Delighted to have Melissa Dinwiddie back to share her wisdom and newest offering.
The other day I was driving home from a paid singing gig, when I suddenly had a flashback to a moment during my marriage, about 15 years ago now.
Singing isn’t my main career, it’s an avocation — I like to call it my “night job,” as opposed to my “day job” — and I wasn’t a singer/songwriter at all back when I was married. For someone who “wasn’t a singer,” though, I sang rather a lot around the house, frequently in duets with my husband’s favorite, Frank Sinatra.
I was in such a duet in the memory that came crashing back to me the other day: I was pretending I was a “real” singer, holding a microphone, fronting a band. Hey, I remember thinking to myself, I don’t sound half bad!
Then I had a radical thought: Maybe I could learn to sing even better. . .
In a rather roundabout way, I gauged my husband’s reaction to this notion. “I think I have an okay voice,” I started. “I mean, I’m not great or anything, but my voice isn’t bad. . . And maybe I could get better. . . I wonder if. . . I think it’s possible that. . . maybe I could learn to sing well enough that people might actually pay to listen to me someday.”
In fact, it was many years before my first singing gig, let alone my first paying one. I had to develop my chops, not to mention my confidence, and that didn’t happen overnight. But I mark that moment with my husband and the Sinatra CD as the start of a life-changing mindset shift which set the stage for an ongoing, passionate relationship with music making.
Mindset, I have come to believe, is the foundation of everything.
In her ground breaking book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck writes that your mindset, the view you adopt for yourself, “profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.”
Dweck describes two different mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. People with the fixed mindset believe that their qualities — intelligence, talents, aptitudes — are carved in stone, and no amount of effort will change that. To stick with the singing example, someone with a fixed mindset (such as myself before my Sinatra duet) would believe that either you’re born a great singer or you’re not. Period.
I liken being in the fixed mindset to having a self-installed glass ceiling above your head, which you can’t see, but which keeps you from reaching your full height.
People with the growth mindset, on the other hand, believe that their qualities can be cultivated through application and experience. You may never become “another Sinatra,” but with applied practice and good teachers, you can learn to sing better, and it’s impossible to foresee what you might accomplish in time. The sky — not a glass ceiling — is the limit.
The problem with the fixed mindset is that it creates an urgency to prove yourself, and to continue proving yourself. Every situation calls for a confirmation of your abilities, and if heaven forbid you stumble, fail or make a mistake, it becomes “proof” that you’re not actually as intelligent, talented or able as you thought.
With these kinds of stakes, it’s better not to even try.
Before the Sinatra duet in my memory, I was operating with a very fixed mindset about my singing. Even though I’d sung in a choir as a child, and I’d been chosen to sing a solo in a musical in college, I didn’t think of myself as a singer, and I believed my limitations with my voice would always be there. When people told me I was a “good singer” it only made me less eager to take a risk, lest I prove with a wobble or squeak that I wasn’t as talented as they believed. And why take the trouble to find a vocal coach and take classes if your ability will always be fixed?
I can now say, with the wisdom of experience, that you can learn to sing better. I did — I just had to switch my mindset from thinking “I’m not as good as I want to be, so I might as well give up,” to “I’m not as good as I want to be, so I’m going to study and practice to get better!” Thanks to good training and lots and lots of practice, I can now do things with my voice that I never thought possible years ago!
But the point of this post is not about singing.
It’s about whatever you dream about doing, and whatever you feel stuck about creating. Do you long to be able paint beautiful pictures? To play a mean game of tennis? To learn, finally, to make “real money” as a solopreneur, or as an artist? To transform from a clutterbug to clutter-free?
Whatever your dreams and desires, if you’re not pursuing them full-speed ahead, take a look at your mindset. Do you have a hidden belief that your painting/tennis-playing/money-making/tidiness (or whatever) talent is innate and fixed? That only a certain type of person has those abilities, and it’s not your type?
If that rings a bell for you, I invite you to ask yourself if it’s really true. Be on the lookout for other people who have learned through effort how to do the thing you dream of doing — believe me, they’re out there, and those kinds of role models are worth their weight in gold. Open your mind to the possibility that, while you might be a beginner now, you can learn to get better at whatever you desire to do.
You may never want to sing with a band, but I’ll bet there’s something you do want to do, and it might just be that the only thing really holding you back is a self-installed glass ceiling.
Isn’t it time you shattered it? All it takes is a shift of your mindset.
Melissa Dinwiddie is an artist and inspirationalist (and yes, a singer/songwriter) whose superpower is helping people actually live the fully creative lives of their dreams. Her latest offering is Time to Glow, a transformational program for creative women who are ready to follow the call of their heart, shatter the glass ceilings that keep a lid on their goals, and finally get from dreaming to doing. Find Melissa at Living A Creative Life.
Note from me:
Melissa is one of the most creative and inspiring people I’ve met online. If you’ve got an inkling that it’s time to take the next step and fire up your creativity, ie: shatter your own glass ceiling, I encourage you to check out her newest offering Time to Glow.