Changing Our Mindset

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.” ~ Paulo Coelho

I would like to start with a question to ponder on – How do you really feel about change? (try to pick the one answer below that best reflects you)

1) I need constant change to avoid feeling restless.

2) I live by “If it isn’t broken, why fix it?”

3) I like the idea of change but don’t tend to live by it given the work and motivation involved.

4) I embrace change when it challenges me to grow in positive ways.

While we ponder on our feelings about change, we will discuss some of the pivitol work of Carol Dweck on our ‘mindset’. She is a Stanford professor of Psychology, and the author of the book Mindset. Her work in the area of success and potential has revolutionized our approach to these very important concepts in all areas of life. Her TED talk The Power of Believing That You Can Improve , explains some of the promise of her work and why changing the way we think about our potential, can really change our success in work, relationships and overall life.

Growth versus fixed mindset

Dweck distinguishes between growth and fixed mindsets, where a growth mindset recognizes our abilities can be developed, and in contrast, a fixed mindset believes our abilities are carved in stone. Understandably, these mindsets become very important in life transitions, building resilience and change. If we believe that our talents and intelligence are fixed, we lose sight of our potential and opportunities to learn and grow.

What mindset do you have?

At first, I thought it was pretty obvious that I have a growth mindset. I took Dweck’s test and this seemed to confirm it. However, I absolutely used to have a fixed mindset – as I believe many of us do when our performance and abilities have been outwardly judged for so long. After four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical school and two years of residency, I was more likely to validate my abilities based on measurements and assessments.

Dweck gives the example of why people hold onto a fixed mindset, such as “it told them who they were or who they wanted to be (a smart, talented child) and it told them how to be that (perform well)”. However, as we all know, sometimes no matter how hard you may work at something, or think you know something, you may come up against rejection and failure. The fixed mindset runs from this whereas the growth mindset would see this as an opportunity.

Change & mindset

Part of what got me thinking about mindset and Dweck’s work relates to the significant changes in my family’s life right now. This summer we moved from Alberta to British Columbia; my husband Colin traded in his radiology partnership status for a self-contracted teleradiologist position; our son started university knowing only one person in his Science program; our daughter started high school knowing no one; and I am in the process of refocusing all my professional attention on our physician health venture.

As with any transition, it has had its ups and downs – but that is to be as expected. However, my mindset has really become one of growth, as I believe in the power of learning, putting forth effort over the longterm, overcoming failures and ultimately reaching our potential. Without change, is any of it really possible? In the words of Carol Dweck, “Change can be tough, but I have never heard anyone say it wasn’t worth it.”

To answer the first question, which is probably obvious at this point, I answer ‘D’ – I embrace change when it challenges me to grow in positive ways.



Dweck, C. (2006) Mindset. Random House: New York.

The Right Mindset for Success – Harvard Business Review

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