Fixed Mind-Sets and Growth Mind-Sets
A friend left this thought on my Facebook page: “We do what we do and feel how we feel because we think what we think.”1 And you know what pattern of thought feeds our insecurities most? A fixed mind-set versus a growth mind-set.
People with fixed mind-sets see their abilities, talents, skills, relationships, and intelligence as limited and lacking. Where they are today is where they will always be. Things can’t get better. It is what it is. Applying this Best Yes wisdom isn’t really possible for people like me.
People with growth mind-sets see their abilities, talents, skills, relationships, and intelligence with potential. Where they are today is a starting place, not a finish line. Things can get better. They can grow and develop and persevere to get to improved places. Using wisdom to make Best Yes decisions is possible!
Mind-set is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck in decades of research. She says:
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.2
I am fascinated by this research by Dweck because it lines up so beautifully with what the Bible says about how to grow past our insecurities.
We don’t have to just manage our insecurities, deal with our insecurities, or grit our teeth and will ourselves to somehow ignore them. We can grow past them.
We find security when we tie our mind-sets to the potential of Jesus’ work in us.
Indeed, we are limited in and of ourselves. But the minute we receive Jesus to be the Lord of our lives, our limited potential can turn into exponential growth. He is alive in us. He gives us freedom from our dead lives and the power to walk in a new life — a resurrected life. Romans 8:10–16 says,
When God lives and breathes in you (and He does, as surely as He did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With His Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” (MSG)
I love those words, “God’s Spirit beckons.” Yes. Yes, He does. I was reading this section to a friend who told me she doesn’t really feel insecure, but when I read her that sentence, “God’s Spirit beckons,” she sighed. And then admitted, “I know that feeling. God beckoning. And maybe that’s the reason I don’t get insecure. For years I’ve refused to step away from what is comfortable to me. I’ve refused to step into anything that I’m not sure I can do. So, I don’t often feel insecure because I stay in only secure places and refuse God beckoning me to more.”
Yes, I love that God is beckoning all of us, beckoning us to a Best Yes. Or maybe many Best Yes opportunities. Whether we feel insecure and limited — or we feel secure because we
intentionally limit ourselves by staying in only those places where we feel naturally secure — either way, we are stunting possible growth.
We can’t grow when insecurities keep us from the life-giving oxygen of transformational truth. God beckons or invites me to change my mind-set from focusing on my insecurities and limitations to His security and limitless potential.
I have to change from a fixed mind-set to a growth mind-set.
“The fixed mindset,” Dweck says, “creates an internal monologue that is focused on judging: ‘This means I’m a loser’… ‘This means I’m a bad husband.’”3
In other words, I chain my identity to my insecurity. My identity is that I’m a child of God just as those verses from Romans 8 state. But I take my circumstances, the opinions of others, and my own skewed feelings and chain them to my identity link by link. Then I say:
I am a child of God, but look at what a mess my finances are.
I am a child of God, but I’m fifty pounds overweight and feel like such a failure.
I am a child of God, but look what choice my kid just made that makes our family look bad.
Then I allow my insecurity to be the first thing that walks into every decision I make. Therefore, I stay in the fixed mind-set that progress isn’t possible for a person like me or a family like mine.
Cut the But!
On the other hand, when I change to a growth mind-set, I don’t chain my identity to my insecurity. Instead, I chain my identity to the Word of God that breathes hope and powerful potential back into any situation.
Every time I say I am a child of God, I have to remove the but and instead use the word therefore to usher God’s promise into my reality. We must cut the but!
I am a child of God, therefore I don’t have to be afraid or dismayed. I know God is with me. He will strengthen me, help me, and uphold me with His hand (Isaiah 41:10).
I am a child of God, therefore no weapon formed against me shall succeed. God will disprove every tongue that rises against me in judgment (Isaiah 54:17 ESV).
I am a child of God, therefore God is in my midst, a mighty one who will save me; He will rejoice over me with gladness; He will quiet me with his love; He will exult over me with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17).
