A growth mindset opens opportunities

Mindset is a strong determiner of how successful and how satisfied you can be in your business and life. Groundbreaking research on mindset by Stanford University professor Carol Dweck shows that there are two kinds of mindsets: fixed and growth. A fixed mindset limits your potential, whereas you can open the door to opportunity by adopting a growth mindset.  A growth mindset makes you more resilient and improves self-confidence.

According to Dr Dweck, “In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail — or if you’re not the best — it’s all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues. Maybe they haven’t found the cure for cancer, but the search was deeply meaningful.”

How do you know if you have a fixed mindset, and how can you make the shift to adopting a growth mindset?  Here are some fixed mindset beliefs and the growth alternative.

1. I’m not good at {fill in], and I never will be

Fixed: Abilities are set and cannot be improved.

Growth: Abilities can be learned and expanded with effort.

Shift into Growth: Make a list of everything you have mastered in your life.

    • You didn’t know how to drive, now you do.
    • You’ve earned a degree — high school, GED, college.
    • You mastered a trade or field of business.
    • You can use a computer and a smartphone.

Consider this, you have spent your life learning: If you can learn how to merge into a freeway where everyone is driving 70 miles per hour, you can learn something new.

Pick something easy and learn it. Then repeat.

2. I made a mistake! Everyone will think I’m an idiot. Maybe I am

Fixed: Mistakes are fatal and prove I can’t learn new things. I look like a failure. I’m giving up.

Growth: I’m not what I do, and my self-worth is not tied to my behaviour. Mistakes are feedback for improvement. They challenge me to grow and do better next time.

Shift into Growth: Think of mistakes as a means for improvement, not as reflections of your ability or self-worth.

    • How many times did you tip over a bike before you learned how to ride it?
    • So how many times did you have to pull the car in and out of space before you could parallel park?
    • How many meals did you make before one was edible?

You have spent your life making mistakes and learning from them. They aren’t signs of failure or proof that you can’t learn or aren’t “good enough.” Mistakes don’t make you appear less than anyone else. Instead, they enhance your reputation as a professional who is invested in improving their skills.

3. Other People Have All the Luck

Others are promoted, get a raise, land a lucrative client because they are lucky or know the right people. It’s not fair.

Growth: Wow! That’s great. If they can do it, I can figure out how they did it and do it too. That really motivates me.

Shift into Growth: Admit that you want what they have. Then admit that you can have it if you put in the work they did. You can learn from them.

This goes back to the beliefs that you’re unable to improve and mistakes are signs of failure.

Think about all the good things that you have in your life.

    • List everything that is working for you right now.
    • List everything good from your past.
    • Remember every job you got, every promotion, every raise, every client you landed.

How much of it was the result of luck or knowing the right person? How much of it were you doing something to achieve your goals?

Time for a Change

As we move into a new year, it’s time to clear out all that is broken, worn out, harmful, outdated, or irrelevant including your beliefs about what you are capable of. Take an inventory of the things that no longer serve your best and highest good so you can replace them with things which do.

A fixed mindset limits how much you can achieve. It’s as if you are living life with blinders on, capable of seeing only what’s in front of you. Satisfaction and success require the cultivation of a growth mindset. When you take off the blinders, your field of vision opens up. You can see opportunities that were hidden before, and you have the belief that you can take advantage of them.

Adopting a growth mindset will take effort, but the effort will be paid off a hundred-fold. Here are the steps Dweck recommends:

  1. Listen to the fixed messages you tell yourself. Example: “This is too hard. I’ll never learn it.”
  2. Make a choice. You can agree with it and give up, or you can dispute it.
  3. Dispute fixed messages. Example: “You’ve learned a lot harder things in your life. Take a breath and figure it out. You have the ability to do this. Just take your time.”
  4. Take a growth mindset action. You only need to take one, small step to break the fixed mindset habit.

You can see more of Patricia’s articles for personal and professional growth at Becoming Unstoppable.

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