The Mindset Audit
No can do. That's never going to happen. You won't get that through. Way above my pay grade. I just can't...
Any of these sound familiar?
They should do to regular readers, as they all portend to a fixed mindset, a set of limiting beliefs that assumes our abilities are static. From the school of 'you've either got it or you haven't', a fixed mindset is founded on the assumption that the human psyche offers little latitude for change. A growth mindset on other hand equates to an approach to life that deems talent, competency and worth all capable of being developed, enhanced and augmented.
Before you dive into defence mode, I should point out that there is in fact a mindset continuum and we each sit somewhere between the fixed and growth extremes. It is also common to see variations along the axis in accordance with different facets of life and work. So, whereas you may be wont to exhibit a fixed mindset towards your physical fitness say, you might court a growth mindset in certain aspects of your career. While this doesn't give us a neat, black and white continuum metric, it does offer us scope to understand and appreciate the benefits of where we have a growth mindset which in turn helps us in modelling it more broadly across all aspects of our life.
The fixed-growth mindset continuum theory has been developed over decades by Carol Dweck through her research at Stanford and Columbia universities, and is widely heralded as THE twenty first century competency to thrive in the contemporary VUCA environment. Why so topical? Think about it: with a fixed mindset, you'll seek perfection, avoid taking risks and your confidence will be more delicate requiring constant success to support it. In a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, this philosophy just ain't gonna cut it.
'Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new' - Albert Einstein
With a growth mindset on the other hand, you recognize that you have choices, you can develop and have influence on the world around you. You will accept feedback, actively engage in new opportunities and build capability by learning from failure and develop a self confidence that is not dependent on enduring successes.
Time to take the test...
Where do you sit on the growth→fixed continuum? You can take a general test on Carol Dweck's Brainology® website.
How did you do? This is a great starting point for raising your self-awareness but as indicated earlier you'll need to supplement it with some personal reflection on specific aspects of your life to build a broader development plan which recognises your own unique personal continuum.
And accept the paradox
You'll need to court a growth mindset as an enabler to moving along the continuum from a fixed mindset. Here's how:
- Notice your fixed mindset voice and become aware of your self-talk. Look out for that inner gremlin that, as you approach a challenge, will be quick to tell you that you're not good enough; you can't do it so there's no point in trying. Talk back, be assertive and remind yourself of all the benefits of a growth mindset.
- Recognise that you have a choice in interpreting challenges. A fixed mindset will implore: 'it wasn't my fault', 'there's nothing I can do about it'. You'll be defensive to feedback and you'll look for answers or blame from your environment or other people. But by adopting a growth mindset, you'll recognize that you have a choice in how you perceive a challenging outcome; you'll look for the learning from 'failure' and you'll be open to feedback and further experimentation.
- Action focus. A fixed mindset can translate into 'learned helplessness', a propensity to giving up in the face of adversity. At the other end of the continuum you will be more open to 'having a go', less likely to be phased by setbacks and because you continue in action mode you'll also continue the learning cycle.
This advice is all neatly summed up in the words of an oft-quoted 2008 NY Times article 'if you are open to growth, you tend to grow'. But of course the corollary is also true; if you don't stretch, move out of your comfort zone, test your recovery response, then you become locked into a very narrow, fragile definition of success...
'Failure': the most essential step to success
As a professional working their career in the second decade of the new century, the chances are that you are unlikely to pursue a totally linear path. Instead you will encounter twists and turns, setbacks and spurts, major decision points and minor ones, that have will have more impact than you can imagine. You will navigate these flounders and flourishes by developing as an ambidextrous professional, capable of re-invention and personal and professional growth which will support a demanding and rewarding career path. But to navigate these turns and maintain your psychological well-being you're going to have to develop a growth mindset. Wherever you are on the continuum, it's time now to take an open mind to personal change and development. And any remaining doubters amongst you, remember that 'having a go' is key, so my advice in the meantime is don't be afraid of 'faking it 'til you make it', as long as you get out there, show up and take part, you'll be contributing you your new mindset build!
Which topic would you like to read about next month? Look over the list of topics in the original Audit Advantage article here and let us know your choice for the next topic we should cover.