Transcript: EP 304 – Moving from Fixed to Growth Mindset with Michaela Renee Johnson
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Dr. Taz: Welcome back, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Super Woman Wellness, where we are determined to bring you back to your superpowered self. Here’s a true story, many women I meet in any scenario, whether it’s in the practice, or when I’m speaking, or just even in my personal life, often feel stuck. How many of you have felt that way? I’m sure you can nod your head. Often you’re stuck because you have an incredible sense of responsibility to many of the things you’ve signed up for and we feel obligated to.
Well, a lot of this is about our mindset, and how we think and how sometimes we need to grow. To help us with that, and I hope I’m saying your name correctly, I have Michaela Renee Johnson. She’s a bestselling author, a licensed psychotherapist and host of the top iTunes podcast, Be You Find Happy, which encourages people to speak their truth with grace and live a courageous life of authenticity. Be You Find Happy holds workshops and conversations on finding happiness in spite of life’s setbacks, and has landed her speaking opportunities across the country. She’s an avid adventurer, a tailwheel aviator. I was just looking at this incredible picture of her. She’s traveled to over 20 countries. Welcome to the show. Michaela, correct? I should have asked you in the start?
Michaela Renee Johnson: You nailed it. Thank you.
Dr. Taz: Michaela, welcome. How did you even evolve into talking about this stuff and what do you feel like the biggest challenges for many of your clients and people you meet?
Michaela Renee Johnson: I think this is such a fabulous question because it really touches on all of the components, which there seems to be these running themes in client sessions, and the running theme of sessions today has been, “I’m afraid to try something because I’m afraid I’ll fail.” And in talking about the evolution of how I’ve gotten, where I’ve gotten, I have this reckless abandon without this fear of failing. I think I just wanted to try everything and anything, and didn’t really give much thought to the idea that I might fall flat on my face. And I certainly have. I have tackled things in my life that I’ve gotten halfway through and gone, “Oh, this isn’t for me, maybe this isn’t what I really want to be doing.” And coming to terms without reality and that realization is what I think is the biggest challenge for people.
And on some level, I think for the past two years, we’ve all had this experience where we were given permission to say, “I don’t really like it. I don’t really like the way I live life. I don’t really like the relationships I’ve got in my life. I’m just not really happy.” And we were all given permission to kind of look at what we want to create. And some of us took a growth oriented mindset, the silver lining in the cloud, so to speak. And some of us did not. And I think what really separates people is whether they’re coming into this with a, “I’m going to give it a go. We’ll see what happens,” attitude. Or if they’re going into it with a, “I’m stuck here because it’s happening to me. Life is happening to me,” attitude. And that spot can sometimes be beneficial. There have been times in my life where I’ve been stuck in this place of, “Ugh, this is happening to me. It’s so awful. Why always me?”
And then that’s not a bad spot either because from there we can start to really tap into this sense of uncomfortability or discomfort and go, “I’m over this. I’m over feeling bad for myself. I’m ready to do something different.” It’s not to say that either of the mindsets is bad or good. I try to refrain from that language. They both serve a purpose, but if somebody is ready to be unstuck, they’re going to have to switch out of that fixed mindset. They’re going to have to move into that growth mindset.
Dr. Taz: Can you differentiate, how would you define a fixed mindset? How would you define a growth mindset? What are some hallmark traits of each? What are things that maybe you can catch onto very quickly saying, “Hey, this person’s in a fixed mindset versus this one’s in a growth mindset,” can you help us dive into that a little?
Michaela Renee Johnson: Yes. And it’s funny, fixed mindsets are a quirky thing because we often think that somebody with a fixed mindset is someone who has determined that they can’t. But sometimes a fixed mindset can also be someone who thinks they already know it all. “I’ve already got that, been there, done that. There’s nothing else I need to learn there,” that’s a fixed mindset too. It’s really taking a look at the things that are on your plate and identifying, “How do I look at the things that I’m tackling in my life? Do I look at it as if I can’t, that something is holding me back, that there’s no possibility of me looking at this differently?” Or am I looking at it as, “I know everything there is to know, and that’s really as far as I want to take that.”
And either way, either side of that spectrum is the fixed mindset, the growth oriented mindset looks at things and says, “I’m in this space where I am pretty sure that I can go a different direction, whether it’s up, down, backwards, or forwards. And I need to look at the experiences that I’m currently having, take what I want to take from them and make a move.” Whether it’s sideways, sideways, forward or backward, up or down, a move, doesn’t matter which direction.
