This article will give insights on what is Growth Mindset, what is Fixed Mindset, Questions around mindset, Cogintive Dissonance, beliefs and questioning, mindset about life and how to test your mindset.
In the year 1954, a young American social psychologist named Leon Festinger and his two associates infiltrated a group of people who believed the world would end by catastrophic floods at the dawn of 21st December 1954  & . This belief came from a prediction by Dorothy Martin (alias Marian Keech), a Chicago homemaker who practised automatic writing. Mrs Keech promised her followers that the faithful followers would be picked up by a flying saucer and elevated to safety at midnight of 20th December. Many followers of this group quit their jobs, gave away their homes, and dispersed their savings, and were eagerly waiting for the spaceship to save them on 20th midnight. The remaining followers were doubtful and preferred to stay in their homes on the fateful night. At that point in time, Festinger made his prediction that all the followers who did not have strong commitment and did not come out of their houses, would eventually lose their faith in Mrs Keech, but the ones with strong commitment, who had given up their jobs and belongings, would further strengthen their belief in Mrs Keech’s mystical abilities. As the night went by, nothing happened. At 4:45 AM, Mrs Keech had a new vision and announced to her followers that the world had been spared because of the impressive faith of her followers. As Festinger had predicted, while the ones without a firm belief in Mrs Keech left, the ones with firm commitment shifted from despair to exhilaration and went on the streets trying to convince others to join their group based on the miraculous save of the Earth.
Later, based on his study, Festinger coined the term “Cognitive Dissonance”. Cognitive dissonance is a state of tension that occurs when a person has two cognitions (ideas, attitudes, beliefs, opinions). Consider the example of a smoker who has two inconsistent beliefs –
Belief-1: Smoking is injurious to health.
Belief-2: I need to smoke three times a day.
Because of these two contradicting beliefs, the smoker has to choose either of the beliefs. The smoker can choose to go with the first belief and can quit smoking or may feel an uncontrollable urge to smoke. In the latter case, he/she needs to reduce his/her cognitive tension by believing in some supporting arguments for belief-2. So, the smoker may come up with arguments like smoking is not so harmful or smoking is worth the risk because it helps relieve stress.
Beliefs dictate our Questioning
It is human nature to inevitably try to protect our own belief system and mentality or mindset. So, the questions that we ask in our minds are also linked to our belief system. Hence, if our belief system is biased, our questioning will be in a direction that ultimately supports our biases. Say, if you have a strong belief that you are unlucky, and you got rejected in a job interview, you will always pose questions like, “Why are they unjust to me?”, “Why do I always have bad luck?” or “Why is it not in my destiny?”. Such questions and their answers will eventually justify you as unlucky. In reality, better questions could have been, “What did I learn from this job interview?” or “Where do I need to improve upon to get selected in my next interview?”
In another example, consider the case of a college student, Raj, who has a crush on his classmate, Meena. On the annual day of the college, Meena is looking for a dance partner. So, she asks Raj to join her for the dance. However, if Raj has a self-belief that he can’t dance, Raj might frame a question, “How do I reject Meena’s offer without hurting her?” to avoid making a fool of himself in dance. Contrary to this, if Raj had a self-belief of being a good dancer, he would have wondered, “What dance steps should I do to impress Meena?” In the same situation, we are driven into asking different questions based on our self-beliefs. This belief or mindset bias is a key to understanding our questioning habits. So, let us have a closer look at the two types of mindsets.
Test your mindset
Our mindset determines how we look and perceive things happening around us. It is our mindset that governs our way of seeing our capabilities, our limitations, and our circumstances. Mindsets determine the parameters of our actions and explicitly or implicitly decide our outcomes. Here is a simple exercise to determine your prominent mindset. Look at the following set of statements and find out which mindset is more aggregable with your thoughts and perceptions.
