President’s Message: What’s Your Mindset?

©Carolle Dachowski

April is funny—not quite winter and not quite spring. In New Hampshire it’s what many of us call the fifth season: mud. We can have beautiful warmth and record snowfall, both on the same day.

April 1 became a day for pranksters in 1582, when the Julian calendar was switched to the Gregorian calendar. Without email, phones, or direct messaging at their disposal, some people were slow to get the news that the New Year was to be celebrated Jan. 1, not April 1. Those who ushered in the New Year on April 1 were referred to as April fools.

I think of spring as a time to clean out items I no longer need in my studio and my head. I go through the props, backgrounds, and “really good boxes” I’ve saved “just in case.” It’s cathartic to give away items that still have value to others, and it gives me an opportunity to switch things up, make room for new things, and visit with colleagues. It’s good to look at items I once deemed essential and assess whether I really need them any longer.

It’s more challenging to do spring cleaning of the mind. It’s hard to take a true inventory of your headspace and pretty easy to trick yourself. At least that’s true for me. When I look in the mirror, I strike a photo pose, lean in at the waist and stretch my neck, as I’ve instructed many people to do during portrait sessions. I hope I’m not the only one who tries to convince the mirror I look good in the morning!

“Speaking with photographers over my career, I’ve heard many of them refer to themselves or their business in self-limiting language: I could never charge that much. That won’t work in my area. My clients don’t like wall art. Never. Just. Only. One day.”

Jeffrey Dachowski

It’s even harder to recognize what might be holding me back. Speaking with photographers over my career, I’ve heard many of them refer to themselves or their business in self-limiting language: I could never charge that much. That won’t work in my area. My clients don’t like wall art. Never. Just. Only. One day. All self-limiting language, all tricks to make us believe we can’t achieve a certain goal. There’s a saying that’s often cited online and attributed to various authors: “If you argue for your limitations, you get to keep them.”

About five years ago I was introduced to the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. In it, Dweck explains that we each choose one of two mindsets:

  • A fixed mindset believes that success stems only from natural talent. This leads to half-hearted attempts and giving up after a lack of immediate success. A fixed mindset leans heavily on self-limiting words and focuses only on results. It says, I can never learn that skill, hit that sales goal, lose that weight, speak Italian.
  • A growth mindset believes that success is a result of our efforts. This mindset looks for ways to learn and improve; it values the lessons learned from failure as well as from success.

It embraces critique and constructive criticism. It says, I can learn and grow, and the learning and the growth are more important than the result.

Do you have a fixed mindset in some areas of your business or personal life? That’s certainly true in my case, I discovered. It was eye-opening to delve deeper into which lane, fixed or growth, I spend most of my time.

Speaking of the benefits of a growth mindset, I encourage you to participate in one of the most incredible growth-related benefits PPA offers: International Photographic Competition and image critique. Right now, you can submit images to be evaluated by a group of PPA-approved jurors. The insight you gather from these jurors can be an incredible tool for growth. District competition is open for entries through May 3, with judging May 16-19. I implore you to dig deep into a growth mindset and be part of this opportunity to improve your craft and your bottom line.

So, as we move quickly through mud season, I encourage you to clean out the excess in your studio and reflect on your mindset. We have a busy year ahead of us. Let’s take time to figure out how we can make 2022 a year of learning and growth. Your studio and your personal life will benefit. 

Jeffrey Dachowski operates a photography studio in Bedford, New Hampshire, with his wife, Carolle.