Cultivating a mindset for change is an essential skill in today's ever-changing world, where innovation and progress are happening at a super fast pace. The ability to adapt to new circumstances, learn new skills, and embrace new opportunities has become critical for our personal and professional growth. Several cognitive abilities are involved in change and developing a change mindset. Read through this blog to explore the different mental skills involved in our mindset for change and discover our tips for developing it.
As humans, we have an innate ability to change, but also a natural attitude to be lazy about it. How is it possible? It’s of course down to our well-evolved brains.
On one hand, our prefrontal cortex is developed to host the most complex of cognitive processes that go under the umbrella of executive function, which help us plan, organise, initiate, inhibit, and adapt our behaviour to changing circumstances. So our brain has evolved to make us able to adapt to an ever-changing world.
On the other hand, our brain is optimised to find the route that needs the least amount of effort and mental resources to complete it. So we tend to be lazy about change and stick to routines that have become automated for our brain. And using our executive function requires mental effort indeed.
But when it comes to change, executive function plays a crucial role, because it helps us set goals, inhibit old habits, shift our attention, and become more self-aware. While our brains naturally try to avoid change by being a bit lazy, we actually need them to tackle it.
Key cognitive abilities used in cultivating a mindset for change
Planning and goal setting: deciding to change requires setting new goals and planning how to achieve them. Executive function processes such as planning, organising, and initiating can help us create a plan of action to achieve our new mindset.
Inhibition: resisting old habits and ways of thinking is a key part of the process of change. Executive function processes such as inhibition help us resist old thought patterns that are unhelpful and replace them with new ones that are helpful.
Shifting: change often involves shifting our attention from old ways of thinking to new ones. Executive function processes such as shifting help us move our attention from one idea or perspective to another, and allow us to approach problems and opportunities from multiple perspectives. This is essentially linked to cognitive flexibility, aka our ability to shift our thinking and adapt to new situations. Cognitive flexibility helps us stay open to new ideas, break out of old habits, and respond to change quickly.
Adaptability: closely linked to cognitive flexibility, adaptability is our ability to adjust to new situations and changing circumstances, which is essential for successfully navigating change, allowing us to be open-minded and flexible.
Problem-solving: when facing change, there are often new problems to solve. The ability to approach problems in a logical and systematic way can help us overcome challenges and find solutions.
Creativity: change often requires innovative and out-of-the-box thinking. Creativity is our ability to generate novel and useful ideas, and it can be incredibly helpful when planning or adapting to change.
Resilience: change can be challenging and stressful, and it often requires perseverance and the ability to bounce back from setbacks. Resilience is the capacity to cope with adversity and to recover quickly from difficult situations.
Self-awareness: this involves recognising our own beliefs and biases and being open to questioning and challenging them. Executive function processes such as monitoring and evaluating can help us become more aware of our thoughts and behaviours and identify areas for change.
Change always requires a level of effort from us, and commitment: developing a mindset open to change is a process that takes time and practice. Cultivating our mindset for change involves refining some of those mental abilities, while developing a set of attitudes and beliefs that promote growth, flexibility, and adaptability.
Our mindset determines how we approach something - change, learning, taking action. If we have a closed mindset or one that simply disapproves of change, it’ll be harder to tackle it for us. When we cultivate a mindset open to change, new possibilities and that’s curious about the unknown, we find change infinitely easier to tackle and get through.
Here are 7 tips to start going through this process, at your own pace. Be patient and keep taking small steps towards your desired change.
Be curious and open-minded: curiosity is an essential ingredient in cultivating a mindset for change. When we are curious, we seek out new experiences, ask questions, and challenge assumptions. Curiosity helps us stay open to new ideas and opportunities and can lead to unexpected discoveries and insights. To develop a sense of curiosity, start by asking questions about things that interest you. Seek out new experiences, whether it's trying a new cuisine, taking up a new hobby, or visiting a new place. Open-mindness allows us to embrace change and see it as an opportunity for growth and learning.
Develop a growth mindset: adopt a mindset that sees challenges as opportunities for growth and learning, rather than as threats to our abilities. This mindset encourages us to take risks, try new things, and persevere through difficulties. To develop a growth mindset, focus on the process of learning, rather than the outcome. Celebrate progress, not just success, and embrace failure as a necessary step on the path to growth.
Practice cognitive flexibility: to develop cognitive flexibility, try doing things differently than we usually would. Take a different route to work, try a new approach to a task, or challenge ourselves to think outside the box.
Embrace uncertainty: change often brings uncertainty and ambiguity, and it's important to be comfortable with the unknown. Practice letting go of the need for control and be open to the possibilities that change can bring.
Practice self-reflection: take time to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Ask ourselves what we can learn from past experiences and what changes we want to make in the future.
Take action: change requires action. Start by setting small goals and taking small steps towards our desired change. Don’t forget to celebrate our progress along the way.
Surround ourselves with supportive people: finally, to cultivate a mindset for change, it's important to create an environment that supports growth and learning. Surround yourself with people who share your values and support your goals. Seek out mentors and coaches who can offer guidance and feedback. Look for opportunities to learn and grow, whether it's through formal education or on-the-job training. Celebrate the successes of others and encourage them to pursue their goals as well.
In conclusion, cultivating a mindset for change is an ongoing process that requires dedication, hard work, and a willingness to embrace uncertainty and risk. By embracing a growth mindset, developing a sense of curiosity, practising cognitive flexibility, building resilience, and fostering a growth-oriented environment, we can develop the skills and attitudes necessary to thrive in an ever-changing and fast-paced world.