Did you used to be a lot more optimistic? Have you noticed that your attitude has gradually declined? 

This is what can happen when you’re surrounded by naysayers, people who are negative and who focus on why things aren’t going to work instead of figuring out how to make them work. 

Perhaps you work in a bureaucratic system that doesn’t allow for change and this really bugs you. 

Your attitude can also become more cynical when you’ve burned out.

If you catch your mind going down the toilet and want to get back to your more positive self, read on. 


The Turkey Tray


A young girl watches her mother prepare the turkey for Thanksgiving. 

The girl’s mother neatly cuts off both ends of the turkey before putting it into the tray and placing the tray in the oven. 

Being the inquisitive child that she is, she asks her mother, “Why do you cut off both ends of the turkey?” to which the mother responds, “That’s the way my mother always did it.” 

At the dinner table later that evening, the mother asked her mother, “Mom, why do you always cut off both ends of the turkey?” The grandmother gave the same response as the mother, stating that this is what her mother had always done. 

They turn to the great grandmother at the other end of the table and these three generations of women ask, “Why then did you cut off both ends of the turkey? Was it how your mother taught you to do it as well?”

To their surprise, the great grandmother responded, “No. We had a small turkey tray. Had I not cut off the ends, it wouldn’t have fit.”

The younger generations had access to big enough trays, but were still cutting the turkey without understanding why they were doing it. It’s just the way they’ve always done it. 


The Two Types of Mindsets


Carol Dweck, Stanford researcher and author of the popular book, Mindset, made popular the notion that there are two important mindsets: The fixed and the growth mindset. 

Those who resist change because they want to play it safe harbor a fixed mindset. They tend to feel highly anxious about making a mistake because of the meaning they attribute to not being perfect. 

Those with a fixed mindset believe you have very little control over your accomplishments because you are born with certain skills, abilities, or intelligence and it can’t really change. They cage themselves into the “this is as good as it gets” mentality, and keep their head down. They don’t allow themselves to explore because of the fear of disappointment and failure. They justify playing small by saying, “It’s not possible,” “It’s unrealistic,” “There’s too much uncertainty,” or by asking “What if it doesn’t work out?”

On the flip side, those with a growth mindset believe quite the opposite. They understand that mistakes are there for us to learn from and that growth and expansion are opportunities. They realize what is possible and are more likely to take risks as a result.


How To Navigate Around Those with a Fixed Mindset


Let’s assume you have a growth mindset and are frustrated that the people around you think quite differently. How can you navigate around them?

One of the ways you can move the needle with people who have a fixed mindset is to focus on what you want. As you break through barriers that are seemingly impossible to them, it will open them up to look at new possibilities. You’ll intrigue their curiosity. 

This approach provides an indirect and yet powerful impact. It’s preferable to trying to shake the result out of others. Doing so only makes people defensive which can lead them to become even more ingrained in their beliefs and habits. That’s because it makes them feel like you don’t get it or that you’re criticizing them. Give them the freedom to go about doing things the way they think is right while you model what’s possible.


How to Approach the Fixed Mindset When I Want to Avoid Conflict?


Are you someone who holds back what you believe when sharing it might lead to conflict? 

It’s true that not everyone is going to agree with your view of the world. Just because someone sees something differently from you, doesn’t mean they’ll be offended by your views or that it will lead to an altercation. 

Imagine going out with a friend to a restaurant. Your friend wants to order chicken and you want the salmon. Just because you don’t both want the same thing doesn’t mean you can’t both make decisions that meet your needs without having to control the other person’s decision. In other words, disagreeing with someone is not a personal attack.

Remember, the growth mindset is about–well, growth! You can’t grow if you don’t push the boundaries and get out of your comfort zone. 


A Growth Mindset Skill


Imagine you’re a surgeon. A patient comes in for surgery. There is a complication and the patient is upset that the surgery wasn’t done perfectly. 

If you have a fixed mindset, you might start questioning your self-worth as a physician. “Maybe I’m not as good as I think I am.”

It’s bad enough that you feel guilty for the surgical error, but beating yourself up over it won’t make the situation any better. 

Instead, adopting a growth mindset would allow you to explore, “What could I have done differently?” When you ask good questions, you increase your chances of learning.

Let’s take it one step further. As that surgeon, how many surgeries do you perform per year? You can calculate your complication rate. 

I did this exercise with one of my clients who reported that his complication rate is less than 7 percent. While this number is a fact, it’s how you think about this number that makes all the difference. 

When you treat yourself with kindness even after making a mistake, what you are really saying is: 

“Hey, everybody makes mistakes. I’m actually doing well ninety-three percent of the time, and when I look at other physicians and how they’re doing, I’m right in line with all the same performance metrics. People can die whether I do something or not. I am showing up every single day doing my best. I’m going to take this opportunity to look at what didn’t work and see if there’s anything I can learn from that, so that I can decrease my seven percent down to six or five percent moving forward.

Replacing self-criticism with self-compassion helps you feel more motivated, more energetic, and helps you get things done. This attitude adjustment also means you avoid wallowing in pity and feel less stressed and depressed about work. 


