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Adapting to Change: It's All In Your Mindset

  • Article by:Health Career Center

By Princy Quadros Mennella, PhD & Nancy Ansheles, MEd


We are living in a time of dramatic healthcare transformation. Ongoing changes in legislation
and regulation at both the federal and state levels, technical and medical innovations, and changing
demographics and needs of our patients and employees, have required healthcare practitioners and HR
professionals to adapt to these advancements or risk being replaced by someone more willing to do so.


Change is hard for any individual and organization and yet, it’s inevitable. Adapting to change requires
flexibility. How an individual handles change can sometimes depend on their mindset. Mindset is the
perception you have about events and situations that happen to you. Let’s take this example. You were
completing a record for a patient using a new EMR system you hadn’t quite mastered, and your trainer
discovered you accidentally omitted a piece of the patient’s record.

You could:
a) wallow in misery at your error and all your other failings
or
b) you could recognize the error, apologize and work harder to proof your entries going forward.


We’ve all been in situations where we’ve had reactions A or B. But one of them encourages an adaptive
way of thinking, while the other doesn’t.


Dr. Carol Dweck, a developmental psychologist at Stanford, and her team have been researching the
mindsets of children for decades and how it influences their approach to learning. She identified two
types of mindsets: growth and fixed. In contrast to children with fixed mindsets, children with growth
mindsets were more:
-- persistent when things got challenging
-- resilient when they made mistakes and
--open to criticism and feedback.


As a neuroscientist and a learning and development professional, we’ve been excited about sharing this
work because of its easy applicability to adults in the workplace.


Mindset differences
Think about the last time you were offered a challenge at work that stretched your skills. What was your
reaction? At the heart of a person’s mindset lies their belief of where talent and ability come from.
Fixed mindset individuals believe that talents are in-born. So, when faced with something challenging or
when they make mistakes trying something new, they tend to give up, believing they are “just not good
at it”. In contrast, growth mindset individuals know that although people may have innate abilities, they
are simply the foundation on which additional abilities can grow. They seek resources to improve their
skills and are more persistent when things get harder. Incredibly, this perspective is supported by
neuroscience research.


Neuroscience support for growth mindset
Decades ago, neuroscientists believed that the adult human brain was rigid and unchanging. Since then,
we’ve learned that the adult human brain is constantly changing, creating new “synapses” (connections)
and discarding old ones between brain cells, as we face new information from our environment. This is
called neuroplasticity. In fact, a 1998 study demonstrated that the adult human brain continues to make
new brain cells, in individuals as late as 72 years of age. It appears that our brains are dynamic,
adaptable and flexible in their function. So, when we are faced with change, why can’t our skills and
abilities be adaptable and flexible too?


Here are some other ways in which growth and fixed mindset individuals differ:

  Fixed mindset Growth mindset
Challenges Avoid, may reveal lack of skill Seek, only way to improve skill
Effort Unnecessary, makes you look weak Necessary for improvement
Mistakes Deny, make you look stupid Learn from them, help you improve
Success of others Promotes jealousy and envy and vilification Inspiring and motivating


One suggestion for transition
If you find yourself relating to the fixed mindset but wanting to be more growth mindset, rest assured,
you can – remember you brain is adaptable and changing. Knowing this is half the battle. We also have a
practical suggestion to enhance your growth mindset. It is important to listen how you talk to yourself.
When many of us make mistakes, we are usually harsher on ourselves than we would be on, let’s say, a
friend. Awareness of our self-talk and deliberate practice to change it will help us shift our mindset from
fixed to growth. For example, rather than being self-depreciating by saying things like “I’m such a lump, I
could barely walk a mile today”, consider being self-encouraging by saying “I’m working hard improve
my health and this is a good start”. Self-talk can determine how you approach the next challenge.
We at Catalyst & Co. have developed programs to help individuals and organizations learn more about
the applications of mindset in the workplace and have additional recommendations to help individuals
and organizations grow and change. So, when you are faced with a new challenge at work, try
approaching it with a growth mindset. Remember, your brain is a plastic, changing organ and your skills
and talents can be too!


Author Bios
Nancy Ansheles and Princy Quadros Mennella have established a unique collaboration, where for the
past two years they have bridged their two fields of expertise (neuroscience & learning and
development) to create neuroscience-based learning programs for organizations in the northeast and
across the country. They recently presented at the2017 Region 1 American Society for Healthcare Human
Resources Administration conference.


Nancy Ansheles, MEd, has been a learning development specialist for 25 years. She is the owner of
Catalyst & Co. and has created and facilitated engaging, customized, and practical learning programs
from keynotes to workshops to one-on-one coaching for more than 200 clients and more than 28,000
learners, many in the healthcare field.


Princy Quadros Mennella, PhD, is a neuroscientist and educator and is the founding director of the
Neuroscience Program at Bay Path University. She has taught a variety of topics in the field of
neuroscience and has trained dozens of students in research techniques in her 13+ years in higher
education. She has published her research in several scientific journals and presented her work with her
students at dozens of national and international neuroscience conferences.