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The Optimal Mindset with Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson: Week 1 - Being Good vs. Getting Better


Here are a few of our favorite Big Ideas + Other Cool Stuff from Week 1 of Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson's 4 week course The Optimal Mindset.

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The Context

Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson is a motivational psychologist, speaker, and author. She serves on the Board of Advisors at Columbia University’s Motivation Science Center, and her research on goals and well-being has been published in some of the field’s most prestigious journals.

How can you really break the cycle of self-criticism and dejection? How can you bring yourself to appreciate the moment you are in, when you are so worried about what’s coming down the road? In this course, you’ll learn the answer: change your MINDSET from wanting to BE GOOD to wanting to GET BETTER. Because it turns out (and we’ve got the research to prove it), when we think about what we do in terms of getting better, rather than being good, we see our world and ourselves in a whole new way.

THIS WEEK, we're talking about Being Good vs. Getting Better

Let's check out some of our favorite Big Ideas from this week:

Big Idea #1: Why Care About Mindsets?

A mindset is like a lens that filters everything we see.

We tend to think we notice *everything* that happens, but our mindset actually determines what we pay attention to. We particularly tune in to certain information depending on our mindset.

Maybe it’s information on how to learn and develop. Maybe it’s information on how other people are seeing or judging us. Maybe it’s information on how we compare to others.

What determines which of these things we pay attention to? You guessed it… our mindset!

Most experiences we have feel like there’s only one interpretation, but in fact, most experiences are subjective! There are multiple ways to interpret the circumstance we find ourselves in. And how we interpret the experience is going to dictate how we feel (and act in the future). 

Big Idea #2: The Being Good VS Getting Better Mindset

The “being good” mindset implies that our abilities are fixed – but they’re not!

We tend to think that when we reach a goal, it will say something about us. It’s as if we want to show and prove to people (and ourselves) that we’re smart.

Don’t judge yourself. Instead, think about *getting better*.

The "getting better" mindset is about doing things and thinking about it as a process. Your abilities aren’t fixed – they’re malleable – they can grow!

This is really what predicts how successful people will be. If they think, “this is hard, I must not be good at it” – they pull back effort and become really anxious.

Instead, successful people think about things in terms of *getting better* over time. They think they’re not good at things – YET! They look at other ways to do things.

People with a *get better* mindset are much more tuned into information they can use to improve. This is a HUGE advantage because we’re picking up knowledge about how to perform more effectively! Suh-weet!! :)

Big Idea #3: How Do We Interpret Challenges?

So, what does it mean to us when there are bumps in the road?

Well, that depends on which mindset we have!

When we have the *be good* mindset, we tend to respond to challenges with *anxiety* and *withdrawal*. Yikes! We respond this way because we correlate how good we’re doing with how good of a person we are.

We get anxious, and that makes us perform worse, which leads to self-doubt. Ultimately, it's a self-sabotaging cycle.

People with the *be good* mindset are also more likely to withdraw. They do this because they perceive their abilities as being limited, and when things get hard they assume that they weren’t meant to do this kind of task.

It sounds like the *getting better* mindset is the way to go. But is there ever a time when it will hurt us? The answer is... NO - it’s *always* useful. :)

Other Cool Stuff

Check out this week's slides for more goodness!

If any of your questions went unanswered, or if you’d like to learn more about something that you’ve heard us discuss, just email Heidi: ( 

We hope you enjoyed this week's class and look forward to seeing you next week!

- The en*theos Team

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Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson is a motivational psychologist, speaker, author of SUCCEED: How We Can Reach Our Goals, blogger for Huff Post, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, SmartBrief, and Psychology Today.


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