The Power of a Growth Mindset Part one of a series

“I can write, but I can’t draw.” “I’m no good at tennis; I’m only good at squash.” “There’s no point in communicating with the neighbours; they’re never going to change.”“Are you kidding, a manager’s job? I don’t know how to manage people!”

Sound familiar? It might not be you, but you’ve probably heard others express such attitudes to keep them comfortable and protected in their bubble of familiarity. Or should that be ‘bubble of mediocrity’? A fixed mindset like this can infiltrate every decision we make. A fixed mindset is our ‘Thought Police’ and not the nice variety – these Thought Police use stand over tactics to keep us locked securely away in a rigid regime of Ground Hog Days and reassuring routine. A fixed mindset limits what we can achieve and what we can help others learn.

Become a law unto yourself

What would happen if we stood up to our Thought Police and said “Hang on a minute,I’d like to try these things I’m apparently bad at! I’d like to see if I can improve!”or “What if those people can change?” How liberating would that be?

A fixed mindset is a belief that people can’t change very much– they have a fixed level of talent and that’s it! A growth mindset is the belief that people can change considerably if they put in consistent effort and continually develop their skills. It focuses people on looking for opportunities that will help them be more successful. People often have a growth mindset in one area of their life but a fixed mindset in another. Just becoming aware of being in a fixed mindset can help a person learn to do things they never thought possible.

Empower your impulses

Going from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset is like flicking a switch; it’s a decision to react to the same impulses in a different way. You’ve been told you can’t dance and with a fixed mindset you’ll believe it. Flick the switch to a growth mindset and suddenly you’re taking those much maligned twinkle toes off to dancing lessons! Your partner has faults that annoy the living daylights out of you; faults you were sure you could groom out of them in time. With a fixed mindset those faults grow horns. With a growth mindset you accept and celebrate your partner as they are and look for opportunities to grow together. Suddenly you’re seeing them through fresh eyes.

Embrace something you’re spectacularly bad at

With a growth mindset every limitation becomes an invitation to give it a go. So let’s really focus on your biggest weaknesses and equate them with their potential worth. Say for example you’re the world’s worst driver. Those around you have been more than happy to reinforce this dubious honour with what they thought was light-hearted banter. With a fixed mindset you’ll probably lose confidence in your driving completely. With a growth mindset you’ll do a defensive driving course or find the nearest empty car park to hone your skills with a helpful friend. Your driving will improve because you’re no longer fixed to the notion that it won’t.

Do what you love, not what you do

If you’re good at selling, but you hate it, don’t do it. If you’re awful at floral arrangement, but you love it, do it until you can do it well. That’s the basic principle of a growth mindset. It puts you where you want to be, not where life’s taken you.

In part two of this series I’ll go into greater detail about how a growth mindset can rejuvenate you both personally and professionally. Meantime give a growth mindset a go – think of something you’re really awful at; something you’d love to be good at and give it a go!

Here’s to a world of happiness!

Dylan Forbes, B.Sc. Psych (Hon.), Pr. AINLP

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