If your brain is like a computer, then what’s its software?
Skills you learn could be like applications. Each skill – like each application – allows you to achieve a task, whether that’s designing something or playing a game. But applications don’t, and can’t, exist in isolation. They need something to draw them all together, to run under them, that gives them structure. What’s the brain’s version of an operating system?
Mindset is one answer to the question.
What is mindset? It’s a frame through which you view the world. A person with a negative mindset sees misery, threats and reasons to complain. A person with a positive mindset can look at the same things and see beauty, safety and opportunity.
It makes a difference. We all know people that struggle and stress their way through life. They always complain about the injustices of (their) life. Bad luck plagues them. We also know people that seem to sail through life, moving with grace from one success to another. These people are rarely stressed and often happy.
You can learn skills to reduce stress. And they help, absolutely. But the best applications can only do so much with a corrupted operating system. Things run smoother when both your skills and mindset are strong and healthy.
There are many mindsets, good and bad. The most famous is a growth mindset. This is the opposite of the fixed mindset, which is still so common. Fixed mindsets assume that your attributes are ingrained. You have a natural level of ability with, say, music, and training brings you to these limits. Your strength and intelligence depends on inflexible factors like genetics.
I reject this view. The brain is plastic. It can change and it does change, all the time. Learning involves rewiring your neural networks… so how could your thinking have limits? Of course, some people find certain changes easier than others do. We’re not identical. But we are all able to grow and improve.
After all, did you know you can learn to be more creative? It’s true. The old idea that some people are creative and others aren’t is wrong. There’s no gene for it. Creative people practice their skills and think in certain ways… and who among us can’t do the same?
This is why I’m talking about mindset. It’s important. With good habits and a healthy brain, you can do a lot in life. With a bad mindset, though, you won’t. Whether you can or can’t, you will not. Trivial obstacles will defeat you, sooner or later.
But you can learn new mindsets. The best proof for the growth mindset is that anyone can learn it. If you can learn to see obstacles as opportunities, intelligence as learnable and your mind as flexible, then these things become true. A growth mindset enables a growth mindset, for it is something that you have to develop for yourself.