Jeff Hough

Jeff Hough

One of my favorite movies of all is "The Matrix." The Hero of the film — Neo — has the opportunity to discover that the world he lives in isn't what he thinks it is. He meets a man named Morpheus who invites him to free his mind and discover the truth about their existence. Neo chooses to find out more and discovers that reality isn't what it seems.

There are a lot of deep thinking moments in the movie. One that I have been pondering lately is the decision Neo made to free his mind and change his existence. This decision sets off a chain of events allowing Neo to discover his true potential and save the world. The sad thing about Neo's decision is that many of the people around him didn't know there was a choice available.

In the book "Mindset," author Carol Dweck talks about the two mindsets that individuals have. According to Dweck, people can either have a fixed or growth mindset. Fixed mindset individuals think their qualities and abilities are fixed and can't change. Individuals with a growth mindset believe they can grow and develop over time.

Mindsets manifest at an early age. They are shaped by feedback and our surroundings. Those who experience negative feedback often develop a fixed mindset. They believe they have limited options and see success or failure in black-and-white terms. This limits happiness and they live life accordingly. They feel the need to prove themselves by showing their intelligence or superiority.

The opposite holds true for those with a growth mindset. Individuals with growth mindsets experienced positive feedback and were exposed to learning opportunities. The growth mindset sees the world as a giant learning opportunity. Events aren't seen as failures or successes, but as opportunities for growth.

The fixed versus growth mindset isn't as simple as seeing the glass half full or half empty. It goes into the very core of our ability to maximize our potential to become something more. The sad thing is most people don't realize a choice exists. They accept their perceptions and beliefs as the way it is, and live in ignorance of what could be.

But it's possible to change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Like anything else, it takes time, effort and deliberate practice. As individuals go through the process, they begin craving learning more than approval. They look for challenges rather than a false sense of accomplishment. Failures aren't failures, they are learning opportunities.

To begin the change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, one must realize a choice exists. Like Neo, you either choose to ignore the opportunity for change or explore it. If one chooses to explore it, then it is time to work on perceptions and the value assigned to them. For example, one may place great value in the number of likes they get on a social media post. In reality there is minimal to no value in someone liking our posts. The likes only provide a false sense of validation and importance.

The next step is to begin changing the negative self-talk inside our brains. Researchers estimate we have between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts each day. It is also estimated that 80 percent of those thoughts are fear-based or negative. Most negative thoughts are baseless, hypothetical scenarios. This is the brain's way of trying to protect the individual. Once one is aware of the choice and negative self-talk, then change can begin.

Individuals with fixed mindsets will never reach their full potential. It takes courage and commitment to explore the possibilities of a growth mindset. If you do choose the growth route, it's fun to see how far down the rabbit hole goes.

Jeff Hough is a business author, blogger and speaker in Pocatello.