It’s All in the Mindset


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After my trip to Asia, I have been doing a lot of thinking. Through a series of events, I began to notice that people, who struggled in trying to live for Christ, had a mindset issue rather than a behavioral issue.

This was something that I always knew, but it hit me really hard in the last three months.

Therefore, I have been on a campaign.

I have been relentlessly with the mantra, “Right thinking leads to right feelings, and right feelings lead to right actions.” Simply, I have been encouraging people to have the, “Right TFA” (yes, me and my love for acronyms).

Often, we focus so much of our attention on the behavior that we cosmetically cover up issues in our lives. This quickly turns into “sin management,” which eventually leads to frustration or apathy, and in most cases it leads to both.

I don’t know if it is specific to this generation or it has been prevalent in every generation (probably the latter), but I was shocked to see how many people made bad decisions based on their feelings. With every counseling scenario, I always come to the same conclusion – something in their mindset (thinking process) is messed up. It is either a faulty thinking about who God is or who they are. This always causes them to feel a certain way, which inevitability causes them to behave in a way that is inconsistent with the truth.

Once again, “right thinking leads to right feelings, and right feelings lead to right actions.”

No wonder the Apostle Paul said, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Php 4:8).

Recently, John Ortberg wrote an article in Christianity Today, called, “The Growth Mindset.” It touches upon some of the things that I have been trying to communicate to people. He writes,

“A friend of mine – one of the most effective leaders I know – has produced remarkable results that span several decades at two very large organizations, and is now taking on a third one. He’s the kind of guy that you naturally want to be with. He shared with me one of the keys to his success. When he takes the reins of leadership somewhere, the first thing he will do is get rid of the people who are negative. ‘I can’t afford the energy that will get siphoned off by whiners and victims and blamers and drainers,’ he told me. So the first step he takes in building a team is creating a family of positive, visionary, excited, and basically happy people.

Another friend of mine, who has worked both inside and outside the church, says that this is easier to do when you work at a corporation than it is when you work at a church. But it did spark my thinking: what makes some people energy-bringers and others energy-drainers? Obstacles or opportunities?

Carol Dweck is a world-renowned Stanford psychologist and author of Mindset, a book about a fundamental difference in human thinking. She found that raw talent and aptitude have relatively little to do with how far children will journey in life when they become adults. Through a series of studies, she was surprised to find a certain subset of children who not only are able to tolerate failure – not even able simply to cope with it – but actually relish it. On one occasion she gave children a series of nearly impossible puzzles. Many were frustrated. Some gave up. Some labored grimly. But a few had a completely different response.

One 10-year-old boy, who was confronted with one of the nearly impossible puzzles, actually looked up with a smile on his face and said, ‘You know, I was hoping this would be informative.’ Another rubbed his hands, and cried out ‘I love a challenge!’ What’s wrong with them? Dweck found herself asking. This led her on a 20-year journey that produced a remarkable finding: how people respond to challenges and failure depends, not on their failure, but on their mindset.

Some people have a fixed mindset. They view their qualities like intelligence and ability to be carved in stone. Therefore each task becomes a referendum on their ability, which means it’s also an assessment of their worth. Failure is horrible because it means they are not made of the right stuff. Others have what Dweck calls a ‘growth mindset.’ This is based on the belief that your basic qualities can be grown through effort and learning. Although other people may have higher IQs or coordination than you, through experience, you can grow.

It is not simply that some people crave risks, or that some people are naturally more resilient. The key, Dweck found over and over again, is the belief that underlies your sense of identity. If you believe your qualities are carved in stone it will determine how you approach (and avoid) challenges throughout your life. If you believe that growth is possible and desirable, you will face your days with a fundamentally different set of thoughts and emotions.

All of this has caused me to reflect on faith. It struck me that this difference in mindset doesn’t simply involve our view of ourselves. Even more important is our view of the universe. If there is no God, then our ultimate fate really is “carved in stone.” Finitude, human fallibility, mortality and the law of entropy will eventually prevail. But with God, every moment becomes different. With God, the lid is off the terrarium. ‘With God,’ as Jesus said ‘all things are possible.’ It is this mindset that made Joshua and Caleb see possibilities where 10 other spies saw only giant roadblocks. It is this mindset that caused David see an opponent too big to miss, while everyone else saw one too big to hit. What’s wrong with them?

It was ultimately this understanding of how things are that allowed Jesus to go to a cross knowing that stones and death can’t block the God of the resurrection. Every day, in my life and yours, we face challenges too big for our little abilities. Without God, every day in ministry is dependent on my little store of resources, and is a declaration of my inadequacy and insignificance. But with God, it’s another story. Maybe, just maybe, God keeps throwing us in over our heads in the hopes that we will realize that our souls, like our bodies, are buoyant when his breath fills them.”

Spiritual ENTREPRENEUR, Church EQUIPPER, Leadership EDUCATOR, Ideas EXPERIMENTER & Global EXPLORER who is trying to transform lives and transform the world.
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