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Growing Your Mindset

Photo by Bruce Mars from Pexels

Growing your “mindset” is like growing a garden. The first thing you have to do is prepare the soil by ridding it of weeds. You also need to clear out any rocks and other garbage you might find in your garden plot, then enrich the soil for optimum seed growth. 


“Mindset” is a term that is being tossed around today. 

Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, states that “mindset” refers to the set of core beliefs we have about ourselves, our attitude, disposition, mood, intentions, and inclinations. 

Dr. Dweck developed the premise that we either have a “fixed” or “growth” mindset. If we have a “fixed” mindset we believe our potential is limited or fixed. With a “growth” mindset, we don’t limit ourselves  we believe that our potential, skills, choices, and intelligence are dynamic, changeable, and can be cultivated.”

Dr. Dweck spent years studying children in schools. She would take children around the age of ten individually into a separate classroom and give them two puzzles to work. The first one was easy. The second very difficult. 

She watched their strategies and probed with questions about what they were thinking and feeling as they struggled with the second puzzle. She discovered something she didn’t expect.

“Confronted with the hard puzzles, one ten-year-old boy pulled up his chair, rubbed his hands together, smacked his lips, and cried out, “I love a challenge!” Another, sweating away on these puzzles, looked up with a pleased expression and said with authority, “You know, I was hoping this would be informative!”

The original study was to see how children dealt with failure. She was surprised to find that some children were motivated and charged by failure. She discovered that these children knew that “intellectual skills” could be cultivated. They could learn from the challenge.

Dr. Dweck had been under the assumption that people were either smart or they weren’t and if they failed it meant they weren’t. She assumed that struggles, mistakes, perseverance did not play a part. The old premise stated that human qualities, like intelligence, were carved in stone and could not be changed.

Her studies showed that intelligence, personality and core beliefs could be developed and changed, rather than being fixed. 

Core Beliefs vs. Mindset

According to the research performed by Hart Research for ZERO TO THREE, core beliefs begin a week after conception and develop over time.

We all operate, make choices, and behave according to our core beliefs, whatever they are. Your experiences create your core beliefs which create your automatic thoughts, which are continually playing in the background of your mind. They direct how you evaluate new events and situations, continuously shaping who you are and what you are capable of. They control how you feel, what you say to yourself and others, and dictate how you will behave. 

To many of us, we rarely think about our mindset because our core beliefs and automatic thoughts control the way we handle situations. We’ve lived with our core beliefs so long that they have become unconscious and automatic.

Dr. Dweck’s research has shown us that we don’t have to operate on our old core beliefs. We can intentionally change them and determine how we are going to believe and respond to different situations by intentionally setting our mindset, very much like setting our intentions.

Story Intro

Harvey, a man in his mid to late thirties, couldn’t seem to get ahead in his personal life or his professional life. He had a degree in environmental engineering and had worked at the same company for about 10 years, working with soil testing and waste disposal systems. Every time a promotion became available, he was passed over.

His work started slipping. He missed several days per month. He grew a beard and let his hair grow, which was strictly against company policy because of the contaminates they worked around in the waste disposal system.

During his annual review, Harvey was put on probation because of work performance. Mandatory counseling with their company counselor was included as part of his probation.

Preparing To Plant

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

Photo by Bruce Mars from Pexels

Preparing your garden for change and success requires the same preparation whether it’s for business, personal or spiritual success. 

You have your garden plot which contains your perceived identity, perceived skill sets, and talents, perceived limitations and perceived social rank which are filled with weeds, garbage, toxins, and some nutrients. The first thing you need to do is weed your garden. 


The weeds are your core beliefs that no longer apply or serve you well. The first thing is to notice the weeds. You can’t pull them up if you don’t see them. 

To notice the weeds you have to pay attention to the words that come out of your mouth and the unspoken thoughts that go through your mind. Now, you are becoming aware of the weeds. 

Ask yourself these questions about what you say to yourself and others and the emotions that accompany the thoughts.

Start weeding your garden plot:

  • Are your thoughts negative or positive? 
  • Do they build you up or tear you down?
  • Are you complaining and finding fault or encouraging and finding solutions?

