Not too long ago I was invited to a business “mastermind” group to speak on the topic of mindset and leadership. Within seconds after I introduced myself, a hand shot up.
“Why do we need a mindset?” the gentleman asked.
“Do you mind if I change your question slightly?” I replied.
“Okay”, he answered not fully convinced of his own response.
“You see, mindset is like blood pressure. We all have it, it’s just a matter of how high or low it is. Is it healthy or unhealthy? And what are we doing about it?”
“So the question isn’t if you need it. Rather, what we should be asking is: What is my mindset, and how is it helping or hindering my development?”
Stanford Psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck’s transformational book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is a powerful reference for understanding the impact of this topic. Dweck’s research teaches us how to recognize our own thinking. She suggests that we fall into two broad mindset categories, which she describes as a “fixed mindset” or a “growth mindset.” The book goes on to describe the tremendous emotional, cognitive, and social progress that comes with developing and sustaining a “growth mindset,” and with this we can – do better by thinking better.
Growth vs. Fixed Mindset
Definition of Growth Mindset: The belief that you have the capacity to improve your personal/ professional traits and qualities (e.g. intelligence, athletic ability, musical talent, etc.), and the interest to do so.
Definition of Fixed Mindset: The belief that you have a certain unchangeable capacity to improve your personal/ professional traits and qualities (e.g. intelligence, athletic ability, musical talent. etc.), and therefore a lack of interest to do so.
You may find yourself identifying with a fixed mindset in certain areas of your life, and growth mindset in others. This is fairly common, and somewhat expected. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success does a great job of helping you learn how to change your mindset to be more growth oriented.
To get a better understanding of how your thinking, i.e. your mindset, is impacting your choices and (in)actions, think of a challenge or conflict you are facing and ask yourself the following questions.
- How does this way of thinking add value to this area of my life?
- Do I believe that I can reach the goals that I have set out for myself with this mindset?
- How do I feel emotionally when I embrace this mindset?
What to Praise?
Dweck argues that we are creating a society of fixed mindset individuals by bestowing praise that focuses primarily on talent and intelligence. Instead, Dweck believes we need to focus praise on the effort applied, strategy incorporated, and then acknowledgement of the progress made. This will help ourselves handle adversity and empower our thinking to overcome it.
We have plenty of examples in history, from Thomas Edison to Henry Ford, and even Michael Jordan, which embody the ability to do great things, even when they faced failure. It would be impossible for these individuals to overcome their challenges if they maintained focus on talent and intellect alone. The fact that they were able to apply their understanding of effort, strategy, and acknowledgement of progress is what largely contributed to the development of their insights, talents, and creations.
Apply the Secret Sauce
Here is a simple way to start developing a growth mindset: Add “yet”. This word is the quickest and easiest MINDSHIFT technique to start shifting your thinking towards any challenge you face. By adding the word “yet” to the end of a sentence you take what was impossible and make it possible.
- “I am not a strong business leader, yet.”
- “I do not understand how to solve that problem, yet.”
- “You and I do not get along, yet.”
- “I don’t like to exercise, yet.”
Try it out for yourself and MINDSHIFT so you can do better by thinking better.
Fixed or Growth Mindset? Do the test:
Ways to rethink your mindset: