Mindset is a Practice, Not a Destination

Developing an outward mindset is a practice—a journey—not a place you can arrive at. We strive in a desired direction, always with room to improve.

By the Arbinger Institute | April 17, 2017

In the past few weeks, we at Arbinger have been reminded a number of times that developing the mindset you want is a practice, not a final state you can “arrive” at. So we decided to write a blog about it!

An Outward Mindset is the Goal.

At Arbinger, we talk about developing an outward mindset. With an outward mindset, we see others as people who matter like we do. This allows us to take into account their needs, challenges and objectives even as we work towards our own goals. An outward mindset moves toward collective goals.

By contrast, an inward mindset is self-focused. When we are inward, or “in the box,” others do not matter like we do. We can end up hurting, using, or ignoring them in our efforts to protect ourselves, our identities, our egos, our results—whatever we think might be at stake. The outcome? Generally sub-optimal.

Arbinger’s work helps us move from an inward to an outward mindset so that we can be more effective as individuals and as members of organizations.

We Never Arrive.

If there’s one thing we can guarantee, it’s that we will end up in the box, even after we understand what an outward mindset is and why it’s where we want to be. We will go inward again and again. We are very, very good at justifying an inward mindset through our thoughts, feelings and actions without even noticing we’ve gone in the box.

You might be thinking, “Well, that’s not a very hopeful or helpful message!” The hopeful part is that if we do slide, we have not failed. Going in the box doesn’t make us bad people. It makes us human.

That’s why the outward mindset is a practice—a journey—not a destination. We strive in a desired direction, always with room to improve.

We Do Improve.

If the goal is to be more outward, how do we do that? By developing and practicing three skills:

  1. Self-awareness. First, we cultivate an ability to notice when we’ve gone in the box. We know what our personal “red flags” are—maybe we get really sarcastic, or very quiet, or start to feel our hearts pounding. Whatever our red flags, we know what they are and get better at identifying them when they arise.
  2. Self-correction. Once we have a good feel for our own signs of being in the box, we use the tools at our disposal to shift our mindset. Perhaps we pause and take some time to reflect on what’s going on for the other person.
  3. Self-accountability. Here’s the real “practice” part: We regularly remind ourselves to review our mindset. We check in with ourselves and those around us to see if our efforts have been helpful. We ask what more we can be doing.

By practicing these skills, we form new habits. We build muscle memory. And although we’re still guaranteed to slip back into the box, this practice of self-awareness-correction-accountability will allow us to turn outward more quickly, more often, and more consistently.