How is your Attitude, Pastor?

The monthly pastor and his health column.

Vicki Griffin, MS, Human Nutrition; MPA; MACN; is the Health Ministries director, Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Lansing, Michigan, United States.

As a pastor, have you noticed that some days you have a bet­ter attitude than on other days? Our mind-set determines, to a large extent, our successes and fail­ures. God has created our marvelous brains with the capacity to improve in function, ability, and attitude with proper use and exercise. Our brains constantly reshape themselves according to what they learn, think, feel, and expect.

Attitude can be more impor­tant than facts when it comes to conquering life’s mountains. When we possess bad attitudes, we may expend a lot of energy attempt­ing to mount small issues but find ourselves unprepared when we need the mental mettle to scale a genuine peak of difficulty.

Fixed mind-set = fixed results

Social psychologist Carol Dweck studied what she terms the “fixed” versus the “growth” mind-set.1 Fixed mind-sets believe that traits such as intelligence, ability, personality, and competence are inborn and unchangeable. They believe the need to “work” at improving means there is a basic lack of intelligence or ability. They tend to view themselves as smart or dumb, strong or weak, winners or losers.

People with fixed mind-sets will choose easy problems instead of hard ones in order to reassure themselves they are competent. Because of the strong need to be smart instead of to “get smart,” the fixed mind-set individual tends to avoid challenges, gives up easily when confronted with obstacles, ignores criticism, and is threatened by others.

Sociologist Benjamin Barber concluded, “I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and failures. . . . I divide the world into learners or nonlearn­ers.”2 It is possible to have a fixed mind-set in certain areas but not others. The really good news is that the fixed mind-set is fixable!

Growth mind-set = growing results

Growth mind-sets believe that although people may differ in basic aptitudes, interests, and tempera­ments, everyone can change, grow, and improve. They have a passion for stretching and growing, even while making mistakes and facing challenges.

Growth mind-set people may not feel smart, but they are interested in “getting smart.” They tend to embrace challenges and persist in the face of obstacles, learn from criticism, and find others’ success inspiring. These people tend to be positive, are able to trust others, can bounce back when difficulties get them down, and tend to be more forgiving of others.

Change your mind-set

Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who was imprisoned in Auschwitz during World War II, said when he was finally released, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”3 Choosing a new way of thinking is like changing any other habit—it takes practice, perseverance, and patience.

Do you tend to be a naysayer? No worries. Clinical professor of psychiatry John Ratey encourages, “We are not prisoners of our genes or our environment. Poverty, alien­ation, drugs, hormonal imbalances, and depression don’t dictate failure. Wealth, acceptance, vegetables, and exercise don’t guarantee success.” “Genes set boundaries for human behavior, but within these boundaries there is immense room for variation determined by experience, personal choice, and even chance.” “We always have the ability to remodel our brains.”4

First, learn to identify fixed think­ing. Second, determine to replace this faulty thinking with a growth mind­set. Third, read the Bible for direction and power. Jesus said, “Learn of me” (Matt. 11:29, KJV). Learning new and better ways of living and thinking is possible with Him. So practice a new attitude; it will help you achieve greater altitude when meeting life’s challenges. This will become conta­gious for all around you, including your parishioners.

1 Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (New York: Random House, 2006).

2 Dweck, Mindset, 16.

3 Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (Boston: Beacon Press, 2006), 66.

4 John Ratey, A User’s Guide to the Brain (New York: Vintage Books, 2002), 17, 32, 36.

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Vicki Griffin, MS, Human Nutrition; MPA; MACN; is the Health Ministries director, Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Lansing, Michigan, United States.

September 2012

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