A Growth Heartset

You may have heard about the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset and how important a growth mindset is for self-development. You may not have considered how important a growth heartset is too.

While a growth mindset is wonderful, it’s not enough. There are plenty of people with growth mindsets who struggle, burn out, and give up. And even when they don’t give up, it’s painful to watch sometimes because they invite struggle, struggle, and more struggle. They keep trying to “earn” happiness and fulfillment, and it keeps eluding them. They may work hard and try hard, but they always look like they desperately need a massage or a vacation… or a vacation full of massages.

What’s going on? Such people may have a growth mindset, but if they lack a growth heartset, they’re very likely to find themselves grinding through year after year of struggle with no end in sight.

A few lists can help clarify this.

A growth mindset includes:

  • opportunity awareness
  • expecting that you’ll keep learning and growing
  • never using “I don’t know how” as an excuse
  • expecting that you’ll gain new skills
  • expecting that you’ll continue to improve your skills and gain new skills
  • expecting to become more capable over time
  • investing in long-term self-development
  • job and career flexibility
  • adaptability to change
  • deliberately challenging yourself
  • setting stretch goals
  • inviting and embracing new experiences
  • willing and able to make new friends and build new relationships
  • maintaining strong personal boundaries (so your boundaries aren’t being violated by. misalignments)
  • learning and bouncing back from failure (resilience)

A fixed mindset includes:

  • opportunity blindness
  • figuring that you’ve already learned most of what you need to know
  • figuring that school is for learning and life after school is for doing
  • identifying with your job or career
  • identifying yourself based on personality attributes
  • identifying yourself based on what you’re good at or not good at and not expecting that to change much over time
  • resisting change
  • expected to earn a pre-determined annual salary (fixed income mindset)
  • feeling stuck with the same social group (fixed social/family mindset)
  • dismissing ideas and opportunities with the “I don’t know how” excuse
  • tolerating boundary violations
  • avoiding failure by not trying

If you’ve been reading my work for a while, it’s very likely that you lean towards a growth mindset. It’s probably obvious why a growth mindset is better for you.

The next two lists, however, can be more polarizing. For some people these will be at least as obvious as the two lists above. For others there may be some surprises that invite self-examination and reassessment, especially the items related to aging.

A growth heartset includes:

  • seeing your biggest fears as invitations to grow and expecting to eventually master what you fear (such as public speaking)
  • expecting to eventually outgrow your major fears, knowing that someday you will no longer feel fear in those situations
  • feeling pleasure and enjoyment from facing fears
  • weaving playfulness, fun, and other positive emotions into your goals
  • shifting away from overly head-based goals that don’t excite you emotionally
  • expecting that your boldest and most courageous years are still ahead of you
  • doing some things just for fun, completely shamelessly
  • expecting to become happier and to have more fun as you age
  • looking forward to your future years with positive anticipation, including your 70s, 80s, and beyond
  • growing in boldness and courage over time
  • expecting to be emotionally stronger and more confident in your later years
  • expecting to set and achieve more ambitious goals as you age
  • taking alignment problems seriously, knowing that you’ll do whatever it takes to solve them
  • being willing to let go of people who aren’t aligned with the direction you want to go and the kind of life you want to have
  • falling more deeply in love with your life with each passing decade
  • expecting your relationships to become more aligned and harmonious
  • expecting to appreciate and enjoy your relationships even more as you age
  • feeling centered, grounded, and at home here (even while alone)
  • speaking your truth and letting your social circle realign as needed
  • feeling inspired and encouraged by people who are further along similar paths (seeing them as allies, not competitors)
  • feeling patient, persistent, hopeful, and determined
  • being willing and able to fully commit yourself to new actions and behaviors, even when you aren’t sure how they’ll turn out
  • investing in a relationship with reality based on deep and abiding trust
  • expecting to trust life even more as you age
  • appreciating vulnerable honesty in yourself and others
  • embracing intelligent risk taking
  • being coachable and willing to ask for help, advice, or coaching
  • wanting and expecting to care even more as you age (about people, animals, life, social issues, etc)
  • deeply enjoying and appreciating your leisure time
  • knowing that your feelings matter tremendously
  • knowing that you can always invite and tune in to the flow of inspiration

A fixed heartset includes:

  • feeling threatened by change
  • avoiding growth experiences that require facing fears
  • expecting that your fears will always be your fears
  • fearing or worrying about aging (dreading getting older)
  • feeling clingy and attached to what you have and not wanting to risk it
  • worrying about financial decline or financial threats
  • complaining about what you don’t want
  • feeling jealous or envious of people who have what you struggle to achieve
  • feeling discouraged, impatient, or frustrated when your goals take longer than you’d like
  • unwillingness to fully commit yourself
  • unwillingness to take emotional risks that could lead to failure or rejection
  • dismissing your feelings as less important than your logical thoughts
  • avoiding commitments that would require a significant emotional risk or emotional investment
  • feeling like you must justify doing “just for fun” activities (such as to your spouse or to colleagues)
  • feeling guilty or unsettled when taking time off
  • setting vague goals like “make more money” or “get healthier” (no real commitment, no emotional investment, also highly ineffective)
  • being too proud, self-sufficient, or timid to seek help, advice, or coaching
  • feeling alienated, disconnected, and alone (and expecting this to continue)
  • feeling that you must hide your true self from the world
  • avoiding actions that could invite criticism
  • staying emotionally aloof or emotionally anxious
  • expecting to retire someday (in terms of reducing your emotional investment in life)
  • never really knowing if you can trust this reality and therefore holding back on your willingness to invest
  • holding back on expressing your feelings
  • surrendering to the “fact” that no one will ever say “I love you” to you and mean it

Which way does your heartset currently lean?

If you know in your mind that you can grow, but your heart isn’t onboard with that, you’ll likely succumb to a lot of struggle and stuck-in-your-headness. You’ll often be pushing against your own emotions instead of enjoying the long-term benefits of strong, positive motivation that helps you flow through life with lightness and fun.

The good news is that you can use that fancy growth mindset of yours to recognize and acknowledge the importance of developing a growth heartset too. You can learn to spot the predictable problems that could throw your life off track, such as fear of aging and lack of commitment, and you can decide to work on improving these aspects. When you begin to grasp the value of emotional alignment, that’s a big step in the right direction.

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Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site stevepavlina.com and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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