I was thinking about this word ‘mindset’ and how wonderfully it describes the foundational thoughts in our lives that bed themselves down and set, like concrete. They determine how we see life and are created and re-enforced by the values, the culture, and the experiences in our environment in which we grow up. I think that education is meant to challenge our mindsets and prod at the possibility that the world could be different to how we perceive it.
Changing our mindsets is much more difficult than changing our minds.
It is very comfortable and securing to do the same thing the same way everyday as it takes away the necessity to make a deliberate choice. Doing routine tasks in a new way can be very taxing and stressful. Some people even get upset or put out when someone sits in their usual seat at their favourite coffee shop or in church. Silly things that don’t have any real importance become a stabilising comfort to us. No wonder it is called ‘set in my ways’.
Changing our minds is like putting different flavours of jelly in a mould, but changing our mindset means we need to identify the mould and choose a more beneficial one.
Related to low vision
It is for this reason that when a person starts losing their vision progressively, it takes a lot of emotional energy to carry on doing what they have always done, but in a new way. It is especially challenging for older folk as they have done the same things in the same way for so long. It is stressful and sometimes frustrating, but if you change your mindset by breaking up that foundation of understanding how life ought to be, the limitations are removed and each difficulty can be seen as a puzzle waiting to be solved. We need to be flexible in our expectations and open to creative solutions for seemingly insignificant tasks. One example is, trying to put toothpaste on a toothbrush….because that’s what we do twice a day (hopefully). For those who don’t know, you have to hold the brush so close to your face and it is difficult to aim the white paste onto the white bristles without flicking some into your eye. Why not just put the toothpaste straight into your mouth.
I was finding social interactions more and more stressful because my ability to see faces had deteriorated quite substantially over the previous four years and I had been bumping into things and ‘losing ‘ things a little more often than in the past. All my life I had tried to not stand out as being abnormal in any way. In hindsight, I was not doing myself or others any favours. I identified my mindset as: ‘fitting in is a way to look competent’, then I chose to change it to ‘who needs impressing? ‘I needed to address my own needs above what I thought others might think. This meant picking up my white symbol cane. It was difficult at first because I knew that people would respond to me according to their mindset towards a disabled person – avoidance because of lack of experience or fear of me being a beggar, pity and condescension or glorifying me as some sort of saint. I decided to go ahead anyway and if people see me out and about with my cane, identifying me as having vision problems, then maybe that can challenge their mindset as to what a vision impaired person is supposed to do…. and I just call it an on-the-go public awareness campaign. I appreciate my family supporting me in this community education.
I challenge other low vision sufferers to embrace their needs and set yourself free.