After we have our spiritual framework in place, including having a clear sense of what’s important to us in our lives, it is often our mindset that holds us back from reaching our goals and fulfilling our potential – what could be.
According to Jim Kwik, author of the book Limitless, a mindset refers to the “deeply held beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions we create about who we are how the world works, what we are capable of and deserve, and what is possible.” In other words it represents our own thoughts and beliefs about our reality and how things work. Our mindset is the lens through which we see ourselves and the world around us.
From learning to reframe limiting beliefs (which stop us before we even begin) to changing the way our body reacts to things, a mindset shift is one of the most powerful things we can do to help us reach our goals and change our lives! After all, if we don’t believe something is possible, then our actions will reflect, even if that belief is false.
We can have different mindsets for different topics (e.g., health, fitness, nutrition, relationships, spirituality, weight loss, work, etc.) and in different situations (e.g., at the gym vs at home, romantic relationships vs friendships, etc). Essentially, we can have a mindset about anything and everything!
Our mindset will determine what we think is possible, ultimately determining the goals we set and the actions that follow.
Our mindset about a certain subject will determine our relationship to it: our actions follow our thoughts and beliefs.
This has a lot to do with what psychologists refer to as locus of control – the extent to which people feel that they have control over the events that influence their lives.
A more internal locus of control means that you believe that you have more control over the events that influence your life. A more external locus of control means that you believe that you have less control over the events that influence your life. Extremes at both ends of the spectrum can become unhealthy and self-destructive.
For example, if you believe that your physical abilities can be cultivated and developed, you will be more likely to be proactive about improving it; if you believe that our physical abilities are fixed, then you will likely spend less time and energy trying to improve it (the “what’s the point?” attitude). If you don’t believe it can happen, it is less likely you will do anything to make it happen (even if it is possible).
Our mindsets can also determine our physiological reaction to certain things that happen to us. For example, one study found that people who viewed stress as beneficial and performance-enhancing (our “stress mindset”) were more likely to release more DHEA into their brain during stressful situations – a chemical released in the brain that promotes brain growth and learning. In psychology, this is termed “expectancy confirmation” or “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
In order for responses like this to occur, the belief about something must be true. In other words, you can’t just believe something into existence (e.x., believing that eating lots of sugar is healthy or that watching TV can help you build muscle). A healthy mindset is more about shining a light on something that is true and what is possible. However, if we have a false mindset about something that is true, we may miss out on the benefits.
Since we can have a mindset about literally anything, we will not be giving you an exhaustive list of which types of mindsets exist within the field of health & wellness. Rather, we will give you a couple of common examples from which you can draw out common patterns, which you can then apply to your own personal health & wellness.
Here is an example:
Unhealthy mindset: “I am genetically predisposed to be overweight”
Healthier mindset: Genetics load the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger
The first mindset starts with a belief about reality (I am genetically predisposed to be overweight) which leads to motivations. In this case, this belief will lead to low motivation, as the belief indicates that your destiny is set, and that there is nothing you can do about it. This motivation (or lack thereof) will likely lead to inaction, thus reinforcing the original belief. It’s a vicious cycle.
The “healthier” mindset that “genetics load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger” indicates a more internal locus of control, which leads us to take action, resulting in a higher likelihood of us possibly shedding the unwanted weight.
This doesn’t mean that we believe something that’s not true. Maybe an individual’s genetics truly do make it more difficult for them to drop weight. But the belief that you have to be overweight as a result is like handicapping yourself before the race even begins.
Again, our mindset & beliefs determine our motivations, which, in turn, determines our actions and behaviors. It is these actions & behaviors that get us the results we want, allowing us to live the life we want.
Here are a couple of other common examples:
Unhealthy mindset: I have to eat healthy 100% of the time in order to be healthy.
Healthier mindset: I can eat foods that are in line with my goals and still enjoy them without feeling restricted and deprived. Sometimes, it’s OK to dial it back based on my current needs and circumstances.
Unhealthy mindset: Stress is the enemy.
Healthier mindset: Stress isn’t inherently bad.
Unhealthy mindset: The more I do, the better I will be.
Healthier mindset: There is a balance between doing and resting. A lot of the time, quality outweighs quantity.
Unhealthy mindset: “Healthy” is a one-size-fits-all type of look and feel
Healthier mindset: “Healthy” can mean something different to everyone. Whereas there are general guidelines for everyone, these guidelines can become highly individualized.
These are simply some common mindsets that we have encountered with our clients time and time again here at Mbody. There are an infinite number of mindsets, and, just like everything else, one specific mindset may or may not work as well for one individual as for another.
What are some unhealthy and debilitating mindsets that you notice you hold in your life? Be honest and nonjudgmental with yourself. Are there specific thoughts and beliefs that may be holding you back from living the healthiest, most fulfilling life you can?
A lot of the time, we try to avoid confronting our current beliefs. It can be painful. Not only are we challenging our own beliefs, but when we adopt a healthier and truer mindset about something, it automatically forces us to take responsibility for our thoughts and actions. We are now accountable to what we know is true, and only we are to blame if we fail to take action.
Yes, it’s hard. But it may be one of the most impactful forms of self–compassion & self-care you can perform to help you live the life you want.
Now that we know what a mindset is and why they are important in helping us achieve our goals, how do we actually create a lasting mindset shift?
According to Kelly McGonigal in her book, The Upside of Stress, psychologists have outlined at least 3 key components to a successful mindset shift:
- Learning the new perspective
- Applying the new perspective
- Sharing the new perspective
Here is an example of somebody who is actively trying to shift their mindset about learning from “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” to “intelligence & ability can be cultivated & developed with effort” (termed by Carol Dweck, author of the book Mindset as a “growth mindset”).
- The individual informs him/herself through reading, watching videos, talking to a coach, seeing it in other people, etc. about how we truly learn and develop
- The individual applies the newly learned information by implementing learning strategies in his/her own routine
- The individual is able to teach others that learning is possible with effort
In order for a mindset shift to occur, the individual has to genuinely want to change it. If an individual does not want or see the need to shift their mindset, their mindset will not shift. In fact, pressuring someone to adopt a specific mindset when it is not wanted may push them farther in the opposite direction (a term called “psychological reactance“).
We cannot expect our mindsets to shift immediately within a day or two, especially if this mindset is deeply rooted, and has been present for years or decades. However, the field of neuroscience is showing that our brains can rewire itself through our thoughts and beliefs, creating new pathways the more we reinforce new mindsets, and degrading old pathways of mindsets we entertain less often.
Now that you have learned how mindsets work, and how to shift them, you can use the 3-step process to shift your mindset about mindsets, taking one of the first and most foundational steps toward living the life you love!