An Outward Mindset

Outward Mindset

Outward Mindset

Addicts, like a lot of folks, are painfully selfish people.  As Alcoholics Anonymous puts it, “we live to use, and use to live.”  When I was in active addiction I would lie, cheat, and steal my way to getting my fix whenever I had to.  In short, I had an Inward Mindset. I was, “self-focused, attuned only to (my) own needs, challenges, objectives, and results”.  With this mindset we see others less as people than as vehicles to achieve our wants and needs. I only maintained friendships with those who enabled me to satisfy my desires to use.   For example, I wouldn’t reach out to my brother, family, and my friends unless: I was looking to score, for them to front me money or drugs, or a meal. In other words, I only maintained relationships when they provided me benefits.

My lack of self-awareness and propensity for rationalization made being a terrible companion acceptable because of my Inward Mindset! Where did this get me? I became a terrible brother, son, and husband; habitually depressed; and (obviously) hopelessly addicted. When we have an inward mindset we suffer from tunnel vision, seeing ourselves simply as individuals. We blame others, become stagnant, and deal with low morale. The negative effects of an Inward Mindset show in our lack of growth, satisfaction, and meaningful relationships.

If you feel painfully unfulfilled in your relationships then you probably suffer from an Inward Mindset. Our Second Pillar, An Outward Mindset, is the cure to fix this problem.  Through this process we benefit from seeing ourselves as part of a collaboration, become innovative, and experience engagement. Developing an Outward mindset is one of the most valuable skills you can teach yourself because it greatly improves your relationships providing a sense of belonging, increased awareness, and renewed passion.

What is an Outward Mindset

“The Outward Mindset” is a book written by the Arbinger Institute geared towards making companies more mindful, thereby making them more efficient.  The Arbinger Institute defines an Outward Mindset as, “others-focused, caring about their needs, challenges, and objectives, and about collective results.” With an Inward Mindset we’re only concerned with ourselves. We value other people’s failures because they provide us with an excuse to not help or listen. We value our personal failures because they give evidence of others doing us wrong. An Outward Mindset changes all of this. Instead of becoming obsessed with being the victim of our circumstances or blaming others for our frustrations, we see new opportunities placed in front of us in the form of previously perceived problems.

Developing an Outward Mindset requires a fundamental change in the way we see and value our connections with, and obligations to, others. With an Inward Mindset we’re primarily concerned with others impact on us rather than our impact on them. The main difference with an Outward Mindset is learning to see beyond ourselves. Another way to look at it is that an Outward Mindset is proactive, while an Inward one is reactive.  What this means is that when we operate with an Inward Mindset our circumstances drive behaviors which determines our mindset. On the other hand, our mindset drives behaviors to determine our future (more desirable) results with an Outward Mindset.

The Arbinger Institute

Why is it so hard?

The concept of mindsets are fascinating to me. Changing them becomes difficult because they drive our reactions.  Doing so requires tremendous amounts of conscious effort. What we think, the things we say, and how we act are all subconsciously run through our mindset.  Ash Buchanan’s article, available at, mentions eight principles attributed to describe the underlying nature of mindsets: 

  • 1) Mindsets are habits of mind
  • 2) Mindsets are created by experiences
  • 3) Mindsets create blind spots
  • 4) Mindsets are self-deceptive
  • 5) Mindsets shape our everyday lives
  • 6) Mindsets create our shared world
  • 7) Mindsets can be developed in complexity
  • 8) Mindsets can be transcended

Mindsets are like shortcuts in that they provide us with an incomplete picture through which we experience the world.  What makes changing them so difficult? They develop subconsciously to determine our view of self and of the world around us.  Mindsets are deeply held beliefs, perspectives, and deductions that we use to determine our identity and how society operates. We create our mindsets by differentiating between our experiences and responses under given sets of circumstances.  For example, I want to ask a girl on a date (a particular circumstance) so I flirt in a specific manner (a response) based on my previous experiences. When new data becomes available (flirting in a particular manner no longer seems successful) I try a different response (creating a new mindset). 

How This Ties in with Addiction:

People generally have a reason for using drugs, and addicts use for a multitude of reasons.  These range from masking trauma and mental illness to just wanting to get high. For some (addicts) it becomes instinctive or primal, almost unconscious, just like our mindsets.  The reason for the correlation between an Inward Mindset and addiction is simple. During active addiction our continued use of substances becomes perceived as a physiological need. Therefore, we act in our own self-interest to satisfy this new perceived need.

As I mentioned earlier in this piece, addicts live to use and use to live.  We can understand this insanity when we take a look at our mindset. Remember; fundamentally mindsets have to do with perception, how we handle certain situations, and our beliefs regarding basic qualities like intelligence and talent.  At the most basic level there are two types of mindsets, fixed and growth. Kendra Cherry, in an article available at Very Well Mind, differentiates between the two, “People with a fixed mindset believe that these qualities are inborn, fixed, and unchangeable. Those with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believe these abilities can develop and strengthen by way of commitment and hard work.”

We see similarities between a fixed and Inward Mindset as well as between a growth and Outward Mindset. Of course we’re going to see our ability to consume as fixed, unchangeable, when it’s a perceived need! Similarly, we’re obviously going to consume at the expense of our relationships when we feel like we have.  After all, we’re operating with a mindset that’s fixed and inward. It’s a big part of the reason why delaying exposure to addictive substances until the age of twenty-one is so advisable.  When use starts at an early age brain development, along with our ability to formulate mindsets, comes to a halt

Final Thoughts & Where to go From Here


Being proactive, mindful, and inclusive are at the core of changing to an Outward Mindset. The first step is shifting from a fixed mindset to one of growth.  Stop telling the lie that qualities and skills are beyond your ability to change, stop telling the lie that you need to live to use and use to live, and find peace in the truth that all things can change through committing yourself.  

Honestly ask yourself how do you see other people? Do their goals, objectives, needs, and challenges matter to you or are they more like objects with their level of importance dependent on their ability to help you achieve your goals and objectives? When we don’t genuinely value those around us we rob ourselves of the chance to develop meaningful connections. Interested in finding out if you have an Outward Mindset? Click here to take a quiz from the Arbinger Institute.

Using mindfulness we can overcome the misleading blind spots brought on by our flawed mindsets, explore how our minds habits materialize the circumstances around us, and evolve into an Outward Mindset. The accompanying graphic comes courtesy of and serves as a guide to practice mindfulness.

The Four Pillars to Balance

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