What’s Your Mindset?

Your Mindset Affects Performance

My son came home from college this weekend and we were discussing his past semester at school. He said, “Mom, I am exhausted. I study hard, but I never feel like I am great at a subject. There’s always a group of students smarter than I am in the class. For once, I want to have the top grade in the class.” I asked him, “Do you think you are learning a lot?” He replied, “OMG, I am learning so much my head hurts!”

Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset, The New Psychology of Success, would have asked my son the following questions: When do you feel smart, when you’re flawless or when you’re learning? If you had to choose one which would it be, loads of success and validation or lots of challenge?

In her book, Mindset, The New Psychology of Success, Dweck defines two types of mindset personalities, a fixed mindset and a growth mindset:

“A ‘fixed mindset’ assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are fixed and can’t be changed in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A ‘growth mindset,’ on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.”

One of the ways in which Dweck tests this theory was to observe the different mindsets of children playing with jigsaw puzzles. The children were allowed to do an easy puzzle once and then gave them a choice. They could either do the same puzzle again, or they could try a more difficult one. After observing the choices the children made, she asked them why they made the choices they did. The children who elected to do the same puzzle again believed that by doing the same puzzle again they were less likely to make mistakes and were, therefore, smarter because smart kids don’t make mistakes. The children who chose to move on to the more difficult puzzle, on the other hand, could not understand why the other children would want to do the same puzzle over and over again. In their mindset, becoming smarter is more important than being seen as smart.

So What’s Your Mindset?

Do you strive for mastery and realize that mastery is a journey? Do you appreciate that your hard work will pay off and improve your skills? Do you anticipate and welcome objections and challenges as an opportunity for growth, or do you view them as failures to be avoided? When you don’t close the sale, do you feel depressed or do you take the time to debrief and use this experience to fuel your urgency to get the next one? Are you learning and growing or are you comfortable?

The mindset you adopt for yourself affects the way you lead your whole life.

People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on challenge. The growth mindset allows people to love what they are doing and to continue to love it and to grow in the face of difficulties. They do not fear failure—they fear complacency.  They are lifelong learners!