I am a child of God, therefore God’s Word is there for me. It is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).
In 2 Timothy 2:9, Paul reminded us that though we can be chained as he was as a prisoner, “God’s word is not chained.” There is a double meaning here. God’s Word is at work in the world even without our involvement. Despite Paul being in prison, the gospel continued to spread. But we can also see that even when we are in chains, God’s Word is still at work within us. In other words, when we tie our identities to God’s truth, God’s Word can and will lift us above the insecurities holding us down, taking us under, and threatening to drown us.
All this sounds good in theory, but does it really work?
It does. One of the places I can feel as if I’m drowning in insecurity is in my marriage. I love my man. He loves me. I know he loves me with every fiber of my being except this one place in my heart that trips me up sometimes. This place where a wound exists. Early in our marriage, Art admitted to me he wished I’d lose weight. Please don’t judge this precious man of mine. He was young and naïve about what this would do to my heart. I had gained a lot of weight with my first pregnancy and the got pregnant again quickly with our second child. I was feeling insecure and was trying to get him to reassure me with lots of leading questions. But in a moment of honesty, he did the exact opposite.
It ripped something wide open in my heart, and a flood of insecurities rushed in quickly. I spent weeks planning how I could leave him. I wanted out. It wasn’t just what he said. It’s what I did with what he said. I took what he said and played it all the way out in the most negative way I could. In my brain, his small admission that he wished I’d lose weight suddenly became: He doesn’t find me attractive. He’ll probably start being attracted to other women. So he’ll probably have an affair. He’ll probably leave me in a wake of rejection and shame. To avoid all the awful pain, I’d better leave him now.
I had a fixed mind-set that his one comment would forever limit and eventually kill our marriage. I was a child of God, but since my daddy had left me early in life, it shouldn’t surprise me my husband would eventually do the exact same thing. Insecurity gripped me so tightly, truth couldn’t get in — until Art looked at me lost in my own horrible thoughts one night and said, “You know we should call our fights growth opportunities, right? Because that’s what they are. Signs that we’re growing. And as long as our relationship is growing, it’s living. I’m so sorry I hurt you. I love you, Lysa. I want to grow through this with you.”
I had a choice right then and there. I could have the fixed mind-set that we didn’t have what it would take to persevere and therefore strip the hope right out of our marriage. A hopeless marriage quickly becomes a dead marriage. Or I could have a growth mind-set that even though I didn’t feel good about things today, that didn’t mean things couldn’t get good. We could grow, both of us, together. We are children of God, therefore all things are possible — even a marriage that isn’t always easy.
And so we stayed. I’m convinced that a growth mind-set has saved my marriage many times over. We still have lots of growth opportunities. In fact, we had one this past week when I got so mad I thought my eyeballs were going to pop right out of my head! And I may or may not have called him a name, one that you can actually find in the Bible that starts with an A and ends in an S. Three letters. Only I didn’t mean it in the biblical sense. If you know what I mean. But I’m crazy about my man. I really am.
I don’t know what kind of decision you have to make today. But I write all this to issue a challenge for this chapter: we must let our identity, not our insecurity, be the first thing that walks into every situation we face — every decision we make.
If we are going to live in the thrilling place of Best Yes opportunities, we must cut the but of lies chaining us to insecurities. Then and only then can we stop choking from the lack of truth.
1. Comment on my Facebook page from Kathy White Hall.
2. Carol Dweck, “What is Mindset,” Mindset, 2006–2010, http://mindsetonline.com/whatisit/about/.
4. Carol Dweck, “The Nature of Change,” Mindset, 2006–2010, http://mindsetonline.com/changeyourmindset/natureofchange/.
Excerpted with permission from The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst, copyright TerKeurst Foundation.
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Is insecurity stealing your identity? Today, proclaim those verses from God’s Word over yourself and ask the Lord to reframe your mind-set on the truth. Come join the conversation on our blog. We want to hear from you. ~ Devotionals Daily