We all have an inner critic, some more vocal than others. And while we do our best to stay positive, a fumble, misstep, or bad luck can start a mudslide of negative thoughts and judgements about ourselves and the world. We may not even be fully aware of these thoughts as they occur, but we notice when they add up, accumulating into a bad mood, depression, low self-esteem. This in turn affects our work and relationships. How can we solve this? By changing our mindset. The game of life is 99% mental, and our mindset, the framework of our thoughts, makes all the difference.
According to Carol Dweck, Ph.D., a Stanford Psychology professor who spent years researching why some people fulfill their potential and why some don’t, there are two major mindsets that can determine your success – the “fixed mindset” and the “growth mindset.” She finds that when people believe that their basic traits and abilities are fixed in what she calls a “fixed mindset,” they tend to limit themselves by avoiding challenges and have difficulty coping with failure. On the other hand, when people have a “growth mindset” and believe that their qualities are things that they can change and develop, then they tend to be better at learning new things, taking on challenges, and recovering from setbacks. Those who maintain a growth mindset in their endeavors, Dweck asserts, are the ones who succeed.
As you may have guessed, fixed mindset frames many of those judgemental thoughts and negative feelings that discourage and disable us during the regular workday. So how do we change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?
The key is self-awareness, or mindfulness. Be able to recognize thoughts arising from a fixed mindset, and catch them before they take root. However, so many thoughts flit through our minds within minutes, seconds, that this can be quite a challenge. I highly recommend writing things down, and regularly taking a moment to mentally check-in with yourself. A self-management method I devised helps you practice these two things and move out of a fixed mindset into a growth mindset. I call it the Perfect 15-Minute Day Method, or PDM for short.
PDM promotes self-awareness of your focus and train of thought, and encourages positive thinking. All it requires is a journal, timer, and the method itself. The method focuses your attention in 15-minute timed intervals, with breaks in between to check-in with yourself, your focus and your thoughts. The PDM Journal is a space to record your plans for these 15-minute sessions, jot down thoughts that arise and note your reflections. I find there are three major ways in which PDM promotes a change from fixed mindset to growth mindset.
For one, those stuck in a fixed mindset believe their basic abilities cannot be improved, and the PDM Journal can help disprove this. The PDM Journal serves as a record of your accomplishments, of your personal growth in your work over the short term and long term. In the short term, PDM calls for a daily End of Day Reconciliation of your notes. This encourages you to reflect on things you learned, skills you utilized and improved that day. In the long term, flipping back through the days, weeks, and months of your journal allows you to see how far you’ve come in your projects and endeavors.
Secondly, those in fixed mindset avoid challenge for fear of failure, and a core technique of PDM is to break down chunks of time and intimidating tasks into manageable bits and bites. The PDM timer technique of 15 minute focus intervals encourages you to get started on an intimidating task because it’s short enough to be approachable and long enough to make progress and gain momentum. MicroPlanning is a PDM technique of breaking large tasks into smaller steps, which helps you to think through and visualize exactly how you will do a challenging task. Together the timer technique and MicroPlanning encourage you to approach your work incrementally, 15 minutes at a time, one step at a time. Rather than seeing one big project that magnifies the potential of failure, you see many small, doable ones.
And thirdly, PDM encourages you to regularly check-in with your train of thought, listen to your thoughts and notice how they affect you, your emotions, your relationship with your work, and productivity. There are two tags utilized in the journal, Thought and Emotion. When a troublesome or distracting thought or emotion arises, PDM teaches you to jot it down, label it (what is the thought, what is the emotion?) and rate how distressing it is on a scale of 1-10. When those with a fixed mindset experience a setback they may label themselves as a “loser” or “failure.” PDM teaches you to label thoughts, not people.
If you’d like to learn more about how to utilize PDM, check out theperfect15minuteday.com. Let us know in the comments if the method helps you move out of the fixed mindset and into a growth oriented one. You can also look forward to part two of this article - how the PDM helps you maintain the growth mindset.