Getting Real with Myself... How an Outward Mindset is making me a better person.

I’ve heard on more than one occasion that one of the most difficult people groups to reach in terms of mindset change are the white, moral do-gooders who perceive themselves as just that - good. Maybe they see themselves a little ‘better’ than all those other ‘white’ people who don’t have friends who are of color, gay, Muslim, poor, or (insert any group that’s a minority to you). I have a confession to make. I’m one of those white people. It’s quite a thing to admit you’ve got a problem, especially when you really want to think that somehow you’re different.

Having an Outward Mindset is grounded in ones openness in seeing others as people with their own feelings, needs and goals.

Who are ‘others’?          ...and aren’t all people, well, people?

I can tell you that I 100% believe that every homosapien, is in fact a person. On issues of human rights, I will stand and defend the basic human rights of all people.

So isn’t that it? I see all people as people. I wish it were that simple or generic. But this goes a bit deeper.

What started to raise my awareness of my own implicit bias or my propensity to treat some people differently than others began when I adopted three children from Russia. With two biological children, I was constantly wondering if I were treating my adopted ‘the same’. Meaning, was I showing a preference to one child over another? Did I have a bias that was shaping how I interacted, perceived and loved my children?

This turned into asking myself if I treated others differently. In fact, I did begin to notice a difference. My self talk would say, ‘It’s normal, right? I mean, we all have people groups we feel more comfortable around, and isn’t it impossible to expect that I treat everyone the same (as people)? Doesn’t it depend on my relationships, interests, upbringing, exposure, etc- doesn’t that give me permission to treat certain people…. differently?’

Here comes the learning… could I admit preferences were there? Was I brave enough to ask why and see if there were patterns?

Over the past 15 years, I can say I’ve done a lot of work to become more aware of the bias’s I have and practicing how to treat people, well, like people and not objects. One personal development series that’s been foundational in this work has been the material out of the Arbinger Institute. Their latest book, “The Outward Mindset” outlines how one can move from an inward to outward mindset in regards to how we see others and how our mindset dictates how we treat others and how that impacts all areas of our lives: work, friends, family, etc.

I’ll be doing this kind of personal development ‘work’ until my dying breath. It’s a constant tension to stay in a place where all the people present in my life, are treated like people who have their own feelings, needs, and goals. Treating them as if they are just as important as I am (including my feelings, needs, and goals).

Over the next few months I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned in regards to having an Outward Mindset and how that squares with many different fields: leadership, character, social justice, work, family, happiness, compassion and more.

Let’s dive in and see what we can learn about ourselves. This week, ask yourself: who have you treated like an object: either you experience them as an obstacle to a goal you have, a vehicle to get something done, or a nuisance you put up with? How did that view of them change how you treated them?