Living and leading from a healthy mindset is an important topic anytime – but I’m confident we can all agree that 2020 has been a challenging and difficult year for everyone. With COVID, Culture wars, and all the election news, now more than ever is the time for us to pause, reflect and listen to our inner dialogue and ask better questions.

The health of our mindset matters because our mindset drives everything that happens to us. Let’s face it no one wakes up each morning and sets out to diminish the health of their mindset. But it happens by way of all the stuff we have on our plates especially in 2020. And consequently we undervalue the importance of our mindset.

Ways our Mindset Works

The moment anything happens (think of our thoughts, our feelings and our circumstances), our minds are triggered good or bad and in that moment we have the power to decide how we want to respond.

Just the other day as my husband and I were driving home, traffic was slowing and the cars behind us were coming up fast (I was watching in my side mirror) and my mindset was triggered back to the 2016 major car accident I was in and my reaction to my husband was not intuitive and practical, it was totally judgmental. I reacted by making sounds that signal danger (and they always scare him), and by helping him drive by putting up my hands as if I should grab the wheel as my foot starts pushing so hard on the floor as if I had any power to stop the car (my husband is a very safe driver and was not going too fast, and he was slowing down, but I was triggered because of my fear of getting hit again). My mind was totally judging what just happened and the questions in my head were: “Why can’t he slow down in time?” or “What’s wrong with him, he knows this freaks me out?”, or “Why can’t he just drive like me?”

These scenarios in the car never go well for me and my husband. I need to learn how to switch my mindset.

According to Marilee Adams, who wrote the book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, there are two paths our mindset will take in any circumstance and we have the power to choose one over the other. The two paths are the Judger Mindset Path or the Learner Mindset Path.

What’s a Judger Mindset?

Having a judger mindset is just part of being human. There are two faces of judger mindset: exercising judgement and being judgmental. God has given us the ability to exercise judgement which is all about making good choices using discernment, acumen, or shrewdness, which is essential as we raise our families, work our jobs, and just deal with COVID 19! Being judgmental is the enemy of good judgment because we are either being judgmental to ourselves or toward other people.

A perfect example of this during COVID19 centers around wearing a mask. We are all exercising judgement by wearing our masks because we don’t want to get COVID and we would feel terrible if we were the cause of someone getting the virus because we chose not to wear a mask.

We slip into being judgmental when we see others not following the guidelines to wear a mask.

Slipping into judger mindset is easy to do especially when we are stressed and when things are out of our control and not going as we think, want or expect. And, this mindset can become extremely addictive and the more we indulge it, the easier it just might become a habit.

The reality is we can never get rid of our judger mindset, but we can learn to manage it.

To help us manage our judger mindset we have to become observers of what is going on inside of us, what we are thinking and feeling. Unfortunately, judger mindset is so ingrained in us that we jump right into without even knowing we’re there until we are stuck in it. Just like I did in the car. Ugh!

One way to know if we are in a judger mindset is there are noticeable differences in our physical bodies and how they react when we are in the judger pit mindset. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I feeling pessimistic, frustrated, negative or depleted, depressed, uptight, annoyed, impatient?
  • Is my body tense or reactionary?
  • Do I feel stuck or blocked?

The signs you are in judger mindset are: you are reactive and automatic, you are a know it all, you are listening for agreement or disagreement, you are self righteous, blame focused and you are seeing things in a win-lose relating mindset.

Once you begin to observe that you are in a judger mindset (being judgmental is our focus here), there is a way out! You have a choice to make the switch to a Learner Mindset!

What’s a Learner Mindset?

With a learner mindset it’s all about thoughtful choices as you are now responding instead of reacting. You are observing what is going on in your inner dialogue and you get to choose what’s possible. Being in a learner mindset you’ll want to discover something new. You value not-knowing or having all the right answers. You value creativity and innovation and you have an open mind to all kinds of new possibilities and you see with fresh eyes. You let your defensiveness go and you learn to ask yourself and others better questions.

Asking better questions helps pull us out of the judger pit and onto the path of a learner mindset. Once you begin to see the two play out in your mind then you can ask yourself: “Am I in judger mindset or learner mindset?” and when you have an awareness of which one you are in you then can make the choice to switch from judger to learner and you will observe that you feel lighter, more upbeat, curious, energetic, optimistic and even hopeful! And who doesn’t want to feel more hopeful going into 2021?

“Either you have judger or judger has you.”
Marilee Adams

How Do We Get Out of the Pit?

We have to get curious and reset our brains to think with more learner type questions. Here are some examples of judger and learner questions:

Judger Questions:

  • What’s wrong with me?
  • Why can’t my (you fill in the blank) just think like me?
  • What’s wrong with them?
  • Whose fault is it?
  • I’m the rule follower! Why isn’t everyone wearing a mask?
  • Why don’t they know what to say?
  • Why did they have to act so rudely?

Learner Questions:

  • What do I want?
  • Where would I like to be?
  • What can I learn?
  • What is useful for me right now?
  • What can I take off my plate?
  • What are the best steps forward?
  • What am I responsible for?
  • What am I not responsible for?
  • Where would I rather be?
  • What do I value about myself?

“We are most effective at virtually everything we do when we’re in learner mindset. That’s when we’re most resourceful and flexible and have the most options.”
Marilee Adams

New Ways of Working on Your Mindset

The power of questions can really shift your mindset from reacting to choosing the best path forward. Notice how each set of questions (judger and learner) affects you. Better questions are the bedrock to shifting your mindset. Begin with the realization that the kinds of questions you ask literally put you either in judger or learner mindset.

As you start observing, your observer self will get stronger and more dependable and you’ll find it increasingly easier to switch your questions and get back in learner mindset, where things are opening up again and you are moving towards the outcome or results you desire and are seeking.

The signals to catching yourself in judger are difficult to argue with since they’re your body’s reactions, your moods and attitudes. Once you observe yourself in these negative moods you can pause, reflect, listen and then change your questions for better results!

I know it works, I’ve experienced it myself and I hope and pray and want that for you too! Just know that it is a skill and a process and takes time! Grace yourself as you learn and grow and make the switch!

Free Resource Offer for Email Subscribers Only!

If you resonated with the judger mindset and want to learn how to make the switch to a learner mindset, be sure and subscribe to my email to receive a free resource to help you go from judging with a listening ear and thinking with a judger mindset to the freedom and hope of a learner mindset.


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