The Mind(set)-Body Connection

Elizabeth Marglin

by | Updated: December 4th, 2016 | Read time: 3 minutes

In her transformative work on mindsets, Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, dwells on the power of effort and difficulty. She understands effort and difficulty not as setbacks, but as indications that you are on the right track. A fixed mindset prioritizes only positive outcomes, while a growth mindset values the process itself.

Is Your Mindset Holding You Back From Success?

Dweck found in her research that a fixed mindset thinks of personality, including one’s intelligence, as static givens that can’t be changed in meaningful ways. Success is the affirmation of that innate intelligence—while failure is its deathblow. A growth mindset, however, sees success as an indication of one’s effort, and failure as a springboard for new growth.

Which mindset would you rather have? Can you imagine the implications for health?

If you trying to lose weight for example, what mindset would offer the most support?

A fixed mindset would be a constant curmudgeon in your head, spouting all kinds of doom and gloom:

  • “Being fat is my genetic destiny.”
  • “What if I fail again?”
  • “I will never be able to stick to a healthy diet.”
  • “I’m not naturally thin—I wish I were one of the lucky ones.”

Let’s try reframing that inner curmudgeon into the voice of a growth mindset.

  • “It’s not about destiny—it’s about making smart choices.”
  • “It’s ok to fail again as long as I learn something in the process.”
  • “A healthy lifestyle has room for error and forgiveness.” 
  • “If I encounter an obstacle, I’ll learn how to work with it.”

The growth mindset is expansive, adapting to circumstances, while a fixed mindset is inherently resistant to change. The game changer is effort, not God-given talent. A growth mindset acknowledges the power of passion, practice, and training. One’s potential is unknowable—not finite. Not only can you learn different eating habits, you may find out you are actually a nascent athlete or dancer or surfer or yogi.

In a fixed worldview, the constant need for approval can actually stunt your growth, interfering with the necessity of taking risks and possibly even failing. So what if you blow your food plan at Thanksgiving? (You are in good company) What’s at stake is climbing out of the confines of your comfort zone into the treacherous arc of the learning curve. Out on that limb, the voices of judgment can be shushed and the voice of discovery can emerge.

Here’s what Dweck says about the value of a growth mindset:

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

Realizing that our talents are not carved in stone is at turns liberating and terrifying. Ultimately your internal dialogue about yourself determines what direction you go in, either constraining your potential or setting it free.

Remind yourself that any challenge you are ready to take on is not about outside approval. It’s about what you are learning deep inside, discovering the answers to the questions only you can ask. When you take growth as your primary value, not the twin limitations of stasis and status, everything that happens happens for you, not to you. It shifts the whole dynamic, taking you from scarcity to fullness, doubt to trust, greediness to gratitude.