Identify the emotions and feelings behind these thoughts or statements?

Grab Your Phone

In an emotional moment, grab your phone, take a picture of your face. Allow yourself to feel the emotion. Write about it.

  • Describe the physical sensations you experienced (tense, a knot in your stomach, rapid breathing, sweaty palms, etc). 
  • What were you thinking? 
  • What did you do, your behavior or what did you want to do? 
  • Are you surprised by what you saw when you looked at the picture of your face? 
  • Do your thoughts and feelings change when you see your face? 
  • Is this how you want others to see you? 

You’ve noticed the weeds. Now, it’s time to get rid of the weeds that you have become aware of by looking at your automatic thoughts and accompanying emotions. Automatic thoughts can bring up emotions and emotional responses can trigger automatic thoughts.  Some changes are easy to make just by changing your automatic thoughts. 

  • I’m going to be positive instead of negative. Be aware. Catch every negative statement.

Others are more difficult because the core beliefs are multifaceted and require more work. We will start by making easier changes. 

Read these thoughts and identify any that you have thought. Add any different but similar thoughts that have gone through your mind.

  • I can’t do this. I’ll never get it right. 
  • She’s really going to be upset with me (when there really isn’t a good reason). 
  • I know I shouldn’t eat that piece of cake, but I’m fat anyway, what difference is it going to make? 
  • I can’t stop drinking. The last time I tried I got really sick. 
  • I know he’s having an affair. 
  • The boss said there was a possibility of a layoff. I know I’m going to get fired and I’ll never find another job. My family will leave me. I’ll end up living under a bridge, homeless. 
  • I’m not smart enough. I can’t do anything right. 
  • I’m too slow. I can’t keep up. I know I’m going to get fired. 
  • Things never work out for me. 
  • I’m not pretty enough. 
  • It’s his fault we’re in debt. Because of him, we’re going to lose everything. 
  • It’s not fair. I sit at home alone just so he can go jam with his buddies. It’s just not fair. 
  • Why should I try? Life is hopeless. I couldn’t do it anyway. 
  • I’ll never find a good job. I’ll never be able to take care of my family. 
  • If I didn’t have to work so much, I’d be happier. 
  • If I got more sex I’d be more loving. It’s all her fault. 
  • We’ve always done it this way, so you should listen to me. 
  • If she’d just be nice to me I’d love her more. 
  • I’ve given up everything for my kids and now they never come to see me.  
  • If I don’t eat with the family, they’ll check to see if I’m okay. 
  • She will do this or else. 
  • I’ll never get that promotion. I see she’s sleeping her way to the top.
  • If he loved me he’d know what I needed. I shouldn’t have to say anything. 
  • They don’t treat me right. I’ll teach them, I’ll leave. 

If you have become aware of other thoughts, add them to the list. Create your own list of negative automatic thoughts. 

Add the emotion you feel to the thought. Don’t spend a lot of time identifying the emotion at this time. We’ll deal with emotions later.

Now, select the one automatic thought that causes you the most problems or comes up the most often. It may be from the list above or one of your own. Answer these questions for that thought. Write as many details as possible. 

  • Describe the event, situation, or memory. 
  • What goes through your mind when you read or think about it.? 
  • If you remember when it first started, write about it. 
  • Describe any feelings you get when you read the statement or recall the memory (now work more on your feelings)?
  • If you have an emotional response, like sweaty palms, rapid heart rate, list them.
  • List any other thoughts or feelings that go through your mind when you recall the event. 

The questions above are just a place to start. Remember, you can’t change anything you are not aware of or acknowledge. There may be other questions you need to ask and answer. Write as much about yourself and your automatic thoughts and feelings as possible.

Starting Point

Know where you are starting from. It doesn’t matter whether you want to change your core beliefs and set your mindset for personal happiness, business/career success or spiritual growth. You need an accurate assessment of where you are starting.

Identify your positive points and characteristics, also. Don’t just focus on your negative core beliefs/feelings.

Make sure you enumerate both your strengths and your weaknesses.

