Your Mindset Matters More Than You Think!
“Once your mindset changes, everything on the outside will change along with it.” - Steve Maraboli
If you were following the Australian Open tennis tournament last week, you may have noticed how elite sports has become a battle of mindsets. Women’s singles finalist Danielle Collins said (in the most endearing way you can possibly deliver these words):
“I try to be the best at whatever I’m doing…and if I’m not, I still tell myself I’m the best. You have to believe it, right?”
Ashleigh Barty, the woman who defeated Danielle Collins in the Australian Open finals, isn’t content to tell herself that she’s the best. She has a mindset coach to help her fortify her beliefs in her bestness.
Daniil Medvedev, down two sets to Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime in the Australian Open quarterfinals, acknowledged borrowing Novak Djokovic’s “fight until the last point” mindset to storm back and win three straight sets.
Mindsets are like Teslas. Once you find out somebody has one and is raving about it, you start seeing them everywhere. There are mindsets about winter, mindsets about ageing, and mindsets about Bengals. If you can name it and care about it, you have a mindset about it that matters.
But what is a mindset? A mindset is a simplified core assumption about the world that directs your expectations, explanations, and actions. Your mindset is a product of your upbringing, the culture and media you are surrounded by, and influential people you believe are trustworthy. It is the lens through which you filter reality.
Why should you care about mindsets? Because, whether you are aware of them or not, mindsets are controlling your life. Mindsets affect the things you pay attention to and the things you’re motivated to do, and mindsets affect your feelings. Mindsets are even affecting your what’s going on inside your body. Mindsets affect your health, your performance, and your wellbeing. Mindsets really do matter.
Fascinated by one of the most incredible examples of mindsets in action — the placebo effect that produces clinically significant benefits in 60 to 90 percent of all diseases with nothing more than the power of the mind — Dr. Alia Crum of Stanford University has devoted her academic career to the study of mindsets.
Dr. Crum’s “Milkshake Study” examined how our beliefs about what we are eating changes our physiological response to food.
Imagine two milkshakes. One, you’re told, is totally decadent. Loaded with fat and sugar, it is a 600-calorie indulgence. Now imagine a low-fat, low-calorie “diet” milkshake.
Subjects were given each milkshake one week apart. Not surprisingly, the indulgent milkshake lowered the level of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin three times more than the diet milkshake.
But both milkshakes were exactly the same 300-calorie drink!!
The implication of this study is not that you should avoid diet food, but rather you should try as best you can, in a world where junk food is presented as sexy and fun, to have the mindset that healthy food is indulgent and delicious, a treat for your body and not edible deprivation.
Dr. Crum is also one of the researchers responsible for the equally impressive “Hotel Workers Study.” In this study, hotel housekeepers, whose jobs involved a lot of physical activity but whose mindset was “work is work,” were split into two groups. One group cleaned rooms as they normally did with their “work is work” mindset. The other group was educated about the surgeon general’s activity guidelines and was told their jobs met or exceeded these guidelines and that “work is good exercise.”
Four weeks later, the “work is exercise” group was found to have lost weight and reduced their blood pressure by 10 points as compared to the “work is work” mindset group. The “work is exercise” group not only experienced physical benefits, but reported feeling better about their bodies and their work.
The lesson of the housekeepers study is, rather than beat yourself up about the exercise you’re not getting, celebrate what you’re already doing and try to increase it just a bit. An analysis published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine found that if Americans did just 10 extra minutes a day of brisk walking, they could collectively prevent over 111,000 premature deaths every year. The exercise mindset of “Every little bit counts,” is scientifically sound!
How can you put the latest research about mindsets into action to change your life for the better?
1. The first step is awareness. Be aware that you have mindsets for everything and that they are affecting your experience of reality.
2. Inspect your mindset in a particular area of your life that’s important to you and ask yourself: what effect is this mindset having on my life? Is this mindset helpful or harmful?
3. If your mindset is harmful or not as beneficial as it could be, consciously adopt a more helpful mindset and back up your new mindset with a few words of encouragement that I won’t call a mantra or an affirmation unless you want me to.
Please take a few minutes to examine at least one mindset. It could change your life.
“Mindset is empowering because we have access to it and can change it. Treat yourself like a scientist. Look at your life. Look at your mindsets. See what is serving you and what isn’t. Find more useful, adaptive, empowering mindsets and live by those.” - Dr. Alia Crum
Get Fully Charged on Mindset Matters
1. Please listen to this Huberman Lab podcast interview with Dr. Alia Crum in which she discusses the milkshake and housekeeper studies as well as her extensive research on how your mindset about stress can change your physical and emotional reaction to it.
2. The winter mindset that welcomes the cozy peacefulness of winter helps people experience the coldest darkest months of the year without having them negatively affect their wellbeing. In The Atlantic article, “The Norwegian Town Where The Sun Doesn’t Rise” researcher Kari Leibowitz explains how the mindset “winter is to be enjoyed” rather than “winter is to be endured” changes everything. Dr. Alia Crum of Stanford makes a guest appearance in this article.
3. “Can You Think Yourself Young?” is the title of a recent article by David Robson of The Guardian. The answer is YES!
4. The Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League changed their mindset mantra from underdog “Why Not Us?” to champion “It Is Us.” Will it be enough to win the Super Bowl? Maybe not, but it probably improved their chances. From Nora Princiotti’s “The Bengals Believe.” The Ringer, January 28, 2022.
5. Ash Barty’s mindset coach, Ben Crowe was recently profiled by Matthew Futterman of The New York Times in an article entitled “What Do I Want From This Crazy Thing Called Life?”
You can read the transcript of one of Crowe’s speeches in which he delves into the mindsets of champions here.
Bonus: For your new exercise mindset, check out “Walking Just 10 Minutes a Day May Lead to a Longer Life” by Gretchen Reynolds of The New York Times.