Dr. Taz: Interesting. Growth mindset is not afraid of failure then, because you could move down.
Michaela Renee Johnson: Absolutely. And I think that this is the important component to this, it’s being willing to take the risk that I might go backwards. And that’s hard. We don’t associate growth with going the other way. But in fact, it absolutely can be. And from that space, we can look at somebody like Elon Musk. We see his successes, we see Tesla and all of these other things, SpaceX, various different things that he’s doing. However, how many things did he not succeed? Some 33 corporations that he closed the doors on because they didn’t serve the mission, they didn’t serve the path. Or he got halfway through him and went, “No, it’s not bringing me very much joy. I think I’m going to close that one down.” And that all led to him honing his craft and honing where he is now. And we could look at those as failures, but really they were paths to success.
Dr. Taz: Wow. Sorry, I’m saying wow so many times. But I usually think of growth as moving forward as I’m sure many of my listeners and my viewers do. It is forward, bigger sales, more stuff, a new experience, a new skill set, a new educational tool or something like that. I’ve never really thought of a growth mindset as being willing to fail. And that could be failure, I’m assuming, even in relationships. I will say with my own… Hopefully she won’t walk in here in a bit, but with my own daughter felt a little bit like a failure with the way some of the conversations were going and the direction things were headed in. But that step back has now strengthened us to where we’re in a very different place right now. It’s interesting. That’s a really interesting way to think about even relationships. And I think it would take the guilt away that so many people have about trying to make changes. Is that correct? It’s like, “We can’t do this because the outcome of the next decision can’t be any better than the current situation.”
Michaela Renee Johnson: Well, yes. And Dr. Taz, I want to touch on something else important that you brought up, which is relationships. Because this is one of the key areas in which we get stuck. We find ourselves feeling committed to what somebody else is expecting of us. And we’re often in these relationships that are guiding our growth, or lack thereof, because of a fear of letting someone down, of disappointment. And what’s really interesting is I even see on the daily people who are not willing to have conversations that they know they need to have because of what that potential outcome would be.
And one of the most beautiful quotes that I heard recently, I recently had this guest in my podcast. I adore his podcast, I listen to it every week. He said, “Tension is where growth occurs. Contention is where destruction occurs.” And I love that.
Dr. Taz: Wow.
Michaela Renee Johnson: Being able to tap into this place where there is tension, there is discomfort, and working through it, having dialogue, having conversations, being vulnerable, that leads to growth. If we wait until the point where we are in a contentious relationship, we are full of resentment or anger, nothing good is coming from that. And really seeing relationship tension or discomfort as opportunities for growth, rather than seeing it as you know, “Oh, well, that’s just the way it’s going to be. Our communication sucks.”
Dr. Taz: What do we do? What are some things that we could actively do to help us if we are in either place? We’re too often in a fixed mindset, we’re too often in a growth mindset. What are some of the correctors? What are some of the things we can put into motion to move us? It sounds like neither is bad, they both serve a purpose, but how do we move fluidly between the two?
Michaela Renee Johnson: I think there’s a couple of tangible things I could give, but at the end of the day, what I’ve come to determine is that everybody’s got a toolbox. Everybody’s got their tools in it. You have your favorite go-tos. And then there’s some that just make more sense. I am obviously not going to take a tape measure to trying to hammer in a nail. I’m going to grab a hammer for that one. However, sometimes I can achieve just about anything with a sharpie. You have your multi-purpose tool that you’re going to go to all of the time. One of the best things from a growth mindset that I can say, besides being very honest and real with yourself, whether that’s via a journal or whether that’s via reading more, learning, podcasts, is having someone in your life that is safe. And I think that too often we surround ourselves with people that are not emotionally safe for us.And if we have someone who can be a cheerleader and also can be a negator, that can be someone who can offer us both sides of the spectrum. The truth of the matter is whether it’s a compliment or whether it’s a criticism, and this is Caroline Myss at her finest, they’re both on the same spectrum. They both take our power away on some level because we are attached to either side of it, either the compliment or the criticism, we start to take it to heart. And having someone somewhere in this teeter-totter of life that can really be your sounding board and can project back to you, your own self is invaluable. To have somebody who can say, “That’s an interesting thought. What do you think about this?” Somebody’s been willing to project back and ask you open-ended questions without providing you either side of that teeter-totter is the hands down, single hand, and most best thing you could do.
