A Growth Mindset and Non-Dualistic Thinking – Why Embrace Them?


Patricia (Trish) Favretto-Dicer is an experienced Executive Coach-Mentor, Career Coach & Strategist, Organisational Cultural Strategist and Facilitator. She established her practice Wisdom in One over 25 years ago. She is a member and past Vice President of the CDAA ACT Division.

With the October long week-end ticked off and the last term of school and study well and truly on its way, many of us are starting to turn our minds to the Christmas break. The end of year fatigue may be starting to tickle as are the imminent deadlines - real or self-imposed.  

Self-care and kindness has to be top of mind - and for those who have worked with me will have heard me say - change your way of thinking to change your world…twice this week in coaching sessions clients have commented on the deliberate choices they have made to see their situations in the workplace in a different way – to not take on what they cannot control.

I talk about it as caring with a lower case ‘c’, not a capital “C”.  And they have noticed a real shift in their state of mind, an upping in their resilience, an increase in their band width and a gaining of new perspective. 

Having a growth mindset and putting it into action requires discipline and deliberate action to disrupt our thinking, especially the downward spiralling kind. It means taking advantage of, acknowledging and embracing the fact that we have choice. Choice is something we often forget about as we are hard-wired to think of the worse. It’s a survival mechanism.

One of the things that trumps this growth mindset is dualistic thinking - I’m the first to admit that it took me a while to get my head around non-dualistic thinking. We have been so conditioned to think in a dualistic way that it’s ingrained in most of us. From the time we can make conscious decisions and through most of our educational journeys that teach us to think in a dualistic way.

We’ve been expected to choose; pass judgement and justify a position on anything and everything from our views on politics, history, ethical issues in science, economics, society and culture, religion or climate change; to the smaller questions on life around what is one’s favourite pastime, sport or flavour. That is until one hits upon another way of being and thinking.

I think it might be prudent to start by understanding dualistic thinking which, in my humble opinion, is, for most of us, default thinking and a little easier to understand. Fr Richard Rohr, Franciscan Friar and Founder of the Centre for Action and Contemplation captures it best when he writes: 

“The dualistic mind is essentially binary, either/or thinking. It knows by comparison, opposition, and differentiation. It uses descriptive words like good/evil, pretty/ugly, smart/stupid, not realizing there may be a hundred degrees between the two ends of each spectrum. Dualistic thinking works well for the sake of simplification and conversation, but not for the sake of truth or the immense subtlety of actual personal experience. Most of us settle for quick and easy answers instead of any deep perception, which we leave to poets, philosophers, and prophets...We do need the dualistic mind to function in practical life...It’s helpful and fully necessary as far as it goes, but it just doesn’t go far enough. The dualistic mind cannot process things like infinity, mystery, God, grace, suffering, sexuality, death, or love; this is exactly why most people stumble …Nondual consciousness is a much more holistic knowing, where your mind, heart, soul, and senses are open and receptive to the moment just as it is.”   

Being open to knowing and indeed, possibilities underpins a growth mindset. Non-dualistic thinking requires us to live with grace - be more vulnerable, more open and accepting. To be and remain curious and inquisitive. To be nimble and authentic. To live in the Truth of the moment as life doesn’t always go to plan or pan out as we expect or desire. 

In some ways, non-dualistic thinking allows us more freedom, more ebb and flow and greater connection with the present moment, consciously responding by considering “what is this moment truly asking of me?”. Not all situations have an answer one way or another. Sometimes what is called for is another way. A new way, an unchartered way, or even a way that requires a leap of faith. All really important to embrace if we are to be exemplary leaders of our time.

Brene Brown, Professor and Storyteller who has been researching vulnerability, shame, courage and empathy for over 20 years, believes “Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty.”  In the fast paced age where even the world’s top CEO’s are asking for a 6 month moratorium on tech developments in the AI realm, where uncertainty and ambiguity are a given, a growth mindset ensures we navigate the best possible values-based way to respond, live and address the most fundamental of issues surrounding our every day. 

Four things to embrace as we navigate the next few months ahead of year’s end: 

  1. Be curious
  2. Stay open to possibilities
  3. Acknowledging and accepting that I don’t have control over everything and taking responsibility for that which I do
  4. Be kind to yourself and other