How to cultivate a growth mindset and fulfill your potential

How do you feel about your talent and ability to reach your fullest potential? Is it a source of gut-twisting anxiety, or do you view things you don’t know how to do as challenges, even fun?   

I just finished a fantastic book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck. It’s an eye-opening read about how our mindset determines our ability to reach our potential and, more importantly, how we can learn (and teach those around us) to cultivate a mindset conducive to happiness, growth and fulfilling our greatest potential.

 Dweck’s research posits that we all fall into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.The fixed Mindset is characterized by limiting thoughts and a belief that other people define their abilities. They measure themselves by their talent, which they see as natural and fixed, and see effort as something less smart people need to invest. If they can’t do something perfectly, right out of the gate, they see it as a failure, become discouraged, and stop trying for fear of being exposed. Any potential failure is seen as a threat to their perceived talent and they will protect it at all costs. A great example of a fixed mindset would be John McEnroe in his heyday. His failures or deficiencies were a huge threat to his sense of self, so he resorted to blame, excuses and tantrums to avoid exposure.  As a result, he admits that he did not fulfill his potential and was very unhappy in his career.

On the other hand, those with a growth mindset relish challenges. They don’t see failure, but rather an opportunity to learn and get better.  For example, failing a test is not seen as a judgment on their worthiness, but simply an indication that they need to invest effort to improve.  People we consider to be innovators or genius’s, including Thomas Edison, Jackson Pollack and Michael Jordan were all un-remarkable in the beginning.  But all were consumed by self-improvement, learning and invention and were willing to work harder than anyone else.

Do you see yourself in one or both of these descriptions? If you’re like me, you might find that you have a growth mindset in some areas, but a fixed one in others. The good news is, you can shift your mindset, changing your internal monologue from a judging one to a growth oriented one, and help others do the same. Here are 7 ways you can do that:

  1. When learning something hard, picture yourself getting better as you meet the challenge and learn. When you look at your progress, focus on how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go
  2. Re-frame the concept of investing effort as a positive thing, rather than something less talented people have to do.
  3. Surround yourself with people who are willing to offer alternative views and constructive criticism
  4. Embrace things you’re afraid of. We don’t grow by playing it safe.
  5. If you employ or manage others, focus on creating a culture of ideas, with no hierarchy or blame. Richard Branson is known for taking all ideas at face value, regardless of their source.  If Richard does it, odds are good, you should too!
  6. Set a goal and make a concrete plan of when, where and how you’ll take the first step.
  7. When you have a set back, think about what could you do differently? Are their additional resources you could tap into? Additional learning you need to do? Do you need to work harder? Now go back to step 6 and make a plan of when, where and how you’ll implement those steps.

Are you ready to shift your mindset and achieve your goals, but don’t think you can do it alone? You don’t have. If you’d like support, I’d love to talk to you about how I can help.  Click here to set up a free 30-minute introductory call where we can talk about your challenges, aspirations and discuss solutions.

Here’s to 2016 being a transformative year!

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