One of the main reasons people come to this site is to find out more about mindset. Here are what I consider to be the mindset fundamentals:
What is mindset?
Your mindset is the set of beliefs you have about yourself, your abilities and your potential for happiness and success.
Dr Carol Dweck, a Stanford professor of Psychology, has researched success and the driving factors behind success for most of her career. She has built a theory which puts people into one of two groups: those with a fixed mindset, and those with a growth mindset. I thoroughly recommend reading her book on the subject, Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential.
People with a fixed mindset believe that they are how they are, and that their ability to change any aspect about themselves is extremely limited. They may believe therefore that their intelligence is limited and their talents are fixed, innate. They will see an academic failure, for example, as a demonstration of what they can’t do.
People with a growth mindset believe that through effort or work their abilities and even intelligence can be developed. They recognise that although some people have natural ability, no-one has fixed ability. They will see the academic failure I referred to above, for example, as a demonstration of what they can’t do YET.
Can mindset be changed?
Yes. One of the great learnings about mindset is that it doesn’t have to be fixed, and we have the choice to change. The mindset theory is extremely empowering in fact. We can all change our mindset or aspects of our mindset if we choose to do so. This aspect of choice is very important – we can choose how we react to things. And we can choose to change our beliefs about ourselves.
I happily admit that during my school days I was of a fixed mindset. I was lucky in that learning came easily to me, but if I wasn’t naturally good at something I dropped that subject as soon as I could. I would say in fact that this fixed mindset, this inability to see that I could change things if I so wished, held me back right into my 20s. Then, little by little, I chose to take control of my beliefs about myself. In doing so my confidence increased, my anxiety decreased, and I took real pleasure in learning and being challenged, even when it wasn’t easy.
Why is it important?
Your mindset is important to you as your choices around it can limit you or allow you to further develop yourself, aim higher. If you decide that you just can’t do something because you don’t have the brains, the skill, the whatever to do it, then you won’t. If you believe that failure is an indication that you should give up, then you won’t improve and you won’t succeed in things that are a challenge to you.
If you are a teacher, educator, coach, manager, parent, anyone whose role it is to get the best out of people your mindset will have a huge impact on the people you are working with. Imagine the difference between a primary school teacher who believes that each child’s intelligence is fixed, and one who believes that it isn’t. Have a look back at your own time at school or university, and think about your best and worst teachers. Which mindset category do you think they fell into?
Again as a parent or educator you have the possibility of shaping the mindset of the children in your care. Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential has a section on parenting and educating, as well as discussion on success in a business context, and those chapters are without doubt the single most important work on parenting that I have read. Some of her comments on praising children were surprising to read, controversial even, but I have learned a lot from them.
Is mindset everything?
No. With the best will in the world I am never going to win an Olympic gold medal in the decathlon. I am not even sure what sports are in a decathlon. But not having the potential to win a gold medal shouldn’t stop me from wanting to train for decathlon, setting myself personal targets, and why not competing if there is a relevant competition for my age group? You never know what I could do with the right mindset. But you can see that the circumstances here will prevent me from being an Olympic gold medallist. Some things really are beyond our control.
But not as much as you may think. And certainly fewer things than someone with a fixed mindset may think.
A final note on the limits of mindset: People often contact me because they are in certain types of multi level or network marketing businesses and have been told that mindset is everything. I tell them that honestly, it isn’t. There needs to be a business plan, and for most people who join these schemes the business plan is so flawed that it will take a lot more than mindset to succeed. Mindset is super important in business, and in sales. But mindset needs to be accompanied by the right set of circumstances and business ideas. If you are in an MLM scheme and you are here because you have been told that you are not succeeding because of your mindset, it is not true. Very few people succeed in MLM, at least to the extent that is advertised. I am happy for you to contact me and discuss this in further detail.
All that said, most people in business and sport don’t achieve success without the right mindset. It is a massively powerful tool to harness and I see clients do amazing things once they have shifted their mindset.
I hope this post on mindset fundamentals has answered some of your questions about mindset. Please feel free to ask more, either in the comments below, or send me an email, whatever suits. I work with women in business and women in the workplace to shift their mindset so that they can be more confident, play bigger and achieve more. Would you like me to help you?
You can also come and join in the chat over in The Mindset Hub, where we discuss all things mindset and you can ask me questions directly.
As mentioned above Dweck’s book Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential will take you into much greater detail than this post on mindset fundamentals.
You may also enjoy her TED talk on the subject of Mindset:
And here is another excellent talk she has given on the subject of mindset: