The Mindset Gap


There’s a weekly Sunday email newsletter I subscribe to called Brain Food, which claims to be “packed with timeless insights and actionable ideas from a wide range of disciplines.” It’s kind of a self-improvement epistle centered around thinking and decision making, mostly geared toward the professional class, but interesting enough to a writer like me.

This week’s newsletter, in its “Tiny Thought” section, contained an article about the “mindset gap” which the writer claims to have caused an “outcome gap.” The article uses the mindset of parents of young children during the pandemic as an example:

At the onset of COVID, one group of people became paralyzed and waited. They waited for someone else to take the lead and tell them what to do. They waited for schools to go online and figure out how to educate their kids. They waited for the government to tell them what was safe and what wasn’t . . .  And they waited for other people to solve problems so they could continue with life.

Another group of people refused to stop . . . Inch by inch they did what they could and moved forward. They hired teachers or turned to Khan academy for their kids. They kept the expectations of themselves and their kids high. They pushed forward at work and home. They solved problems. And they learned new skills.

The difference between these two groups comes down to mindset.

The writer quickly dismissed the argument that wealth makes a difference, claiming instead that if your defense is you can’t afford to hire tutors or have someone watch your kids while you work or have laptops and broadband for everyone, then you’re missing the point. The point is that it’s all about mindset: “The second mindset isn’t a luxury of the rich, it is a necessity to build wealth in the first place.”

So if you’re not wealthy, blame your mindset.

I’m actually a believer in the benefits and power of mindset, and I’ve always been drawn to holocaust survivor Victor Frankl’s quote from Man’s Search for Meaning”:

“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, to choose one’s own way.”

Victor Frankl

It must be empowering to be able to choose your attitude, to choose your mindset, to rally your mental troops to the cause under any circumstances.

Except if you can’t.

Where is the compassion for the anxious or depressed person who doesn’t have such exquisite control over their mindset? Where is the accommodation for biology and the fact we are all wired differently and choosing your mindset might be as impossible as choosing the color of your eyes or skin?

You’re poor? It’s your fault for being lazy and shiftless. You have an addiction problem? You should learn to control yourself.

I was hoping with more attention being paid to mental health these days that we were getting past the reductive finger-pointing at individuals and laying individual blame for our situations or our less-than-ideal mindsets. Where we sit in life is as much about environmental circumstances, biology, and luck as it is dependent on personal accountability, motivation, and discipline. Do you know what the number one indicator of future success is? It’s not your mindset, it’s the ZIP Code you were born in.

Mindset isn’t simple. Admittedly, I haven’t exactly mastered my own, which tends to vary between being my ally and being my antagonist. Right now, I’m Brain Food’s antagonist: unsubscribed.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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