Dr. Taz: Is that person, a family member, a spouse, a partner, or is it usually more of a counselor or that type of person instead?
Michaela Renee Johnson: Sometimes it’s a counselor, sometimes it’s an aunt, sometimes it’s a church clergy person or a friend. Sometimes it’s a perfect stranger at a bar that you’re like, “Hey, I just want to bounce something off of you,” because they have no attachment to the outcome. Ideally we would find someone in our life that is a reliable source for that.
Dr. Taz: Got you. And with your clients, what have you seen play out for them? Where do they get stuck as they’re moving from one mindset to the next, so to speak?
Michaela Renee Johnson: I think that the biggest repeating theme is, “I’m afraid that if I grow, so and so is going to be disappointed, so and so is going to be let down. I’m not going to fulfill this thing that so and so wanted me to do or be.” And I see this time and time again. It’s the wife who isn’t really happy with her role in the family system anymore, and she wants to do something different, but she feels like she’ll let the kids down or she’ll let her partner down. It’s the 20 something, 30 something that is in a career that doesn’t make them happy, but the whole family’s been cheering this on and they feel like this is what they need to be doing. It’s the child who, “I don’t know how to tell my parents that this isn’t what I want in life, that instead I want this.” Getting stuck is usually coming from a space of disappointing someone.
Dr. Taz: Wow. Okay. Journaling, meditation, mindfulness work, having a supportive team. Any other tools people can use if they’re grappling in this space of attention and not really sure what’s next for them?
Michaela Renee Johnson: Here’s an art activity that I really like to do. I say trace both of your hands on a piece of paper and on one hand say, “This is how the world sees me.” And on the other hand… Fill it in, write it all in your hand, “This is how the world sees me. I’m a mom, I’m this, I’m that.” And then on the other hand say, “This is what I want for myself.” And look at the way these two things are different, the way you’re showing up in the world versus the way you want to be living your life. Look at how they do connect, look at how they disconnect and identify just one area. Just one area that you can move toward being more your authentic internal true self.
Dr. Taz: I love that. I think that’s so helpful in terms of thinking through for sure. Now, I know you spend a lot of time helping clients and you have clients move between these spaces. Tell us a little bit about the services that you provide, what’s on your website, all that other good stuff. If someone’s listening and they’re like, “Okay, I get it, but I’m not really sure what to do next. I’m in a space where I’m got to figure this out.”
Michaela Renee Johnson: Yeah. Two of my most recent books are really fun, Empowered: A Motivational Journal for Women. It’s all about tapping into these childhood narratives that we’ve carried with us throughout our life and working through those to create a dream life that really is fulfilling and is you living your authentic self. And The Growth Mindset: A Workbook for Adults, is really aimed at moving from fixed to growth oriented mindset. And where we can get stuck, how you can do various different activities to move through those things. Finding that person in your life, one of the exercises walks you through finding that person that you can have as your emotional safety net. And also the podcast, the podcast is doing really fun things right now. After 150 episodes of being focused on happiness, we’re taking a totally different approach with that podcast. And it’s now about unself helping. Maybe it’s not you, is the theme now. And we’re having all sorts of amazing guests who are shattering narratives on the self-help industry in general and the ways in which we can rabbit hole ourselves into these self-help places and still not feel happy.
Dr. Taz: Wow. I love it. Well, so many great resources, so many great tools for any of you out there who are feeling like there’s a next step for you, but you’re not really sure what that step is. Or you’re telling yourself a story that maybe you’re just trying to convince yourself of something in your ego or your comfort zone. One of the two is getting in the way. Any other parting words for our guest, Michaela, before we let you go?
Michaela Renee Johnson: There’s just really no better time to step out of a lukewarm life and start living one that’s a little bit more vibrant. And I just really encourage everybody to use this time to their advantage.
Dr. Taz: I love that. And if people want to connect with you, the website again is?
Michaela Renee Johnson: B-E-Y-O-U findhappy.com, beyoufindhappy.com.
Dr. Taz: Awesome. And then are you on social media as well?
Michaela Renee Johnson: Yes, I am. And my name’s so hard to spell that everybody can find all the social links on my website.
Dr. Taz: Perfect. Excellent. Well, thanks again for taking time out to join us and for everybody else, I hope this is helpful as you navigate wherever you are and whatever you want to do in life. And remember to check Michaela’s website out and find more resources there for sure. And if you enjoyed this episode of Super Woman Wellness, don’t forget to write and review it and share it with your friends. We’ll see you next time.