Khin Maung Myint
The term mindset has been frequently used in recent times than ever before. You can hear that word quite often these days from the politicians and ordinary citizens alike. The word can also be seen frequently in the printed media too. Even among my circle of friends, especially at the tea shop conversations, while discussing the current situations and issues, people readily used this word to express their displeasure at someone or an organization or a group. They would heap the blame on the entrenched mindsets or literally the “creased mindsets”, in Myanmar sense, of those individuals or organizations or groups for something they had said or done that went wrong or thought to have gone wrong.
That trend intrigued me to find out what the term mindset actually meant. I decided to browse the Internet to learn about that term. Here I would like to say that just looking up for the meaning of a word in a dictionary, however concise it may be, isn’t enough to understand that word in in-depth. Internet is a treasure trove of knowledge, where you can find anything imaginable. However, one should use one’s discretion and judgement in what should be accepted and what must be disregarded, because the Internet pages are loaded with undesirable information too. As for my search for the term mindset, I managed to turn up quite useful and knowledgeable information which I intend to share with others. I will share it as I understand or accept the concept of this term from my own perspective based on what I learned on the Internet and on my own experiences in life.
What is a Mindset?
As to what that term means, I would like to mention what the dictionary says. Different dictionaries defined the word differently and thus making it confusing. The most plausible meaning is that of the Oxford American Dictionary, which defines mindset as an established set of attitudes held by somebody”. In fact that definition too, does not fully express the exact meaning of the word, because according to a world-renowned professor of psychology, the attitudes need not be so set. As the meaning of the word mindset provided by different dictionaries vary from one another and also as they are not precise or agree with the psychologists’ ideas of that phenomenon, I decided to ignore the dictionaries. Thus I relied on the psychologists’ concepts of mindset in writing this article.
Here, I would like to point out that, the term does not correspond or apply only to the incumbent individuals, political party or those in positions of influence, but also to persons of every walks of life. However, most of the people used that word in connection with those in positions of power, which in my opinion is not proper. In fact, every sane person has a mindset of his or her own. The word mindset is synonymous to attitude, mentality and behavior. These traits are evolved in a person since childhood they can be guided either to go in the right and desirable direction or take the wrong and despicable direction. Mindsets would become entrenched over time and tend to be difficult to change. Thus an entrenched mindset is an undesirable characteristic in a person of any professional or social status. A proper mindset can be cultivated while young and it should be reviewed and revised throughout one’s lifetime to be agreeable with the prevailing situations. In other words, a mindset should not get entrenched, but remain flexible by always reviewing and revising. An entrenched mindset is what we Myanmars refereed to as the “creased mindset” (Khauk yoe kyoe seik datt).
A world-renowned professor of psychology at Stanford University, discovered the idea of the human mindset after decades of research on achievement and success. The discovery was made not very long ago, so this idea or concept of mindset is a new subject and is still undergoing research by other scholars of psychology. Thus, there are many ideas, opinions and concepts on this subject still emerging today.
The mindset of an individual depends on the thinking and outlook of that person and vice versa, that is, the mindset influences a person’s thinking and outlook. A person with positive thinking and outlook has a positive attitude or mentality and hence a positive mindset, which will contribute to productivity or success. A positive mindset will breed positive thinking and outlooks, which will lead to right decisions and right actions that would produce progressive results. Some psychologists called the mindset a mental inertia.
The mindset reflects the character and the identity of a person, so it is very important for people in high positions in any professions—be it in education, sports, politics, business, military, government or any other societies should nurture positive mindsets. A person with a positive mindset would be respected and revered by others and is sure to succeed in whatever profession he indulges in. On the other hand, a person with negative mindset would be despised and will not go far in life.
Various psychologists have various ideas and concepts regarding the mindset. Some are similar, but there are many that do not agree with one another. When I studied them, I found that, though the ideas are differed from one another, most of them are acceptable and applicable to the study of mindset. For the purpose of this article, I will not be detailing those different ideas and concepts of various psychologists, as the researches are still ongoing and in the very early stages. Also, I do not want to confuse the readers with the scientific or academic explanations, which are somewhat complicated and abstract.