Why I Don’t Have (or Want) a Mindset

If you’re a self help junkie like me (and even if you’re not), you’ve probably been repeatedly exposed to the word mindset. We should shift our mindset, we’re told (with nothing but good and honorable intentions), if we want to create and achieve the wonderful life that we deserve. 

I don’t have a mindset. Nor do I want one. 

To me, a mindset is a fixed place in our emotional-cognitive space. The theory suggests that we ought to move from one fixed place, where we are apparently stuck, to another predetermined fixed place. 

But what about the rest of our emotional and intellectual capacity? 

From my perspective, we should instead practice mind elasticity, or mind resilience — the ability to freely move around in our mind in response to internal and external stimuli. Rather than simply move from Point A to Point B, we should recognize the infinite points of wisdom within and joyfully explore them from moment to moment. 

The Idea Life Cycle

If you have any background in marketing at all, you have probably heard of the product life cycle. This theory is unfortunately not really applicable for those of us who live in the world of ideas. 

Great ideas come into the world through a variety of means including divine inspiration, observation, and conversation. Regardless of their origin, ideas follow a path from the time they are born, their genesis, until they are ultimately either accepted by the general public or just fade away due to lack of acceptance. 

The timing of the idea life cycle is nebulous; each phase takes an indeterminate amount of time relative to the uniqueness of the idea and the receptivity of others beyond the person or people who introduce the idea. In addition, this cycle is not necessarily linear. Ideas can go from one phase to another without any logical explanation. It is difficult if not impossible to predict how an idea will flow through this cycle. 

Nonetheless, understanding how the idea life cycle works can help those of us who thrive on innovation determine the trajectory of new ideas that we generate and share with others. 

There are four phases in the idea life cycle: emergence; vetting; legitimacy; and, finally, either assimilation or psychic death. 

Emergence: The idea is shared beyond its originators. The idea may spread quickly, at a snail’s pace, or at the speed of frozen molasses pouring out of a jar. 

Vetting: Other people are starting to notice the idea and gauge its validity in alignment with their pre-existing ideas about the world. People react to the idea in a variety of ways from curiosity to animosity and everything in-between. There may be a few aha moments. 

Legitimacy: The idea is tested as people start to integrate it with their existing perceptions and worldviews. These testers encounter reactions to this integration and decide whether to adopt or reject the idea based on both the ease with which they can integrate the idea into their lives and the reactions of their peers. 

Assimilation or Psychic Death: The idea becomes adopted by a mass of people, and therefore it likely also becomes tainted in multiple ways by the people who feel close to this idea; or, it dies because people so vehemently reject it that there is no way it can survive. Ideas that live on or die can enter any phase of the idea life cycle as people, and their views, continue to evolve 

The Submissive Side of Leadership

Submissiveness and leadership may seem like an oxymoron. Effective leadership requires a strong vision, decisiveness, determination, and tenacity — and I certainly can’t argue with that. But at the same time, leaders need to allow themselves the opportunity to listen to others as well as environmental cues so that we can strategically — and creatively — respond to the world in which we live — and make that world a better place.

Collaborative creative leadership is the process of gathering, integrating, cultivating, and cyclically enhancing the ideas and dreams of others, resulting in possibilities that we alone could not imagine or realize. Ideas can be gathered both formally and informally, through dialogue and multilogue, intentionally and haphazardly, as well as verbally and nonverbally. Ideas are everywhere — in words spoken and unspoken, cloud formations, passive sighs, and the distinctive colors of each evening’s sunset. Intuitive leaders are always paying attention, and are continually analyzing and making sense of their observations.

The ideas that emerge can be woven together, creating a unique tapestry of possibility — one where the colors and textures become more deep, complex, and alive with every passing moment. Each careful, delicate stitch expands and enhances the leader’s vision for provocation and transformation. As that vision is enacted and becomes experience, new threads are spun and woven into the cloth. The tapestry is not just a spectacle for followers to gawk at, it is a living thing to which they can contribute. It reflects something inside of them and something that inspires them; yet, it is much more beautiful and expansive than what they originally intended. The cloth was created by the leader, yet the image it projects was derived from a much broader source.

Being submissive isn’t about being soft, it is about being confident enough in ourselves and our strengths to listen, respond, and create. Submission in leadership is not an all-or-nothing proposition; it is a moment-to-moment process from which we can exit at any moment. It is also not about obedience and conformity; leaning into our submissive side as leaders actually challenges and provokes the world as it exists. Leaders are expected to be in the front, to be the point of light that everyone else seeks out and follows. When that leader instead ignites the light within each person in the crowd, the ambient but energizing glow of new possibilities ensues. Being submissive doesn’t require us to give up anything in ourselves, it provides an opportunity to receive and employ the individual and collective wisdom of others.

Fear keeps leaders from allowing ourselves to be submissive – fear of losing control, appearing incompetent, having someone else get ahead, or being perceived as unleader-like. By letting go of fear in leadership, we can creatively collaborate to not only reimagine our world, but to make tangible and sustainable changes.

Mind and Action

Our thoughts and our behavior are mutually reinforcing. Our mind is open, in motion, and regenerative. Once we take action, we are encapsulating our thoughts. Action is a closure to our mind; it is a methodical, careful, serious, and purposeful articulation of our thoughts. As we take action, we can reflect and create new thoughts, continuing the cycle of opening and closing, wondering and confirming, growing and containing.