Mindset and our Narrative

What flows through your mind sculpts your brain. Thus, you can use your mind to change your brain for the better - which will benefit your whole being and every other person whose life you touch.
— Rick Hanson

Mindsets are our attitudes towards experiences, people, and outcomes. 

Mindset research indicates the way we perceive ourselves and challenges impacts how we learn and persevere. Throughout a lifetime we develop certain “truths” which are often rooted in judgements and assumptions based on our experiences/ perceptions. The accumulation of our perceptions forms a personal narrative which dictates how we interact within ourselves and how we respond to the people and experiences of our outer world. Our narratives have the potential to inspire growth or lead to violence, injustice and social ills of modern society. 

Responding to challenging experiences and people with openness and curiosity is not always easy. Mindset can be influenced by an instinctual survival feature driven by activity in the amygdala, resulting in the physical and emotional discomfort we experience during challenging experiences. While these reactions may keep us safe and alive, they also limit our individual and collective potential. When left unchecked, they can develop into maladaptive defense mechanisms. It is helpful to interpret the discomfort we feel during challenging times as the manifestation of new or rarely travelled neurological pathways being strengthened. Once we notice the narrative we tell ourselves, we can disrupt primitive subconscious reactions and respond in ways of our choosing. By pausing, breathing and noticing, we can choose to avoid the pathways which hinder personal growth and invest our attention in building those which best serve us and our community. 

Mindsets have the potential to result in behaviors ranging from bias-based judgements and self-criticism to compassion (for self and others) and curiosity. By noticing the narrative, we can reframe our experiences and investigate with curiosity and compassion rather than judgement and doubt.

Notice the Narrative


A unique “survival feature” of the human brain is it’s efficiency and ability to instantaneously categorize input based on prior experiences. This efficiency results in filling in the gaps and creating storylines that may/may not be true. This allows us to make both, accurate predictions and false judgements. Overtime we create narratives about ourselves, others, current situations and beliefs about the future. When our narrative goes unnoticed, they can not only limit the individual but perpetuate the perils of harm and indignity. By noticing the narrative we can ask, “What is true?”, “How do I know it’s true?” and check the narrative when needed. Sometimes it may be necessary to say to someone, “The story is my head is_______________ can you help me make better sense of what is going on?”

Jason Littlefield