People who have a growth mindset and who see themselves as agents in their own lives are more open to new experiences, more willing to take risks, more persistent and more resilient in rebounding from failure.
— Susan David, Emotional Agility
This sense of agency intrigues me. I admit a low tolerance for people who don’t have it. Don’t get me wrong, there are clear victims in this world, but if someone chooses to stay in a bad situation or repeatedly lets other people down and then blames it on external circumstances, I don’t fully understand that. It might be an avoidant attachment thing. I value autonomy and self-reliance. As a coach and human, I am striving to gain understanding and figure out ways to empower others.
A fixed mindset is the opposite of a growth mindset. Fixed mindsets assume our skills or situation are set at a certain level and can’t be changed. For example, if someone believes we are born with a certain level of intelligence and no matter what we do we can’t improve it, that is a fixed mindset.
To me, people with fixed mind sets seem to settle. They accept a certain outcome or ability and do not use curiosity or openness to explore better results. That sense of power or agency gets ignored.
We all have challenges. We’ve all wallowed in self-pity or emotional/mental paralysis. I have many times. At some point, futility sets in and we realize this wallowing keeps us stuck (and it sucks). This is where a growth mindset and personal power step in. We can choose to go forward or we can stay mired in this existence we’ve accepted as fate.
I always believe in change or improvement. When I see people make the same mistakes over and over and then complain about it, I think to myself, “You are not chained to this path.” The same goes for those who complain about their relationships or lack thereof. Make a change. Either remove yourself from the relationship or work on it, but don’t gripe and not take any action. If you are single and not happy about it, instead of complaining about there not being any “good men/women out there”, work on becoming the kind of partner you would like to find. Working on our selves is always an option and shifts our mindset.
When clients come to me for coaching, I know they have a growth mindset. They have something they want to improve and they take action to do it.
Two things for growth
The keys to a growth mindset and agency:
Feel secure: Admittedly, it is easiest to see possibilities and opportunities if you are not striving to get your basic attachment needs met. If you do not feel safe, seen, secure and soothed, those will be your primary focus. Although, I believe it is possible to be open to opportunities to create security. It does not have to be left to others to find you and offer that safety. We can create it ourselves.
Take action: There is no growth without action. Just thinking or talking about it gets us nowhere. It’s a step in the right direction to consider change, but nothing gets accomplished if it remains only a thought. The more actions we take, the more empowered we feel. Even if our actions flounder, we still have a sense of taking the reins of our lives. We feel less stuck.
As Benjamin Hardy said in this awesome post on confidence, most people want clarity about their future before they take action but the truth is clarity comes from taking action. The more we do, the more we know and the more confident we feel. We take a step and survive, which gives us the courage to take another step toward our goal and survive too.
We can be dependent and still grow
Agency is important and so are relationships. Humans are naturally dependent. We need other people, but we don’t have to stay stuck because we don’t have someone to lean on. Don’t get me wrong, having a loved one, definitely helps, but if we are open to growth and our own power, everything, including relationships, improves.
Do you push the envelope or accept your fate as fixed? How much agency do you have?
Check out the latest courses on brendaknowles.teachable.com:
If you have wondered why you or your partner drift away from intimacy and togetherness this course will have answers for you. If there is withdrawing or distancing between you and your loved one and you would like understand why, Is It Introversion or Is It Insecure Attachment? will help.
Are you or your partner an introvert? Does he get tired and want to go home after a few hours of socializing? Does she seem happy to be intimate one day and need space the next? Introverts Explained can help you gain understanding about yourself or your partner.