Editor's Note: Susie Bowie is the Executive Director of Manatee Community Foundation.

You know it right away when something speaks to you—an idea, a piece of art, a conversation.

When Donna Rippley led her audience through simple, contemplative exercises around moving from a “fixed mindset” to a “growth mindset” at the Age-Friendly Festival, the layers of meaning and application were varied for me. Too often I hear, “We’ve always done it that way,” by leaders in an organization, even as they try to overcome the same tired results. Or the unstated but silently unwavering, “I’ve always done it that way,” from individuals who fiercely defend their personal patterns of activity at home or work. This fixed mindset prevents the flow of possibilities.

The important experiences and learning that come with getting older can also train us to subconsciously (or consciously) block our open thinking. Without even knowing it, we can become trapped in a mindset that allows some of the inherent creativity, exploration, and adventure that we used to have in ourselves to get shoved aside. It could be fear of failing, a misgiving that we’ve gotten too old to do something new, a schedule that doesn’t give us enough time for what matters, or worse—a pre-judgment that we simply can’t do it. Whatever it is, the mindset doesn’t serve us, but it can be changed to one where we more easily welcome what could be instead of what is.

As president of the Center for Career Transition in Tampa, FL, Donna spends her time awakening sparks in people who are discovering their “encore” careers. Her interactive talk back in October was almost like a guided meditation for me. To break us out of routine thinking and into a growth mindset, Donna encouraged us to remember something that we found great joy in as children. She asked us to think about an activity that we experience as adults and get completely immersed in, with only a focus on that moment. And she challenged us to consider one step we can take to move into a growth mindset—a simple, attainable step.

We found a nearby “partner” to talk with as we worked through our thought process. Not surprisingly, I thought about how much I enjoyed playing outside by myself as a child, how much I loved to paint, and how, in my current life, I find great solace in taking photographs outdoors. It turns out that, despite my fortunate career in philanthropy, I also miss the connection of being able to work with individuals in some positive way. An action I am now taking is finding more time for one on one relationships with people whose lives I can enhance in some way. Between me and my partner during Donna’s interactive presentation, our shared answers revealed some commonalities and established a feeling of connection. Connection, too, is a key to a growth mindset.

What an interesting world we are fortunate enough to greet every day. As we get older, or as the organizations we are part of become more structured, our futures can still be open. It’s both a challenge and a giant gift, and it’s fully up to us to make our mindset count. I encourage you to watch the video and participate in Donna’s thoughtful exercises. It’s worth your time and your very best thoughts.

(32 minutes)

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