Self-Esteem, Self-Worth and Faulty Thinking


Life is all about ups and downs. Our self-esteem is very much affected by external wins and losses. When things go well, you are flying high. When you experience failure, your self-esteem goes down the tubes. 

Along the same lines of thinking of a fixed mindset, those with imposter syndrome often think, “I really don’t belong here, but I’ve been able to fool everybody, so I can’t make any mistakes. If I do, they’ll figure it out. They’ll find out that I am a fraud and I’ll get thrown out.” 

Self-worth is the antithesis of imposter syndrome.

In Western culture, we are highly focused on achievements and accomplishments. We tell ourselves, “When I accomplish this, then I’ll be worthy.” 

The truth of the matter is none of that is true. 

Let me put it to you bluntly. 

Imagine you’re driving your car and you hit someone. They’re on the ground. What’s the first thought that goes through your mind? Does it matter whether that person is a child or an adult, a male or a female, what their race or beliefs are, whether they are tall or short, skinny or fat? 

No, it doesn’t matter. 

Why doesn’t it matter?

They are a human being. I care about their life. In other words, they are worthy just because they exist.

If that’s true for that person, it’s also true about everyone else whether you hit them or not. Human life is valuable. We are worthy simply because we are alive. 

What if I said, “You ran over that person, but they aren’t very accomplished, so who cares?” 

It’s not about your error rate, and it’s not about how productive you are at work. You are worthy as a human being. There’s nothing for you to prove.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t challenge yourself or that you don’t focus on growth. but the two aren’t one and the same. 


Delayed Gratification


Our wires get crossed and we don’t even realize that it’s happening. We focus on the wrong thing, thinking that it is going to get us to the place we want to go.

If I’m focused on accomplishment when I really want to feel worthy, then I’ll end up feeling frustrated when I don’t get what I want. Even when I achieve my goal, I will likely seek out the next goal to prove my worth. 

This model of “always more” is known as the arrival fallacy. As they say, “There is no there there.” It’s faulty thinking. 

This is how my surgeon client put it: 

I was getting through college to get to Med School. I was getting to Med School to get to Residency to get to practice. It’s always this delayed gratification that hasn’t necessarily paid off because there’s always the next thing.”


Mindset Packaging


Even if you try your hardest to stay upbeat, life can sometimes bring you down, especially when things don’t go your way, when you can’t control the outcomes, or when the people around you think differently than you. 

So what can you do? Turns out, your situation at work is not that different from being a parent. 

When you have kids, there are these moments when you bond with your child and experience a rush of oxytocin. It is in those very moments that you think, “Being a parent is amazing! I’m so blessed.”

Then there are moments when your kid drives you up a wall or when you have to do something for them, like change their diaper, and it’s a pain in the butt. 

But that pain in the butt doesn’t take away from your decision to have the kid.  Most people don’t say, “You know what? I would love to have kids, but I’m going to have to wipe some butts. I’m just not cut out for parenting. I am willing to forgo having children so that I don’t have to deal with poopy diapers.” 

What I would encourage you to do, which would give you a lot of inner peace, is think about your work situation as a package. You take the good with the bad. Shift your mind to the point where you can confidently say, “I would still choose to do it all over again, because the good is good enough to compensate for the parts that I like less, or that I’m not as passionate about.”

Everything in life is good and bad, a package deal, and if you’re going to be in it, you have to be all in. That means accepting the fact that there’s a downside to this equation, but that you still choose it regardless.

What that means for you mentally is that you no longer let the downside of things bother you or take away from the positive experience. 


Your Challenge


Think about something going wrong. How could you avoid letting that take you down? 

1) Accept that things don’t need to be perfect. Not everything is going to go according to plan. You are going to make mistakes. You’re not going to be right one hundred percent of the time. 

2) Other people’s disappointment is not a catastrophe. Even when they get upset over the little things, everything will work out. It won’t devastate you personally or professionally. If you can respond to it, do, but let go of the things you can’t control. 

3) Reframe what you’re doing wrong in the context of everything you’re doing right. If your error rate is seven percent, remind yourself that you’re getting it right 93 percent of the time. Besides, a 100 percent success rate doesn’t exist for anybody.

4) Set appropriate expectations with the people around you so even if they are upset with the outcome, they aren’t shocked by it. 



There are many things outside of your control. Namely, you cannot usually change your circumstances or other people. What you have control over is your mind. 

You can choose to adopt a mindset that allows for growth and expansion or you can choose to stay stuck in fear, berate yourself for your misgivings, and play small. 

What will you choose?


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Dr. Sharon Grossman, AKA the Burnout Doc, is a clinically trained psychologist and subject matter expert in burnout and mental health. Associations and Fortune 500 companies hire her to be their closing keynote speaker, to help their members and executives crack the code on burnout, and create custom-tailored solutions for recovery.
Over the past 20 years, Dr. Sharon has been helping high achievers who are struggling with anxiety, overwhelm, and burnout go from exhausted to extraordinary by better understanding how their brain works and how they can design and run their programming on purpose to live the kind of life they want to live. She is the author of several books on burnout and mindset and host of the Decode Your Burnout podcast. Through her speaking, training, and coaching, she helps organizations keep their top talent.