When working with my extremely talented executive coaching clients, we do a lot of work with the brain and mindset. Have you thought about your own mindset? Do you ever wonder why some very smart people don’t live up to their potential? Maybe you yourself need to unlock your potential? It may come down to mindset or mental attitude, which can be more important for success than IQ.
Mindset is “an established set of attitudes held by someone,” says the Oxford American Dictionary. It turns out, however, that a set of attitudes needn’t be so set, according to Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford.
Dweck is the original creator of the term and her work has played the biggest part in informing my own beliefs about mindset. Dweck proposes in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, (2006) that everyone has either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset:
• A fixed mindset is one in which you view your talents and abilities as… well, fixed. In other words, you are who you are, your intelligence and talents are fixed, and your fate is to go through life avoiding challenge and failure.
• A growth mindset, on the other hand, is one in which you see yourself as fluid, a work in progress. Your fate is one of growth and opportunity.
Which mindset do you possess? Dweck, an expert in motivation and personality psychology, has discovered in more than 20 years of research that our mindset is not just a minor personality quirk. It creates our whole mental worldview and determines whether we become optimistic or pessimistic. It shapes our goals and attitudes toward work and relationships, and it ultimately predicts whether we fulfill our potential.
Dweck provides a checklist to assess yourself and shows how a particular mindset can affect all areas of your life, from business to sports and even love:
Test Your Mindset
Which mindset do you have about your own intelligence?
1. Your intelligence is something very basic that cannot change much.
2. You can learn new things, but you can’t really change how intelligent you are.
3. No matter how intelligent you are, you can always improve.
4. You can substantially change how intelligent you are.
Statements 1 and 2 reflect closed-mindset thinking. Statements 3 and 4 indicate an open mindset. Where do you fall on the spectrum? You can fall somewhere in the middle, but most people lean in one direction. You also have beliefs about your other abilities. Try substituting artistic talent, sports acumen or a particular business skill for intelligence.
The good news, says Dweck, is that mindsets are not set: at any time, you can learn to use a growth mindset to achieve success and happiness. Dweck’s overall assertion that rigid thinking benefits no one, least of all yourself, and that a change of mind is always possible, is welcome. I know this is true from the coaching clients I’ve worked with. Some are more open to learning and growing; others perceive failure or setbacks as obstacles to fear and avoid. As coaching clients, they are harder to help because they will do anything to avoid not looking good!
Which do you think you have, a fixed or a growth mindset? If you are leading others, what have you noticed about mindset and their success? Is it time we talked?