part that I couldn't make the shift no matter how much I worked on it and therapy I went to.
The solution, for the foreseeable future, is to just extricate myself from that situation with that person.
If I’m no longer around this person and aren’t there to deal with the things that get drudged up, then I don’t need a mindset shift because it wasn’t needed in the first place. It’s not needed because I have a right to feel the way I do and not want to be in that situation anymore.
The Courage to Change The Things I Can
Don’t get me wrong mindset is super important. It can help so much, it’s part of why therapy is amazing. It helps you become more objective and better able to see different perspectives so that you can shift into more positive spaces.
But, not everything is a mindset issue. If you’re upset or feeling a certain way, it’s for a reason. And if you can change that situation and not just your mindset, then you should do that.
So stop trying to force people to put up with things they don’t want to put up with. Stop trying to sell people things they don’t want nor need. Stop forcing positivity at people who don’t need it.
Maybe you’ve seen it tattooed on someone’s wrist, but the serenity prayer of is pretty solid:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Knowing the difference between what you can change vs. not is key. If you can’t change it then mindset it is. If you can change it, then don’t shift your mindset, your mindset might be an alarm alerting you something is wrong with a situation or person. Change the situation.
Mindset is only half of the equation. The other half is the “courage to change the things I can.” I’d add the “courage and determination to change the things I can.” Because you need both courage and the action of determination to make the wanted change.
Where do you feel like you have the most blockage in your life right now? Take a moment to really feel that in your body because the body doesn’t lie.
Is this blockage a mindset issue or is this a situation you need to remove yourself from or make some kind of change? There’s a difference, and like the serenity prayer says, the “wisdom to know the difference” is pivotal.
The remedy to any problem we have these days seems to be “you just need to change your mindset”— Bonus points if that person is selling you something. This mindset mantra, in a lot of ways, tells us that our feelings and experiences are either not relevant or invalid. What if what I’m saying is legit? What if I’m in an awful situation surrounded by awful people and I need to make an actual change, NOT just change how I feel and think about it? Don’t get me wrong, mindset is definitely important, but it’s not the cure for EVERY single problem.
In this episode we discuss:
The most often talked about mindset issues
The link between toxic positivity and mindset mantras
Being “enough” is the key to positive mindset. Having enough: money, time, clothes, attractiveness, brains, etc.
The disconnect between positive mindset and positive action to change situations and how to connect the two
Mentions in this episode:
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Questions, thoughts, and feels email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out the show notes for this episode at: bareminimumbabe.com/post/not-everything-is-mindset