Understanding the NOVA Mindset

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By Melissa Davies, Wise Ways Consulting

In researching this month’s post about living in Northern Virginia and what our collective mindset means to our lives, I divided the sources into two camps: the lovers and the sort-of haters.

As Virginia is for lovers, and this is February, the month of love, I’d like to move forward with that more positive thought. But I’ll return to this in a bit.

First, I want to talk about mindset. Here is a good article from Psychology Today that goes into further detail.

A mindset is a set of beliefs or ideas that influences our decisions. When I teach leadership classes, I often talk about having a growth mindset over a fixed mindset. A growth mindset means we are open to change and improvement and learning from failures and successes. A fixed mindset means we believe we are born with inherent traits such as IQ or personality and the outcomes in our lives are somewhat fixed.

A fixed mindset sounds like this: I’m not good with my hands. I can’t learn to be a carpenter. I’m not creative, I can’t learn to paint.

A growth mindset looks like this: the painting I made at the sip and paint event was horrible. But I really liked learning how to paint flowers. I think I’ll try it again.

These are obviously simple examples, but they show how an individual’s thoughts can propel them or hold them back.

Now, back to the NOVA mindset and my research. I read Quora responses, marketing from relocation firms, economic forecasts, job reports, and quality of life indicators.

The Lovers: NOVA is a great place that values parks, recreation, culture, and education. We have cities, suburbs, and rural communities to choose. We are close to DC with a vibrant economy and great transportation to other areas of the country.

The Sort-of-haters: We have the worst traffic in the world. People are so focused on themselves they don’t stop to help others. It’s expensive. Government jobs promise security but they don’t pay well. We work too many hours.

Who’s right and who’s wrong? They both are.

But the one element that was considered positive and unique to both groups and which has become part of our community mindset is diversity.

School systems bragging that they serve populations from over 100 countries. Shopping, dining, and entertainment options that are unique and meet the needs of the community. A welcoming attitude to different faiths.

People who have lived here for a short time and then traveled or gone to school in other more “homogenous” parts of the country missed the diversity. Companies are setting up headquarters here because it has been shown that diversity is good for the bottom line.

The NOVA mindset is flawed in that we all put our heads down and endure long commutes and long hours. But when we come up for air and wave to our neighbors, we see that what we love about living here is that we are all different. And that difference is what makes us the same.


Melissa Davies is an executive leadership coach and facilitator as well as the author of How Not to Act Like a BLEEP at Work. She resides in Prince William County and runs Wise Ways Consulting, which specializes in leadership, management and team development, executive coaching, group facilitation and high-engagement training. She can be reached at [email protected] or through wisewaysconsulting.com


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