Thursday, May 26, 2011

Eliminating the Insulation

In the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck presents a theory that people have one of two approaches to their lives. One of these approaches, a fixed mindset, is the belief that you were born who you are.  You do things the way that you do, you have certain characteristics and specific skills, and all of those things do not change.  People with the fixed mindset don't want feedback or criticism unless it's complementary.  The opposite mindset is a growth mindset.  These people feel like they are constantly evolving.  Their personality features and skills can change over time with a lot of effort.  People with growth mindsets enjoy the process of learning and improving.  Dweck says that people can be both, having a fixed mindset in some facets of their life and a growth mindset in other facets. 

What does this have to do with physical health?  Many have fixed mindsets when it comes to diet.  Like others with the fixed mindset, they don't want to hear that what they are doing isn't the best way possible.  Unfortunately, these are often the people who most need to honestly assess themselves: individuals who are suffering from obesity, chronic illnesses, or have several cardiovascular risk factors, to name a few.  In my opinion, I think people blame their conditions on the causes of genetics or God's plan too often.  I'm not saying this is never the case, but we should exhaust all controllable causes before we resign to the uncontrollable. 

People who are obese or ill with any condition should be asking themselves questions:
  • What food or foods have I been eating regularly for years?
  • What macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein, alcohol) make up the majority of my diet?
  • In addition to diet, what other lifestyle factors have been consistent as my health has declined (i.e. sleep habits, drinking, smoking, stress level, type and quantity of exercise, etc.)

The answers to these questions should lead to changes or at least further investigation into possible scientific literature in the hopes that a link between the diet/lifestyle factor and the illness exists.

The following is a recent blog post from author and business guru Seth Godin:

Who is making you uncomfortable?

Who looks you in the eye and says, "given your skills, you could do better..."
"You have enough leverage to really make a difference."
"What would happen if you doubled the amount you donated?"
"Could you set aside the fear and go faster?"
"I know you're holding back..."
It takes love and kindness and confidence to bring the truth to a friend you care about. If you're insulating yourself from these conversations, who benefits?

Seth, as the businessman that he is, is speaking to people about taking feedback from coworkers and others who review their work.  However, perhaps more of us need to recognize that we could do better with our health.  We need to remove the insulation and start having honest conversations with ourselves.  Significant improvement could be a few diet changes away.


Fred Hahn said...

Good post Sean. One small step for man...

Floriana said...

Change is hard. I think it's often case that people actually do know they can change and know what they need to do, but are afraid to do it or aren't willing to put in the effort necessary to make the changes. Claiming that change is not possible in that case is just a convenient excuse.

For those who are ready to make changes, you have some very good directions here. Great post, Sean.

Dr. Sean Preuss said...

Fred - Thank you.

Floriana - I agree. I think "how-to" is not the biggest issue with lifestyle (diet espcially) changes. I think you are more capable to speak to this issue than me, with your own experience and those experiences shared on your blog. I do wish that it was less mental and emotion and more technical.