|Mindset A||Mindset B|
|My life has been a constant struggle.||My life has been a joyful journey despite having ups & downs.|
|I have to always struggle a lot before I get anything.||Rewards may be big or small, but I am always rewarded for my efforts.|
|I have struggled since I was a kid.||I have had a fantastic childhood despite being punished several times.|
|My parents were not so rich/supportive.||My parents were not so rich/supportive, yet I have beautiful childhood memories with them.|
|I struggled with my school life.||During my school life, I faced some difficulties, but I have fully enjoyed it.|
|I have been struggling in my career/job.||I have had an exciting career/job profile and love to tackle its challenges.|
|My boss has made my life pathetic.||I enjoy my job despite having an annoying boss.|
|My business sucks.||My business journey has been a roller-coaster ride, and I have enjoyed it.|
|My relationships have always been painful.||There have been some hiccups, but I enjoy all my relationships.|
|My health has always been an issue.||My health has always been blissful, though it requires maintenance sometimes.|
If you find statements with mindset A more appealing, then there is a tendency that you will ask more of shit questions. If you agree more with mindset B, then probably you will not be framing shit questions in your mind or maybe framing it less frequently.
Types of Mindsets
The two mindsets are defined in literature with different names. For example, American psychologist Carol Dweck defines two mindsets as Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset in her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”. Renowned author and executive coach, Dr Marilee Adams, defines them as Judger Mindset and Learner Mindset in her book, “Change Your Questions, Change Your Life”.
In one mindset, the focus is more on seeking answers to finding the responsibility of problems rather than focusing on its actual solutions. The other mindset focuses on seeking answers for responding to life’s circumstances rather than being reactive to them. The focus is on learning, facing challenges and an optimistic approach. But what if you found from the above test that you are more inclined towards Mindset A, i.e., fixed or judger mindset? The good news is that mindsets can be changed and so can our questions and their answers. Here is a real-life example to show how changing the questions can change our destiny.
A woman once approached Dr Marilee after her workshop and said, “I have a problem and I want you to fix it for me. I love my job and it is the perfect job for me, but the problem is that I hate my boss and I am thinking of quitting my job because of him”.
Dr Marilee asked, “What questions about this problem you’ve been asking yourself over and over again?”
After careful thought, the woman replied, “How is my boss going to make me look bad today? And what wrong is he going to do today?”
Dr Marilee asked her to consider asking some new questions in her mind. “What is there to understand and appreciate about this gentleman? And what can I do to make him look good?”
The woman was not very convinced with these questions, yet she wrote them down and decided to give them a try.
Several months later, Dr Marilee met her again at some social gathering. She came rushing to her and asked, “Would you like to hear some miracles?”
Dr Marilee replied, “Sure, I love miracles”.
She said, “After that workshop, I’m still at my job. I got a promotion and I now have a much better relationship with my boss”.
The lady was having a judging mindset about her boss and so was framing questions in her mind accordingly. Dr Marilee asked her to frame a fresh set of questions that were based on learner mindset, which changed her mindset from judger to learner and ultimately yielded a fruitful relationship with her boss.
By employing a growth or learner mindset, the questioner seeks to learn from things and arrive at a solution, rather than engaging in blaming or fault-finding. A learner mindset leads us to be more optimistic and discover alternative solutions to problems. With a learner mindset, one thinks more objectively, creating solutions, and leading to a win-win situation.
By consciously changing to a growth mindset, we open up new possibilities and ask our questions more effectively. When communicating with others using a learner mindset, we ask more open questions rather than closed questions, which results in a flow of information and ideas, thus leading to problem-solving, innovation and effective teamwork.
On a lighter note…
Once a news reporter went to a mental office and asked the doctor, “Doctor, how do you differentiate between who is a mental patient and who is not?”
The doctor smiled and replied, “Using a washing machine test”.
The reporter was curious and asked, “What is this washing machine test?”
The doctor replied, “We take the person to a washing machine filled with water and offer him one spoon, one glass and one bucket and ask him to empty the water in the washing machine.”
The reporter said, “Ohh! I see. The normal person will use a bucket to empty the machine and the one who empties the washing machine using a spoon or glass is a mental patient. Nice technique.”
The doctor said, “No! The normal person would use the drain switch on the washing machine to empty the washing machine. Why don’t you lie down on bed no 39? There are some additional check-ups that we would like to do on you before admitting you!”
Above content is taken from my book “Ask it right – A guide to asking the right questions in your mind”, which is going to release in April 2022.
Excellent thought dear jiten. Keep it up. Once book release pl send a message i will purchase it.
Thank you for those kind words.
Sure I will send you a link to my book.
Keep on working, great job!