Write down where you see your relationship, your business/career, and yourself spirituality in the future. This may include goals that you want to achieve. What changes do you need to make to achieve those goals? Set realistic time frames. 

Remember, you have lived with these core beliefs and feelings since childhood. They are habits. It takes time to create new habits and dismantles old ones. Extend love and patience to yourself.

1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

It’s time to change your childish ways!

God is available to help with the necessary changes. Ask Him.

Psalms 138: 8 “The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting;”

Harvey Goes To The Counselor

Harvey reluctantly went to his assigned appointment with the counselor.

“I don’t know what good this is going to do,” he muttered to himself as he walked through the counselor’s door.

Joan, the counselor, met him at the front counter as he walked in. He noticed the office was neat with several magazines to be perused if he had to wait. Harvey filled out the necessary paperwork then followed Joan back to her office. He noticed a fish tank in the corner containing some very usual fish. He looked at the tank.

“You can go look at the fish if you’d like, while I look over the information,” Joan said as she began paging through the papers she had been given.

When she looked up, Harvey had just taken a seat in front of her desk.

“Before we go any further I want to let you know that “what’s said between these walls, stays between these walls” except in four situations: children are being neglected or abused, a subpoena, where I have to report to the court, if the client is leaving with the intent to commit violence against another person, or if the client is leaving with the intent to commit suicide.”

Joan looked at Harvey who nodded his head, “I understand.”

Joan continued, “If items #3 or #4 were a concern I would try to get you help before calling the authorities. Do you understand?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“So, I see that you have been ordered to see me as part of your work probation. You’ve been here for close to 10 years and always had exemplary reviews until now. Can you tell me what’s going on? Do you have home problems?

“No, ma’am. It’s just me,” he paused and twisted in his seat like he was very nervous. “I really don’t know where to start.”

“Start anywhere.”

“I have really liked my job and the company, but I’m always getting passed over for promotions. I just don’t understand. I’m to the place I don’t think I care anymore. Some mornings I don’t want to get out of bed.”

Harvey paused looking at the floor.

“Okay, I’m going to give you a little exercise called 5 Things I Tell Myself.” 

Joan handed Harvey a handout for him to write on. It took only a few minutes for Him to finish and hand it back.

“That was easy,” he said.

  1. My boss doesn’t like me.
  2. My dad was right, I’ll never be good enough.
  3. I’ll never be able to support a family.
  4. I’m not smart enough.
  5. I’m not good at my job. I’ll never get it right.

Joan looks at the sheet, then riffles through the papers on her desk and pulls out a couple of pieces of paper.

“Okay, why do you say your boss doesn’t like you?” Joan asked.

“Well, every time I go to ask him a question he seems irritated with me like I’m bothering him.”

“This is what your boss says about you. Harvey is one of the best employees I’ve ever had. He’s very knowledgable. He’s really my go-to guy whenever I have a problem. He seems to be more than able to solve any problem. I wish I had more like Harvey.”

“Really, you’re kidding?” 

Joan handed him the paper so he could read it. He handed the paperback with a very confused look on his face.

“Why do you say you’ll never be able to support a family?”

“If I lose this job, I’ll never get another one. I can’t support a family on unemployment if I even get that. I’ll end up working at a gas station or something.”

“The boss does not want to lose you,” she emphasized. “That’s why you’re here so we can figure this out. Okay?”

Harvey shook his head.

“Why do you say you aren’t smart enough?”

Joan noticed tears starting to form in Harvey’s eyes. She scooted a kleenex box to the edge of the desk and waited for a response. He started to speak a couple of times, but couldn’t find his voice. Joan continued to sit quietly looking at the front edge of her desk so he didn’t feel like she was staring at him. 

Finally, he said, “I was probably 9 or 10 when I overheard my parents fighting. My dad said, ‘You know I didn’t want him. I wanted you to get an abortion, but noooo you wouldn’t go for that. I had to marry you and make a ‘family.’ You know that was the last thing I wanted in life. I didn’t want to be stuck with a wife and a ‘good for nothing kid.’ Now, look where we are.”

