I love it when the Olympics are on. I am a sucker for learning about an individual’s backstory and trying to understand their struggle and path to success. I also love seeing people make their dreams come true!  However, like many people I grew up thinking that those who are great athletes or business people had been successful because of some innate talent or they had been lucky. Over the years, I have learnt about the plasticity of the brain and the power of creating a growth mindset and this has changed my views on talent and luck.

When I started work, I had no idea of what I wanted to do. The concept of a career didn’t really figure, I just needed a job. Living in Coventry during a time when the car factories were closing down, I was told by the Schools Career Officer that the only possible jobs were in insurance companies or banks. No surprise that I ended up in an insurance company!

However, over the years, I found and progressed in a career I loved.  Was this due to talent or was I lucky? Neither really. This came from looking observing what others were doing (role models) and then pushing myself out of my comfort zone and trying new things, volunteering to take on new responsibilities and projects where I felt I would learn. I now realise that I developed a mindset that allowed me to believe that I could learn new things and also that I might be able to develop talents that I was unaware of. I believed in positive thinking but knew that this wasn’t enough by itself. It also took lots of effort and the willingness to take risks. Recently I came across the work of Carol Dweck a Stanford University psychologist and her work has further developed my thinking on the importance of mindset.

Carol Dweck asks,

What if your true learning potential was unknown, even unknowable, at best?

What if it were impossible to foresee what you could accomplish with a few years of passion, toil, and training?

A “growth mindset,” as Dweck calls it, is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a belief that you can grow and improve. In her book,  Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, she explains that while a “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, a growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure “not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.”

Over the years I have come to realise that a personal growth mindset allows you to identify new challenges and take them on.   The concept of Growth Mindset is gaining popularity in our schools where teachers and parents are learning the benefits of children believing that they can learn and become better if they have the right mindset and are prepared to work hard. Large organisations are now seeing the benefit of helping their employees develop a growth mindset too.

Do you have a fixed or growth mindset? Remember, you can cultivate a growth mindset at any point in your life.

Changing Your Mindset.

Here are my top tips for developing a growth mindset.

  1. Cultivate a sense of purpose. Dweck’s research shows that people with a growth mindset have a sense of purpose.  It is important to keep the big picture in mind but not be so fixed to it that you can’t change your course should an opportunity arise. Think about how athletes work towards goals.
  1. Focus on the experience as well as the end result. Enjoy the experience of what you learn whilst you are working towards your goal. It is not all about the end result.
  1. Acknowledge your imperfections. Hiding from your imperfections means that you will never grow. So acknowledge them and recognise that it is ok to be imperfect.
  1. Stop assuming that imperfect is not good enough. Many of us fail to make progress because we fear failure and want to get everything 100% correct. However, this can mean that we never try doing anything new and this can lead to us automatically failing to achieve all we could.
  1. View challenges as opportunities for growth. Each time you try something new you will learn and grow. If you keep going with the cycle ‘do, reflect, learn, redo, reflect, learn’ you will be improving each time.
  1. Learn to hear and name your fixed mindset voice. Everyone has a fixed mindset sometimes. We are all a mixture of both.  Recognise when you’re coming from a fixed mindset position and challenge yourself to re-frame your thoughts. For example, your inner head tapes might say to you ‘What if you fail? You’ll be a failure.’  You then replace it with a growth mindset statement such as ‘Most people have failed at some time and at least I will have tried. I will also learn something during the process’.
  1. Use the word ‘yet’. Within this concept ‘yet’ is a very powerful word as it is full of opportunity and potential. There is a big difference between ‘I can’t speak French’ and ‘I can’t speak French yet’.
  1. Accept feedback. Take any feedback you are given and look at it carefully. What can you learn from it? What could you do differently next time? What feedback would you give yourself? Being able to give yourself constructive criticism is an important part of a growth mindset.
  1. Celebrate growth. Acknowledge your progress and celebrate your growth with others. Doing this will encourage you to keep going when it gets tough.
  1. Celebrate Success. Always take a moment to celebrate your success. Too often we move onto the next thing without acknowledging the hard work we have put it.  When you are ready to move to the next goal.

I do not believe that a Growth Mindset is a panacea for all ills but I do believe that it will move you forward and help you achieve more in your life. Talking again of Olympic athletes, they know that they wouldn’t be where they are today if they did not work hard and believe that they can do it. They are excellent role models for a growth mindset.

The final words come from the very talented Ed Sheeran

‘People tell me that I’m born with a natural talent. I’m like…. uh no! … I just practise.’

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject, please leave me a comment below.  If you would like to know more about developing a growth mindset then please contact me, I would be happy to help you.

Suzanne