Clear Confident Leader Weekly Observer, Issue #8
From the Greenbelt of Boise, Idaho, Leaves are Turning Yellow and Red
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.
– Henry Ford
A mindset, according to Merriam-Webster.com, is a “particular way of thinking; a person’s attitude or set of opinions about something.” Carol Dweck, a psychology researcher and professor, has studied mindsets, and their implications on people’s lives from childhood through adulthood. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, she describes the view we adopt as either a Fixed Mindset – “believing that our qualities are carved in stone”, or a Growth Mindset – “believing that our basic qualities are things we cultivate through our efforts”.
When using a fixed mindset we view information and situations through a lens of judgement and we react based on our interpretations, often tightening and restricting the choices we’re willing to consider. Success from a fixed mindset is being correct, right or being viewed as smart and talented.
When using a growth mindset we view information and situations through a lens of discovery and learning, and we respond with constructive actions to explore and develop our abilities. Success from a growth mindset is stretching oneself, learning and developing one’s capabilities and knowledge.
Fortunately, we’re all born with an incredible appetite for discovery and learning; just watch a healthy child in the first few years of their life to see the passion and energy that is present. We develop a fixed mindset as an unconscious pattern of responding to keep us safe, connected and respected through our individual experiences, and the environments in which we live, study, and work.
When we over-focus on goals and outcomes, to the neglect of discovery, learning, and adapting along the way, we limit ourselves and our organizations. As an individual, this can lead to a downward spiral with a sense of feeling trapped in a space we cannot escape without taking desperate measures where “the end justifies the means”, being resigned to muddle through, or giving up.
At an organizational level it can be an over-focus on employee performance to the neglect of employee development, and/or an over-focus on meeting quarterly numbers to the neglect of developing organizational capabilities. Both can quickly lead to burn-out and disengagement of employees, and longer term decay of the organization’s business.
How do we shift mindsets?
The first step is to become aware, through self-observation, of what mindset we utilize when we’re facing a challenging situation. It is useful to review each day, recall what challenging experiences we faced, and what mindset we were utilizing as we responded. Once aware of our conditioned responses, we can explore them. As we do that, it is critical to compassionately accept that our unconscious mind has been taking care of us, and to consider what it has been protecting us from.
Accepting where we are and what we need without judgement, opens us up to consider what choices might better serve our needs now. Then we can design safe-to-fail experiments that allow us to test and evaluate our new options. It is important to realize that our current response patterns are often deeply embedded in our whole system, and that it will take training and practice to embody newly designed responses so they are available when we want them.
It takes personal commitment, training, and practice to make such a shift. I suggest considering how you might be supported in the process by teachers, coaches and mentors.
How might mindsets be limiting you and the organizations you lead and contribute to?
How as a parent, teacher, and leader might you foster an environment that supports the development of a growth mindset?
What next steps will best help you?
Let’s create a better future today!