The Mindset Diet (The Diet, Day 56)

I just finished this book called Mindset by Carol Dweck. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I’m sure I’ll write more about it later. It applies to so many situations. But I wanted to get back to diet blogging so that I wouldn’t lose count of my days. I’m not that good with numbers, you see. Or maybe it is just that I have a bad old fixed mindset telling me I’m not good with numbers when in fact I could be if I had a different attitude and put a little more effort into it.

That’s basically what the book is about. Dweck says people either have fixed mindsets or growth mindsets. In a fixed mindset, they believe their intelligence and abilities “are what they are” and aren’t going to change. In a growth mindset, they believe ability is a result of effort as opposed to native intelligence and therefore it can continue to grow with more effort.

I’m all about the growth mindset. I believe ability is a result of effort much more so than “natural talent.” I think most people probably have a little of both mindsets going on, though. For example, a friend recommended this book to me after reading a blog post in which I said, “I don’t believe in natural ability. I believe in work.” When I wrote that, I was talking about my own writing skills, which I believe need to be exercised frequently, even daily, to be maintained.

If I had been talking about math, on the other hand, I might have just said, “Oh, I’m not good at that.”

I have a growth mindset in one direction and a fixed mindset in another. I’m sure most people do.

This mindset says quite a lot about how you will live your life and how you will respond to both success and failure as it turns out. You might be unable to tolerate criticism or failure of any sort if you have a large ego and a fixed mindset. You have to believe that you were born smarter than other people and because you were you aren’t currently doing dumb things. Your whole sense of self depends on this belief.

The intricacies of that, however, are for another post. I mainly want to talk about what it has to do with dieting for now.

Dweck talks about people with fixed mindsets who believe that dieting is all about willpower. If they fail at a diet then, they believe this is a character flaw. They just lack the willpower. They just don’t have a strong enough character to do it.

Or they might take the tactic of blaming anything and everything else. They are working too many hours to successfully diet. They are around too many people with unhealthy eating habits to successfully diet. They are victims of medical conditions that make successful dieting impossible. They’ll believe anything, in other words, in order to avoid believing that they just aren’t good enough.

Honestly, I think there is a little bit of a fixed mindset in all of us. Excuse making is often just a normal part of the process of confronting what’s wrong and what needs to be done about it. Likewise, a sense of failure is a normal part of dieting. You must have a character flaw if you let yourself get into this situation of needing to diet in the first place, you probably tell yourself at some point along the way.

What’s important is not whether you have these thoughts and feelings. Everyone does. What matters more is how you deal with them over time. Do you let them convince you to give up? Or do you keep regrouping, rethinking your process, and reevaluating your goals?

Here’s my theory for the day. Someone who starts over multiple times in the first few days or weeks on a diet–due to cheating or miscalculating or otherwise fumbling along–is more likely to be successful than someone who does not make any mistakes in the first phase. The person making mistakes is developing coping mechanisms for failure and techniques for self-critiquing progress. That’s the key to long-term success at anything. You have to know how to handle failure to even have it in you to succeed.

Anyway…you aren’t what you eat in a moment of inattentiveness or even weakness. You aren’t the sum total of your mistakes. You are the sum total of your efforts to try again. You are the sum total of what you have allowed yourself to learn from your mistakes.

This is my sermon to myself today.

Blessed are the clumsy and awkward and easily tempted for they shall learn to laugh at themselves and get over it and move on to get the job done.

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