The previous article introduced a process for creating a compelling future. We considered developing ideas, outcomes and intentions that attracted and engaged our attention. The intention was to identify activities and qualities that would contribute to making the future compelling, enjoyable and rewarding.
Exploring desirable outcomes is predicated on a person holding the belief that such things are not only possible, but possible for that person. One of the most important aspects of creating a compelling future is believing it is possible to have dreams, realise them and change the present circumstances to facilitate progress. This is similar to the idea of a growth mindset, which is gaining traction in the business community courtesy of Carol Dweck, the author and researcher of the concept.
According to Dweck’s findings, a fixed mindset assumes intelligence and talent are innate and probably fixed. Therefore if a person is intelligent and talented, they should be successful, learn easily and make continuous and outstanding progress in life. Any failure can become a matter of shame rather than feedback. Children told they are clever or bright can experience huge pressure to live up to their labels and those who identify as being ordinary or less bright can assume they will never do more than just survive.
Conversely, a growth mindset not only allows for mistakes without shame, after all they are a natural byproduct of learning. It also enables people to consider mistakes as feedback and explore them to find what could work better in future. Without feedback, how would we know to do something different? People can become good at anything, provided they engage, learn, practice and take the time to develop skills. Skills, talent and knowledge are products of time and consistent attention, and available to anyone who chooses to apply themselves.
These are not black and white categories, unless you are operating from a fixed mindset in the moment. Some people identify with being of a fixed or growth mindset, but in reality, most people carry a blend of both characteristics with their associated beliefs according to subject matter. For example, someone who knows they can learn any new software they choose to master, may also believe that learning a musical instrument requires innate talent which they do not have. Some people profess an interest and facility in engaging other people and keep learning new soft skills with alacrity. Yet the same people run in the opposite direction if someone takes the back off a television or opens the bonnet of a car.
As well as holding growth oriented or fixed beliefs about their capacity for learning different subjects, people can hold different beliefs about the same subject, though usually not simultaneously. This simply indicates that people change states, experiencing different takes and even opinions on the same event at different times. It is quite common and is a form of state dependent learning, which relates to remembering specific knowledge when in the context where it was learned or where it is relevant and being used.
What this indicates is that most people carry a blend of fixed and growth mindsets, creating a context where even the most enlightened can identify and change beliefs that limit their capacity to learn. This is despite the common belief in those familiar with fixed and growth mindsets that they “are” one or the other. For anyone operating in a fixed mindset moment, the idea that beliefs are changeable is contentious. In a fixed mindset, truth is black and white, unchanging and may be worth fighting and dying for. In a growth mindset, everything is open to question and even the most expensive mistakes can lead to something worthwhile.
When it comes to creating a compelling future, it helps to approach the possibilities with a frame that anything is possible, and possible for you. If that it too far fetched, the minimum flexibility of thinking needed to engage you in considering what you want is that change might be possible, even if you suspect it is unlikely. If you are certain you cannot have what you want and it is too unbelievable to contemplate, you will not even discover a dream. That is is a major downside to bringing a fixed mindset to the process. If that is the case for you, start simple. Consider the proposal that any belief can be placed in question. When you do that, you become open to the possibility of finding evidence or support for both or all options.
When you begin exploring your creation, do it with a sense of possibility, not requirement. If you find it is not what you thought it was, change it or create something else. Treat your creation as a work of fiction for as long as that allows you to dream it up. If you were writing a story of someone who wanted a future you cannot dream of, your character can. You can create the context for them to imagine what they want and then make it happen. You are not restricted to rule bound, compliance ridden 21st century conditions. Your story could be set in a steampunk world or modern urban fantasy, sci-fi or outright magic. Whatever it takes to enable the characters to have the experiences you want to create for them. As a minimum, you will have a collection of short stories. Ideally, you will hit on something really attractive to you and grow it.
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