“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 in a way that potentially keeps them comfortable and protected from the need to change. But does that also keep them in a ‘bubble of mediocrity’? A ‘fixed mindset’ like this can influence the decisions we make on a daily basis. While attempting to look out for our best interests, a fixed mindset can actually limit what we can achieve and what we can help others learn.
Become a law unto yourself
What would happen if we turned around and challenged these limiting beliefs 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? Welcome the ‘growth mindset.’
A fixed mindset is the 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.” The growth mindset focuses people on looking for opportunities that will help them learn and be more successful. People often have a growth mindset in one area of their life but a fixed mindset in another. Just the act of becoming aware of when you are in a ‘fixed’ state can be enough to help you shift towards ‘growth’ and enable you to learn to do things you 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 undervalued twinkle toes off to dancing lessons! Your partner has faults that annoy the heck out of you; faults you were sure you could nurture out of them in time. With a fixed mindset those faults grow horns. With a growth mindset, those faults are just a small part of the picture; 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 focus on your biggest weaknesses and equate them with their potential worth. Say, for example, you’re the world’s worst cook. 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 ability to cook completely. With a growth mindset, you’ll do a course in cooking for beginners or spend some quality time with a helpful friend working on some tasty staples! Your cooking skills will improve because you’re no longer fixed to the notion that they won’t.
Do what you love, not what you do
If you’re good at selling, but you hate it, don’t do it. Alternatively, find ways to learn to love it (that is possible with a growth mindset). 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 we’ll go into greater detail about how a growth mindset can rejuvenate you both personally and professionally. Meantime, think of some areas in your life where you could benefit from applying a growth mindset, e.g. 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 continuous learning!