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Can Changing Your Mind Change Your Art? Mindset's Impact on Artistry

When we think about our view of ourselves, our work, and the world, psychologist Carol Dweck tells us there are two options. We can either have a deterministic view of life, assuming that we've been handed a predetermined path, thereby achieving less than our full potential, or we can open ourselves up to the infinite possibilities that lie ahead.

It's the choice between the red pill or the blue pill; and Dweck implies that our viewpoints determine what we swallow. If we believe we are stuck, then we stick. If we believe we can grow, then we expand. So, LCP-ers, let's dive into a discussion on the impact of a fixed versus growth mindset and how it can advance your artistic goals.

Image via Unsplash

Breaking it Down

Dweck identified key areas in which the fixed versus growth mindsets often diverge, and they're usually contextually specific. Here, I've given those areas some example language as they relate to creativity. Browse down the lists below. Where do you fall? I'd suggest that if you are over fifty percent in one or the other category, you're likely to be dominant in that mindset.

There's something important to understand about mindset: fixed isn't necessarily bad! There are times when things aren't working out, and for good reason. Perhaps this project isn't "the one," and something much more worthwhile is calling our names. We'd be remiss if we didn't also trust our instinct.

Sunk Cost Fallacy

The concept of the sunk cost comes from economics and business, but easily applies to creativity. Consider the following exchange:

"How's your novel going?"

"Don't ask."

"That good, huh?"

"I've been working on it for about 10 years now. Someday, I'll finish it, and then I'll get it published."

Sound familiar? The sunk cost fallacy is when we commit to a behavior, project, or endeavor simply because of previously invested resources. These resources might be money, time, or other types of effort and/or energy expenditures. Have you ever gone seen a concert you were dreading simply because the tickets were "already paid for?" Sunk cost fallacy. Have you ever eaten the cookies in your house after committing to your diet just to "get them out of the way?" (I mean, they're here, and I won't buy any more.) You get the point. We all tend to form strong emotional bonds to art that we've put significant time and energy into.

We sink our love into art. It's brain power and resources. It's creativity from a well that only runs so deep. Art is also what it takes away - stolen moments from family and friends, missed opportunities, and anything we said "no" to so we could create. But, don't be fooled by sunk costs. Looking at your investment with a growth mindset can help determine how wise the investment has been, and if you're truly stuck, or perhaps not there yet.

"Not Yet"

One of my favorite concepts of Dweck's is that of "not yet." It's how to work in the growth mindset space where you're not quite ready to succeed. Consider this quote from Dweck:

"I heard about a high school in Chicago where students had to pass a certain number of courses to graduate, and if they didn’t pass a course, they got the grade 'Not Yet.' And I thought that was fantastic, because if you get a failing grade, you think, I’m nothing, I’m nowhere. But if you get the grade 'Not Yet' you understand that you’re on a learning curve. It gives you a path into the future."

Now, place that concept into the context of succeeding in artistry. It speaks to a few similar items that you're familiar with if you've been reading this blog for any amount of time. First, it talks about working just slightly out of your comfort zone. Being in the "not yet" is about creating in a space that you're headed towards. It's an exciting, motivating, and beautiful place to be. Second, the fact that a "not yet" exists is reason that we, as artists, are practitioners of our craft. We put the hours in, hone skills, and refine. We're butt-in-chair people; 10,000-hour people; and we're the people that don't sell-out. The "not yet" space exists for creatives. And thank goodness for that.

I'll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite TEDx talks* (mine, haha!):

"No one can teach you how to break out of a comfort zone. You do it by going through it. The more you do it, the easier it becomes."

We recommend that you become so inspired by your own art that it moves you to break out of your own comfort zones, because then, only growth can happen.

*my TEDx talk is going live at the end of June! We'll be sure to update you as soon as it's viewable!

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