“My mother told him to leave. He packed his bags right then and moved out. My mother was served divorce papers a couple of weeks later. We haven’t heard from or seen him since. The words, ‘good for nothing kid’ sometimes echoes through my mind almost continuously.”

“Why? You finished engineering school. Look what you’ve accomplished,” she said with a wrinkled brow in disbelief.

“Yeah, I guess. I barely graduated. Towards the end of school, his voice echoed over and over and over in my mind. I started having problems focusing on school. I guess, I felt sort of like I do now.”

“Like now?”

“Yeah. Every time I walk into the boss’s office I see my dad. They’re about the same age and build and I hear his voice again.”

“Usually, these little things we tell ourselves aren’t true. They’re lies. They could have come from a parent, like your dad, a classmate, a sibling. It doesn’t matter where. But, before we know it, these little lies become self-fulfilling prophecies because we repeat them to ourselves.”

“You’ve been rehearsing this lie over and over and over. He was angry. We often say things we don’t mean when we’re angry”

“I know. But he never paid any attention to me. It was like he wasn’t there, but he was,” Harvey said.

“You do know that sometimes women trick guys into marriage by getting pregnant. They think the guy will change his mind once the baby comes and they settle down as a family.”

“My mother did say something like that one time.”

“The way it sounds, it’s not about you. This was between your parents. It has nothing to do with your abilities or your potential.”

The expression on Harvey’s face and his body language began to relax, “That’s crazy.”

“No, not crazy. Often, when we endure a hurt, like you did, and it’s never resolved, we rehearse those thoughts until they take on a life of their own. We blow them way out of proportion and accept them as reality. They then become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

“But what about the promotions? How does what I say to myself affect me getting a promotion?” he asked.

Joan was quiet for a few minutes looking at a paper on her desk. 

“I was going to tell you this later, but I think this is a good time,” she said, pausing again. “Your boss gave me another report that states there is a really good promotion coming up in a few months. He really wants you to have it, but there’s one problem. He says when a promotion comes up you seem to shrink back into a shell instead of putting yourself upfront like you are interested. He wanted me to work with you to change that before the promotion officially comes up.” 

Harvey sat looking at her in almost disbelief, “You’re kidding, aren’t you?”

“No, Harvey. I’m assuming that when a promotion comes up you start hearing your dad’s voice even stronger. Is that right?”

He nodded.

“Then, let’s get rid of his voice in your head, okay?”

“Yes, how do we do that?” he said a little more excited.

“That’s what we’re going to do next. On this paper I want you to write the opposite for each statement, so every time the thought comes into your mind you say the opposite, like this: 

“No, I’m not thinking that my boss really likes me and I’m going to do a great job for him.”

“Turn that negative thought into a positive thought. Repeat the positive thought until it begins to take over. Practice it over and over. Repeat the positive more times than you’ve repeated the negative.”

“I think I can do that,” he said.

“Good, I’ll see you at the same time next week. We’ll get through this. Trust me,” Joan said.


Follow Harvey and take the necessary steps to dismantle your negative core beliefs and automatic thoughts (weeds) that you’ve had since childhood. You have now identified them. Identifying and becoming self-aware of them are the first steps to dismantling and changing them.

What we will be doing in the next few posts is learning to grow a new “mindset.” For example, if you were a complainer, your new “mindset” could be one that compliments others. If you are one who finds fault and argues, your new “mindset” could be finding the good in others and being encouraging.

The first step to growing our “New Mindset,” do the opposite. Above in your core belief inventory, ADD THE OPPOSITE THOUGHT. So, when the old core beliefs and automatic thoughts pop into your mind, you change it to the opposite thought. For example:

“No, I am not thinking that I am thinking about my spouse and how much I love them and about God’s grace to me.”

“No, I am not thinking that I am thinking about how God is my supply. We have more than enough.

“No, I am not thinking that I am so blessed to have this job.”

“No, I am not thinking that I know, with God’s help, that I can make this business successful.”

“No, I am not thinking that I am so blessed to have the family I have.”

Get the point!!!  You can do this.

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