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  • Writer's picturePatricia Faust

Where Are We in the Chaos of Change

We have jumped – or been pushed – into the huge chaos of change. There is no established normal currently. Everyone has to adjust or adapt to this new normal. Because there is no looking back anymore, we must look at change this way: “Change is inevitable – so why not make it intentional.” David Rock/ Neuroleadership Institute

We have to admit that the most routine practices that we perform everyday are no longer valid. The demands of change put us by COVID have taught us that we cannot go down kicking and screaming. It must be acknowledged that behavior change is the most difficult to manage because our behavior is hardwired as habits. These habits make life easier and more comfortable because we don’t have to think about each and everything we do.

When you do the same thing over and over, you form a new neural pathway in your brain. Your brain is electric, so the repetition creates an electrical charge going to the same neurons. Then – what fires together – wires together. You have created a new neural pathway. The brain has to work hard to create this new pathway. But when the signal becomes so strong it drops off into the subconscious – the area where habits reside. You no longer need to think through the whole process. Your brain is operating on habit hardwiring. This can be good or bad and that is where it gets a little more complicated. Once you have created a habit it stays with you forever. You never get rid of a bad habit. So, you have to create a new good habit to override the bad habit.

At the beginning of the pandemic, you were thrown into an unknown situation. The rug had been pulled out from under you. Your normal routine was shattered, and the first few weeks were hard to navigate. We were comfortable with the old way. Change is hard. Individual change is all about behavioral change.

Growth vs Fixed Mindset

At this point it is important to take into account mindset. There have been two different types of mindset identified: Fixed mindset vs. Growth mindset.

Fixed Mindset: in this mindset, people believe that their intelligence is fixed and static. Growth Mindset: in this mindset, people believe that intelligence and talents can be improved through effort and learning. How do these mindsets affect change?

People with a Fixed Mindset:

· Avoid challenges to avoid failure

· Ignore feedback from others

· Believe putting in effort is worthless

· Give up easily

This group of people are fearful of change and have a difficult time adjusting to all the new demands placed upon them.

What is a Fixed Mindset?

People in a fixed mindset believe that talent and intelligence are fixed. They believe they’re born with the level of intelligence and natural talents they’ll reach in adulthood. A fixed-minded person usually avoids challenges in life, gives up easily, and becomes intimidated or threatened by the success of other people.

Fixed mindsets can lead to negative thinking. For instance, a person with a fixed mindset might fail at a task and believe it’s because they aren’t smart enough to do it.

People with fixed mindsets believe individual traits cannot change, ni matter how much effort you put in and are more likely to:

· Believe that talent and intelligence are static

· Avoid challenges to avoid failure

· Ignore feedback from others

· Feel threatened by the success of others

· Hide flaws so as not to be judged by others

· Believe putting in effort is worthless

· View feedback as personal criticism

· Give up easily

People with a Growth Mindset:

· Put in more effort to learn

· Believe effort leads to mastery

· View feedback as a source of information

· Willingly embrace challenges

This group of people would have a much easier time adapting to all of the changes they are asked to live with.

The Neuroscience of Growth Mindset:

Using imaging studies researchers have identified two key areas of the brain that correlates to growth mindset.

· The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC): is involved in learning and control

· The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PLC): is involved in error-monitoring and behavioral adaptation.

Growth mindset appears to be linked to higher motivation and error correction. Additionally, researchers have shown that in growth-minded people, the brain is most active when a person was told how they could improve.

Where Does that Leave Us?

So here we are moving through a pandemic where life afterward doesn’t look exactly the same as before it started. Understanding different mindsets does give us a better understanding of why some people do what they do. Can we make the necessary changes to live a life without fear?

Can a person change his/her mindset? During the process of neuroplasticity, the brain grows new cells and connections in adapting to their environment. Studies have shown that the brain can grow new connections, strengthen existing ones, and improve the speed of pulse transmission. These suggest that a person with a fixed mindset can slowly develop a growth mindset.

There are several ways to develop a growth mindset:

1. Realize that scientifically, you can improve

Our brains are built to grow and learn. Challenging yourself with new experiences can form or strengthen neural connections, which in turn make you smarter

2. Remove the ‘fixed mindset’ inner voice

Try to change thoughts like ‘I can’t do this’ to I can do this if I keep practicing

3. Reward the Process

Reward the process and effort exerted

4. Get feedback

Try and seek feedback for your efforts. Feedback is also associated with a pleasurable dopamine response and enhances a growth mindset

5. Get out of your comfort zone

Being brave enough to leave your comfort zone can help foster a growth mindset

6. Accept failure as part of the process

Failure, setbacks, and initial confusion are all part of the learning process. Try to enjoy the discovery process along the way

To move out of this chaos of change we need to develop a growth mindset. It is imperative that we accept this challenge that has been handed to us. We need to be open and willing to learn about all of the changes to come.


Smith J. (September 25, 2020). Growth mindset vs fixed mindset: how what you think affects what you achieve. Retrieved from

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