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Weekly 3: How do you handle change (i.e., life)?

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Idea Journal Weekly 3

November 7 · Issue #216 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.


Summary: Change is, in many ways, the essence of life. So if you’re bad at handling change, are you also bad at life? It’s a question worth exploring. In the meantime, here are a few ideas to help you get more comfortable with change.
(~4 min read)

#1. Match your mindset to your environment
Psychologist Carol Dweck says in an interview that to learn effectively in a dynamic environment, you need a growth mindset.
She notes that people tend to have one of two mindsets: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
Someone with a fixed mindset believes that their abilities can’t change. For example, after giving an unsuccessful speech, their reaction is: “I’m just not good at public speaking.” 
The problem with this interpretation is that it can become self-fulfilling – discouraging practice of the skills that would make them better.
On the other hand, a person with a growth mindset believes that their abilities can change over time through coaching, education, and practice. Their reaction to delivering an unsuccessful speech is to try to understand what went wrong and improve.
This mental flexibility is even more important in a changing environment.
As Dweck points out: “this is a time of tremendous change where, like it or not, you’re going to have periods of confusion. Like it or not, you’re going to turn into a novice over and over again. And we need to be comfortable with struggle, not just effort, but struggle, confusion.”
Dweck writes in her book Mindset that a key step in developing a growth mindset is understanding your current tendencies.
She offers the following exercise to help you gauge whether your mindset is fixed or flexible. 
Read the four statements below, and for each one decide whether you mostly agree or mostly disagree: 
1. Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much.
2. You can learn new things, but you can’t really change how intelligent you are.
3. No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit. 
4. You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.
Statements 1 and 2 reflect a fixed mindset, and 3 and 4 reflect a growth mindset.
Which mindset did you agree with more?
#2. Changing your mind can change your life
Entrepreneur Derek Sivers writes on his blog that the idea of a fixed versus growth mindset is one of the most important concepts he’s ever learned.
For Sivers, the difference between the two mindsets is similar to the difference between nature versus nurture:
“People in a fixed mindset believe you either are or aren’t good at something, based on your inherent nature, because it’s just who you are. People in a growth mindset believe anyone can be good at anything, because your abilities are entirely due to your actions.”
But as Sivers points out, having one mindset or the other isn’t simply an intellectual exercise–it can influence your entire life. 
Here are some examples: 
  • With a fixed mindset, you stick with what you know to maintain your confidence. With a growth mindset, you maintain your confidence by constantly pursuing the unfamiliar, to ensure that you’re always learning.
  • With a fixed mindset, you want to hide your flaws so that you’re not considered a failure. With a growth mindset, your flaws are simply things to improve.
  • With a fixed mindset, the outcome is what matters most – if you fail, you think the effort was wasted. With a growth mindset, the process is what’s most important, and the outcome matters less.
  • With a fixed mindset, you believe that if you’re romantically compatible with someone, then you should share all of the same views and everything should just come naturally. With a growth mindset, you believe that a lasting relationship comes from effort and working through inevitable differences.
#3. “Try to change your mind about one thing every day”
Author and professional poker player Annie Duke says in an interview that when you’re trying to find out what’s true about some issue, it helps to seek out dissenting ideas and opinions.
People who can honestly and productively disagree with you are allies in your search for the truth.
For Duke, this is especially true with strongly-held views: “The fact is that when two extreme opinions meet, the truth lies generally somewhere in the middle.”  
Without exposure to the other side, you will naturally drift toward one extreme and away from the truth. 
What holds many people back from this approach is the fear of being wrong. 
But as Duke puts it, instead of being fearful, you should feel good about truly hearing those who disagree with you. 
After all, “being wrong is just an opportunity to find more of the truth.”
Quote of the week
“The natural ups and downs of life can either generate personal growth or create personal fears. Which of these dominates is completely dependent upon how we view change.
Change can be viewed as either exciting or frightening, but regardless of how we view it, we must all face the fact that change is the very nature of life.
If you have a lot of fear, you won’t like change. You’ll try to create a world around you that is predictable, controllable, and definable. You’ll try to create a world that doesn’t stimulate your fears. ”
- Author and journalist Michael A. Singer in his book The Untethered Soul
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