“Thoughts are behaviors we haven’t learned to observe yet.” — B.F. Skinner
What is a mindset? Let’s keep it simple before we dive in:
A way of thinking.
In a word, a mental inclination or disposition, or a frame of mind.
Your mindset is your collection of thoughts and beliefs that shape your thought habits. And your thought habits affect how you think, what you feel, and what you do. Your mind-set impacts how you make sense of the world, and how you make sense of you.
Your mindset is a big deal.
Because they are related to mindset, it also helps to understand attitude and beliefs.
Attitude and Mindset
Here’s what the Oxford Dictionary has to say about attitude:
“An attitude is a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.”
According to Kendra Cherry:
“Psychologists define attitudes as a learned tendency to evaluate things in a certain way. This can include evaluations of people, issues, objects or events. Such evaluations are often positive or negative, but they can also be uncertain at times. For example, you might have mixed feelings about a particular person or issue.”
According to Cherry, researchers believe 3 components make up an attitude:
- An Emotional Component: How the object, person, issue or event makes you feel.
- A Cognitive Component: Your thoughts and beliefs about the subject.
- A Behavioral Component: How the attitude influences your behavior.
Your attitude is how you feel about something. Your mindset shapes your attitude, and your attitude reinforces your mindset.
Beliefs and Mindset
According to Tony Robbins, a belief is simply a feeling of certainty about something. For example, if you believe that you’re intelligent, all you’re really saying is, “I feel certain that I’m intelligent.”
The basic building blocks of beliefs are ideas. Beliefs are like a tabletop. As you build references and experiences, you add legs to your tabletop. When your idea feels certain, it becomes a belief.
That’s why it’s so important to know what your beliefs are based on.
Your beliefs shape your attitude.
Your attitude also shapes your beliefs.
You beliefs shape your mindset.
Collection of Beliefs and Thoughts
Mindset.com defines Mindset as a collection of beliefs and thoughts:
“Mind-sets are those collection of beliefs and thoughts that make up the mental attitude, inclination, habit or disposition that predetermines a person’s interpretations and responses to events, circumstances and situations.”
Wikipedia on Mindset
Via Mindset on Wikipedia:
“In decision theory and general systems theory, a mindset is a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people that is so established that it creates a powerful incentive within these people or groups to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviors, choices, or tools.”
Here are some additional definitions to help you answer, “What is Mindset?”
- A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations. (The Free Dictionary)
- A mental inclination, tendency, or habit. (Merriam-Webster.com – Medical Dictionary)
- A person’s usual attitude or mental state is his or her mindset. (Vocabulary.com)
- A person’s way of thinking and their opinions. (Cambridge Dictionary)
- An attitude, disposition, or mood. (Dictionary.com)
- The ideas and attitudes with which a person approaches a situation, esp when these are seen as being difficult to alter. (World English Dictionary.)
- The established set of attitudes held by someone. (Oxford Dictionary)
Related Words and Concepts
Here are some relevant words according to WordHippo.com:
attitude, outlook, mind, frame of mind, mentality, way of thinking, approach, belief, conviction
Origin of Mindset
I find it hard to trace the origins, but some sources say the word Mindset has been around since the 1920’s.
- Peter Gollwitzer has written about mind-sets since the 1980’s. If you’re curious about his work, you might check out, Taylor, S. E., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (1995). Effects of mindset on positive illusions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 213-226.
- Magoroh Maruyama is famous for his Mindscape Theory. Mindscape is a construct from which coherent sets of behavioral mind-sets can emerge. You can read more in Mindsets and Science Theories.
- Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D popularized mindset when she went mainstream with her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential.
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed-Mindset
In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential, Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. describes two different mindsets: A Fixed-Mindset and a Growth Mindset.
- “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.”
- “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”
As Dweck says, “Teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education, and sports. It enhances relationships.”
Why is a growth mindset such a big deal?
It helps you unleash your potential.
In the words of Henry Stanley Haskins:
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
Our mindset shapes what lies behind us, before us, and within us.
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Image by Tommerton2010.