The words we use when we speak to ourselves matter. How we view ourselves and our circumstances can have a profound effect on how we view the world. Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist and expert on mindset, says in her groundbreaking book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:
“For 20 years, my research has shown that 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.”
If you are on benefits like disability, Social Security, or unemployment, a “fixed income mentality” can lead to a learned helplessness that keeps you from improving your circumstances.
Here’s why: Benefits do not always keep up with the increases in the cost of living. A fixed mindset about your personal finances in this situation can lead to negative financial consequences, like debt, or could leave you one missed or reduced check away from losing your home.
Keep reading to learn some ways to break out of a fixed income mentality that may be limiting your earnings and keeping you from financial independence.
What is the ‘Fixed Mindset’ Mentality?
In a fixed mindset, a person believes that their abilities or circumstances are unchangeable. People with fixed mindsets tend to spend most of their time thinking of their achievements or failures, and not about developing their skills or learning new things.
The opposite of a fixed mindset is a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that abilities can be learned and developed, and that change is possible through work and perseverance.
Why is a fixed mindset dangerous?
- A fixed mindset will keep you from trying new things out of fear of failure.
- It keeps you from learning about yourself: A fixed mindset values external validation, which puts your self-estimation in the hands of others and prevents you from learning to value yourself.
- It reinforces a sense of helplessness. If you tell yourself that your survival can only come from others, you will eventually believe that you are powerless to change your circumstances.
Added up, consequences like these will keep you from wanting to strive beyond what you receive in benefits and can make you feel like nothing can be done to improve your life.
How to Fix the ‘Fixed Mindset’ Mentality
First, keep in mind that not everyone is able to be in a growth mindset all of the time. But, by starting to think about your circumstances differently, even for a few minutes per day, you may begin to see that positive change is within your reach.
By choosing to think about growth, it will gradually become more natural to come up with ideas of how to earn more money while on a supposedly fixed income.
For example, in this age of widespread internet access, opportunities abound for people of all abilities and skill sets to earn money.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Virtual Assistant: If you are comfortable with technology like email and Microsoft Office products, and you have solid written communication skills, virtual assisting may be for you, especially if you have administrative experience.
- House Sitter/Dog Walker: Depending on your mobility, you may find that house and pet sitting can be a fun, comfortable gig that will also get you out of the house.
- Consulting: If you have experience in a particular field, you can put your networking and expertise to good use by consulting for a former employer or one of their competitors.
- Blogging/Social Media: Websites need a constant flow of quality content to stay on top of search results. You may need to practice for a little while to get your skills in shape, but the good news is that you can begin immediately with as little as an internet connection and a willingness to keep at it.
- Tutoring: If you have experience as a teacher or have attended some form of higher education, you may find opportunities to earn money as a tutor, either online or in person. Many people also find work helping students prepare for entrance exams, aptitude tests, and applying to college.
If working online does not appeal to you, be deliberate about the kind of part-time work you seek. Being as specific as possible about the type, schedule and location of the work you want will save you the frustration of attempting to apply to every available opening.
If you earn over a certain amount, your benefits may be reduced. Every situation is unique, so be sure to do your research about how to declare your income, how much you can make before it affects your benefits, and if you qualify for any work incentive programs that would allow you to earn more without affecting your check.
Bottom line is: Don’t let a fixed income break your personal finances.
Take action today to learn to recognize, and stop, patterns of a fixed mindset. You have a choice of how you view and address the obstacles in your life; empower yourself to start choosing thoughts of growth, and you will gradually reap rewards that are more than financial.