I was scrolling on Twitter recently, as I’ve been wont to do this year, and inadvertently stumbled upon something that shook me, and also illustrated something I’d been studying: the differences in growth vs. fixed mindsets.
If you’re not familiar with Twitter, the newsfeed will occasionally let you know about someone you know following someone else – you know, in case you know them or like them and want to follow them, too. So that’s how it started…I saw that a friend of mine followed someone whose handle sounded like the name of another friend of mine. I clicked on the profile and realized almost immediately that:
- It was this person and
- They happen to be very convinced of things that aren’t real.
When I say things that aren’t real, I mean very weird conspiracy theories akin to alien takeovers, government hoaxes and cover-ups, and other greatly-debunked nuttery.
I looked at the profile again. I checked the people who followed them, and the people they followed back. It all added up.
My friend was not who I thought they were. And, in seeing that, I realized that I had no idea who they were at all.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has fallen into the rabbit hole of social media discovery this way. Given widely varied opinions on politics, religion, and pandemics, it’s safe to say that you have also been surprised to find yourself on the opposite spectrum as someone you love. I’ve talked about this before, as this year has definitely been one in which we’ve found ourselves surprised by others. And it’s hard to get over. In the case of my friend, I haven’t talked to them since I learned this, and I can’t imagine what our first conversation will be like once we do.
I can try to talk to them about it, but what I do know about them is that they’ve always had a very fixed mindset: they’re very set in their ways in all parts of life, and very sure of their opinions regardless of topic. Plus, I’ve learned that there tends to be a level of defensiveness in general in these times that heightens what was already a pretty healthy dose of stubbornness.
A lesson I’ve learned this year from joining Noom (#noomnerd) is that all of us fall into one of two thought patterns: growth vs. fixed.
A growth mindset lends itself to a healthy life. One thing we can be sure of is change, so people who exhibit a growth mindset are those who are able to roll with the punches. My friend Rob is a great example: he turned our local Discovery Center into a daycare, then a school this year, and continues to roll with the pandemic punches like he was designed for just this purpose. We all want to have that growth mindset: an open mind leads to open possibilities. When we don’t limit ourselves with narrow thinking, the world is ours for the taking.
Change is also undeniably scary. Even those of us who are eager for new challenges find ourselves fearful of where they will take us – we’re human like that. Those of us who resist change tend to exhibit a more fixed mindset. The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” portion of the population prefers that things stay the way they are; they find comfort in the routine. There is NOTHING wrong with this: I’m a creature of habit in many ways myself, and find routine very grounding. I’ve also lost my job three times this year alone, though, so that routine has very obviously been permanently disrupted. While I spent a good two months in both my robe and denial initially, I’ve since accepted that both the long- and short-term professional future I had planned jumped the shark.
One thing I’ve always been good at, though, is knowing my weaknesses. As an Enneagram 2 (I just love quizzes you guys), I’m quick to apologize, to give, and to assume that I’m wrong. So when people suggest to me other ways of thinking, I’m quick to grab ’em. I also like to experiment with stuff, which is why I’m both a Noom Nerd and a Beachbody Coach, perpetually enrolled in at least two online classes, and listening to all the podcasts. I’ve also learned from past lives not to count on anything too much, because chances are it’s not going to stay the same forever.
It took a long time to get there, though. I used to hold very concrete and stubborn beliefs about, well, everything I believed in. I automatically assumed a whole lot of stuff, and wasn’t really interested in researching possibilities that I was wrong. (It’s called your 20s, and they’re great and terrible.) And obviously with age comes a more broad understanding, as well as a certainty that precious little actually matters in life, so hold onto what does.
It doesn’t change the fact that we’re all different, though, and that you likely have someone in your orbit who believes very differently than you, with very little interest in exploring the possibility that they may be wrong. How, then, do we continue our relationships with them? How can you stay close when you’re dealing with growth vs. fixed mindsets in your friendships? With your family members?
Well, who knows. While it’s important to accept others for their differences, it’s also important not to sacrifice who you are in the process. In the case of my friend, I will very likely continue to talk to them about the things that we do have in common: a love of movies, kayaking, and great food. We’re all made up of a whole lot of beliefs, hobbies, and habits. And we’re all different – something that makes this country, and this planet, so great. So even when those differences are hard to swallow, it’s important to remember that shit would be real boring if we were all the same.
So, on this World Kindness Day, grant a little extra grace to those around you, and remember that we’re all doing our best, even when it doesn’t seem that way.