When was the last time you went for what you really wanted?
When did you speak up? Push back? Ask for a bigger piece of pie, a helping hand, or a raise?
Many of us hold back from living the life we want because we think it’s not within our capacity. We may believe we can’t, or we may feel afraid we’ll fail.
But what if you tried to live your life as an experiment? What if you decided to test the waters and see what happens when you embrace possibilities, take opportunities, and learn from mistakes?
As human beings, we’re gifted with an infinite number of ways our lives could go. The possibilities are literally endless. Yet, the path we take is often dictated by our self-fulfilling prophecies, shaped by our limiting beliefs.
Counteracting and overcoming our limiting beliefs is a challenge, but if we develop what’s called a “growth mindset,” we shift our way of thinking. A growth mindset focuses our thoughts and drives our actions toward learning, discovery, and advancement. Confronted with the barrier of a fixed mindset, we make excuses and tell ourselves the barrier is a reason to stop our progression. On the other hand, a growth mindset simply tells us a barrier is a challenge to overcome. By breaking past the barrier, we’ll further grow and develop into whom we could become. We’ll move toward our higher potential.
When we’re confronted with high performing individuals, we may compare ourselves and shift the standard by which we view our own potential. We start to make excuses, so we don’t push forward or try. If we hold a fixed mindset, we analyze the activity in terms of how we can accomplish and perform at the level of the expert. They become our inspiration, but we’re also blocked by thinking, “I could never do that because I don’t have the talent/knowledge/physical ability…”
Researcher Carol Dweck studies human motivation and the impact of our mindset. She describes a fixed mindset as a belief that intelligence is static. With a fixed mindset, we may desire to “look smart” so we’re afraid of allowing ourselves to experience the vulnerability of growth.
When viewing challenges, a fixed mindset tells us to avoid obstacles and give up easily. We see effort as a futile pursuit. We may ignore feedback, particularly if it’s deemed negative or critical. We may also resent and feel threatened by the success of others, as though there’s not enough success to go around.
On the other hand, a growth mindset drives us to a different train of thought. Those with a growth mindset believe intelligence is developed, and they hold a strong desire to learn, even if it means admitting what they don’t know. Those with a growth mindset forge ahead despite challenges. They see obstacles as an object to persist and overcome. A growth mindset tells us effort leads to eventual mastery and we eagerly welcome the feedback and criticism from others.
Consequently, those who embrace a growth mindset continue to reach for higher levels of achievement as they look to each new hill on the horizon.
So, if you’re ready to develop your growth mindset, it’s time to start viewing life as an experiment.
One of the ways you can shift to a growth mindset is by starting to live your life as an experiment. This is a practice we refer to as the “assignment way of living.”
We all have limiting beliefs even with a growth mindset, but those with a fixed mindset are also more static in their limiting beliefs. These beliefs lead us toward the trap of the self-fulfilling prophecy. When we get stuck in the cycle of the self-fulfilling prophecy, we’re constantly seeking examples and situations to confirm our limiting beliefs.
We think we can’t, therefore, we walk into a meeting with our shoulders hunched, our head down, and our mouth kept shut. Because others in the meeting pick up on our body language, posture, and presence, they too believe the message we’re sending, “I can’t.” When we’re not called on for the assignment, it reinforces our limiting belief and the cycle goes around and around.
This is one of the reasons why friends are so often invested in us staying whom they know us to be, rather than discovering a new us. Instead of growing together, this leads to a cycle of codependence.
Each day, we may take on a new assignment or experiment. Our lives become more playful, new experiences are simply an opportunity to test out new behaviors, reactions, and interactions. We commit to learning and growing in everything we do.
If you played a musical instrument, you wouldn’t expect to get better without a coach or teacher. Nor would you expect to get better if you didn’t practice each day with music that was increasingly difficult. Similarly, we can do this in our daily lives. We can practice growing and stretching ourselves in new situations and new opportunities.
One assignment our students recently worked on was to go out and ask for things. What did they ask for? Absolutely anything! The objective wasn’t to “get more stuff” but rather to stretch and practice their ability and comfort with asking.
Our students came back and reported how difficult the assignment was for many of them. They discovered they had a limiting belief that the world wasn’t a giving place—it was full of scarcity rather than abundance. They were amazed at how overcoming that limiting belief enabled them to get things beyond what they had ever imagined. Some course members ended up getting raises. One course member who worked for a nonprofit went to a big donor and asked for a gift for the charity. He was blown away when the donor said yes!
It’s amazing what happens when we suddenly realize the power of saying what we normally wouldn’t say. When we break out of the beliefs that hold us back and start testing the waters with little assignments and experiments, we may be very surprised at the outcomes.
Start out by stretching a little. Do or say something you feel is a little edgy. Work up to something bigger, then something even bigger.
Every person was socialized as a child to limit their behavior. Maybe we believed we should be polite, we shouldn’t be emotional, we shouldn’t speak up, or we shouldn’t be “too much.” These beliefs are carried with us throughout our lives.
Rather than continuing to solidify those beliefs as adults, we can instead stretch and expand our capacity to become increasingly honest, engaged, and expressive. We can start to push ourselves beyond the limits of what we’ve deemed as being socially acceptable. We can start to rock the boat a little.
Many of our beliefs have long been carried with us. There are often stories and myths behind them. Many of our families may have set rules about how we should behave.
One of the big life experiments for our students is to challenge their family beliefs and rules. They challenge the limits of their limiting beliefs. Even though our family beliefs may have some validity to them, we generally hold them as more restrictive than they need to be. Through the assignment way of living, we can continue to challenge these ideas and explore our identity.
Every assignment is designed to challenge at least one limiting belief. For example, asking for things may challenge a limiting belief about politeness. It may also challenge a belief about the nature of society and our role within the world.
At the deepest level, we all hold limiting beliefs about ourselves and what the world expects from us. These beliefs show up in our relationships, our work, our marriage, our salary, and all other aspects of our lives.
So, as you challenge these beliefs and start living life as an experiment, you’ll see powerful changes in many areas of your life. You may realize your fixed mindset and limiting beliefs are holding you back from realizing your full potential and attaining the life you dream about.
If you’re ready to tackle your limiting beliefs, start thinking of the world as your playground. Go out, experiment, make mistakes, test the waters, and see what happens. Look for the lesson in each experience and push yourself beyond your comfort zone.
For more on overcoming your limiting beliefs, please visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming networking event or course, where you’ll meet others on their journey toward living extraordinary lives. Go forth and ignite your world!
Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.