Do You Have A Growth Mindset?
When you’re faced with a challenge, something you know you aren’t “good at”, do you avoid it (because it may be frustrating and you might fail) or do you jump in and try to figure it out (hey, could learn something new)?
The answer to this question indicates if you primarily operate from a “fixed” or “growth” mindset.
This mindset continuum was developed by Carol Dweck, who has conducted significant research and quite literally wrote the book on the subject, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
Spoiler alert… I’ve been a operating from a “fixed” mindset the majority of my life.
While I excelled in school quite easily, finance and “numbers” were never my strong suit.
So even today you’ll hear me say things like “I’m not a finance person”, to avoid financial analysis or accounting-centered activities in all areas of life… I chalked it up to just not being how my brain worked and it's frustrating and I'd rather not deal with the subject.
Once I read Carol's book, I thought about this example and many other instances throughout my life, and I recognized that I certainly do have a pattern of avoiding things I’m not naturally good at.
Because I can’t do her work justice in this short post, I won’t try, but here is the short version of my key take aways (also, huge thank you to Jennifer Racioppi for introducing me to this work!).
Most people either operate from a “fixed” mindset, meaning, you gravitate toward things you are naturally good at because you will likely excel … and you avoid trying things you think you will be bad at, as that may lead to failure.
It's called "fixed" because you fundamentally or subconsciously believe your intelligence, abilities, and talents are fixed traits.
Or, you operate from a “growth” mindset, meaning you welcome new challenges, and are less afraid of failure, because you believe everything is an opportunity to learn something new and grow. People with a growth mindset believe hard work and effort pay off.
Carol has lots of data and research around how our mindsets were formed growing up, how they are reinforced by society, and the impact each mindset has on development, performance, and opportunity. It’s super interesting work, so I highly recommend you check it out if you’re at all inclined.
I won’t advocate that one mindset is better than the other, or that we all need to operate from a growth mindset, but what I can attest to is the transformation this realization has brought about for me.
Throughout my life, I have gravitated towards things I am naturally good at or was told I was good at and have been highly averse to failure.
But that also means that I’m not only missing out on learning opportunities, but that I actually have a quite negative experience when I have to do shit I don’t want to do or that seems hard. (tell me I’m not the only one?!).
I find myself heavily resistant, frustrated, and deeper down, afraid of failure.
Realizing this wasn’t a character flaw, simply a mindset I had been operating from, I came to recognize that I had an opportunity to not only learn and grow exponentially, but that I could also have a much better experience doing the stuff I didn’t like doing or was afraid of.
A very simple way I have shifted my mindset is when I notice resistance towards something I am doing (such as anything that has to do with numbers and Excel), instead of suffering through it, I use that resistance as a trigger to ask myself “what am I learning from this?”.
Focusing on learning and opportunity versus frustration or fear of failure is the simplest way you can shift to a growth mindset.
This can apply to ANYTHING you have to do in life.
And the learning doesn’t mean you are necessarily learning a new skill (though it often is the case), but maybe you are learning something new about yourself or the people you are engaged with.
Going on a trip with difficult travel logistics. Taking a painting class. Changing the tire on your car. Creating a website. Getting your finances in order.
Most of us (except our solid “growth” mindset friends) want to avoid difficulty, uncertainty, and the potential of failure.
If you simply ask yourself, before, during, or after the process, “what am I learning?”, it has the power to totally shift your experience, which shifts your energy, which shifts your attitude and actions when the next challenge comes your way.
There is such a ripple effect of this mindset shift… less frustration and resistance during these moments means more peace, joy, and flow.
Let’s be real… I have not completely shifted to a growth mindset, but this realization and this practice has significantly changed my life for the better.
The way I approach challenges or new experiences that I used to dread or avoid are now not nearly as painful. I don't believe that because I'm not innately good at something that I can't excel at it.
And the practice of asking myself “what am I learning?” has become much more second nature.
I invite you to give it a try today.
What is something you are resisting doing because it seems like a stretch of your skills or intelligence?
What’s the thing on your to-do list you have been dreading?
Ask yourself what you could learn by diving in, without fear of failure, and see how that shifts your energy toward the activity.
Then, do it!
You’ll come out a more knowledgeable and experienced person on the other side… with a sense of accomplishment, growth, and the “check the box” relief we all love so much.
This is just one example of a mindset shift that can have a significant ripple effect in your life. Sign up for my free January Success Mindset Challenge if you want to dig deeper and go through a simple process to have more alignment, success, and flow in your life!