Monday, July 13, 2015

The Power of Your Mindset

We spend a number of minutes each day picking out what we are going to wear, but there is a far more important accessory we choose each day. It's called our mindset. It influences everything we do. It can hurt us or help us. We can start by identifying our mindset and being aware of how it is influencing our behaviors.

Stanford University psychologist and researcher, Carol Dweck, wrote a classic book on understanding your mindset which includes some elegantly simple ideas that are useful for our daily lives at work and at home. Our mindset may be the most critical factor in creating achievement and success in our lives. The book is called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, How to Learn to Fulfill Our Potential (Ballantine Books, 2006).

There are two essential types of mindsets, fixed and growth. They are the equivalent of entering different worlds. Mindsets are belief systems. Mindsets can be changed if you choose to. You can  have a different mindset on different issues or in different areas of your life.

In a fixed mind-set, your own personal narrative is limited. You judge yourself harshly, with a mistake meaning failure. A fixed mindset make disappointments or rejection seem like all is lost. You can be upset with either mindset, but in the fixed one you can't see hope or the possibility of learning lessons and going on to later success. This mindset tells you there are limits to your intelligence, your career, your relationships and your life. One can operate with confidence from either mindset, but the fixed one makes that confidence brittle and fragile if something doesn't work out.

In contrast, the growth mindset makes a huge difference in how you process disappointment failure and rejection. It believes you can change, grow and learn all your life if you are open to it. A growth-oriented mindset allow you to focus on learning rather than ego investment in being smart.

In parenting children towards a growth mindset, we would want to honor effort and learning new things rather than achievement, grades or awards our children get. A growth mindset doesn't believe you have to easily master new skills without effort, or that you are simply born talented or not. It focuses on learning new things about yourself, others and the world each day. This mindset makes it okay to work diligently at things, experience failure and go forward.

In your romantic partnership a fixed mindset could be thinking that the relationship either makes you happy or it doesn't, and then you will need to break up or divorce. A growth mindset helps you see that your closest relationship gives you the opportunity everyday to learn to become a better communicator, a stronger listener and more loving.

In your business, a growth mindset tells you to learn from everything that happens, and readjust your sails if you're not headed towards the results you want. The fixed mindset will tell you to give up if you run into obstacles.

You can demonstrate either the fixed or growth mindset towards:

  • Your marriage
  • Your business
  • Learning new skills and tasks
  • Parenting
  • School
  • Loss
  • Life
  • Friendships
  • Activities
  • Sports
  • Hobbies

You will tend to get very different results with one mindset or the other. Change is difficult for most people. A growth mindset won't solve everything, but it will contribute to helping you develop a richer life where you don't live a life that is too small and limiting. Dweck's book is a great introduction to the idea of mindsets, and might be a great starting point for constructive conversations at work and at home. You just might want to challenge yourself and those you care about to shift to the growing side of mindset. For now, consider that mindset as an accessory to be chosen every day, and choose wisely.

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