Here are the reasons why choosing a fixed mindset is a terrible thing for you, your children and everyone else.
Yes, it is a choice to stubbornly stick to an idea that you believe to be true even if those ideas have stopped serving their purpose. More often than not we refuse to budge, we refuse to even broach the subject - we will not change our mind and that is it. We might make a decision to believe something at ten years old and refuse to budge one inch, invariably taking that belief to our grave.
The two main reasons for this are found in 1) our evolution and 2) the ideology of our parents and grandparents. In my opinion, we need to start fighting against our evolution and the now redundant ideas our parents and grandparents have given us.
It is evolution's gift that we can choose to give back
In the past it made sense for us to stay put and stick to what was familiar. Day-to-day life was harder for sure, yet in many ways simpler and certainly slower-paced. You could count on your neighbours who were all known quantities, the seasons would come and go like clockwork and your crops would deliver everything required to live and survive.
Today, life moves much faster. We move quickly, not only around the globe as travel becomes easier and easier, but in our careers too. Statistics show we will have, on average, 22 different roles throughout out life and finally in our relationships, as friends and family become more transient the frequency of change continues to increase. Life has never been more convenient and comfortable, we find ourselves presented with so much choice that only promotes the continual search for better and greener pastures.
This shift from slow-paced parochial life to this fast-paced, never stopping, always moving forward lifestyle means that the fixed mindset that evolution gifted us has now become redundant.It is not useful for us anymore to stay comfortable and stick with what is familiar. And this includes our ideas!
The stories we have been told, that don't work for us anymore
We are a society that has confused comfort with happiness. Many of us are afraid of the unknown, afraid of what is unfamiliar or people we don't recognise. Our grandparents spread this fear to our parents and our parents spread it to us through stories and behaviour. I am sad to say, that we are still spreading it to our little ones.
This behavioural and ideological conditioning is limiting, particularly for our children. It is setting them up for some narrow world view that has simply now moved on and become huge. In my opinion the worst thing we can teach a child is that he or she should be like us, think like us or act as we do. Of course our intention is not to hurt or teach limitations, but it's true to say that we duplicate our unhealthy fixed ideas into our children. The risk is, as the world moves on our kids remain stuck and confused as they grow - their map of world (our map) doesn't match the new world they find themselves in, say 20 or 30 years from now.
As parents we teach our kids what we were taught by our parents. I am not saying that all ideas passed down from generation to generation are bad, of course much is gold dust. I am saying that we have a choice in what will be relevant for our children as they mature into adulthood and what will not. We can always look at ourselves too, it's not too late to let go of what simply doesn't work anymore.
You only have to look at the misguided ideas of many individuals with extremist views. Who in my opinion, are more often than not just acting out their parents' narratives and ideas. They're refusing to question the beliefs that have created so much tension, conflict and violence over the years because they're so used to them. These ideas have become a fixed and extremely toxic part of their identity.
So why do we follow the rules written by people that lived 60 years ago? Or still fight for some idea that is way past its sell-by date? These ideologies are losing, or have already lost.
I believe the answer at an individual level is in the fear of not belonging or the fear of judgement by our tribe, family or friends. We want to conform with these now useless ideologies, we are addicted to feeling comfortable. Nothing makes us feel safer than a sense of belonging to something, even if that something is ideologically outdated, useless or even dangerous.
We're all too used to reading newspaper headlines or seeing stories on the news about people who are carrying out offensive acts against others. In the search for validation, they often carry out violent acts shouting vague, uneducated and archaic statements.
These are the manifestations of fixed mindsets in an ever-changing world. Some people call it mental illness, which is correct to some degree. However, what is the real cause? If ignorance and fear, which is based on the fear of change or fear of other groups, is a story that we are teaching our children, then what could we do better? How can we correct this today, right now - even if I have a fixed mind and have been teaching that to others?
Here are FOUR things to consider about the choices you make for you and your children, what type of mindset do you want to have?
1) QUESTION EVERYTHING
Realise that you are not what has been given to you. You are not just what your parents have told you or what the media bombards you with. You can be much more than those ideas, which if you look at them might not be helpful or even rational.
The difficulty with this is that often our mindset has been provided through the stories, both cautionary and glorified, that are spread from father to son, mother to daughter and from friend to friend. These stories, while heavy with emotion, are programming us for our future. We are told to learn from them and to conform to their ideas, whether explicitly explained or implied.
What have you been told? Who do you fear? Why are you afraid? ... it may be time to start questioning the assumption or core ideas that you are walking around believing, thinking and acting out each day. What if they are not real or maybe used to be of some use but are not anymore? REMOVE LIMITATIONS!
2) BE FLEXIBLE
Start experimenting with change. Start to deliberately challenge some of your assumptions, some of the things you learned as a child or teenager. The things you went along with just to get validation from your parents. Or the things you went along with just so you could conform to the group. Those things could range from, "I must hate that football team just because my dad does" or "women are all bad drivers" or "gay people are unnatural" to "people should go back to their own country".
While these ideas seem small, the accumulated nature of gathering multiples of these all-or-nothing statements builds rigidity. And what happens to something rigid and hard? Well, it breaks only to create more fragility, separation and bigotry. If these ideas are expressed enough they become a habit. These habits can only be changed through conscious and deliberate questioning and flexible experimenting. WANT TO BE WRONG!
3) IGNORANCE IS BLISS
No one ever does anything unless they think it's correct for them. Whatever imaginative excuses and justifications they might find, they believe it's correct. I don't have all the answers and that's the point, we have to stop thinking we know the answer before we can even start to change our mindset from Fixed to Flexible. Which is difficult and uncomfortable for most of us to say.
The real trick is to enjoy being wrong. Even want to be wrong. Enjoy having someone change your mind or finding out some new information that allows you to grow. The only alternative is to remain blissfully ignorant and just keep on keeping on with blinkers on.
I choose the road of the uncomfortable and unfamiliar, the "I don't know" mind. It's an uphill climb, but with every step I can see more of the real world in all of its glory. EMBRACE THE UNCOMFORTABLE!
By Michael Carthy