The superstar Beyonce has enjoyed massive success in her career with 180 million records sold as a solo artist and as part of Destiny’s Child and with 20 Grammys notched up on her belt.
What she knows about achieving success, is that while it helps to be good at what you do, it’s about not letting perfectionism get in your way. Because if you’re seeking perfection, you’re not learning and if you’re not learning, you’re not growing.
The promise of unlocking our brain’s true potential has long fascinated us. We’ve explored the use of nootropics and smart drugs forgetting that our marvellous brains can be readily enhanced through healthy lifestyle choices and adopting a proactive growth mindset. Better still these are free and not known to have any unsafe side effects.
Your mindset matters because it’s what determines your beliefs around your capabilities and the actions you take.
As Carol Dweck Stanford Professor psychologist and researcher in the human mindset reminds us,
“It’s not intelligence, talent or education that sets successful people apart. It’s their mindset, or the way that they approach life’s challenges.”
It’s more than one.
You don’t have only one set of beliefs. Your mindset is a collective of domain-specific beliefs. This means you might have a growth mindset about your work which you are passionate about, highly skilled at and always seeking out the latest information to further hone your skills. At the same time, you may have a different mindset when it comes to your mathematical abilities. If you hate math, don’t see the point, and avoid it whenever possible – this is a fixed mindset at work.
It’s not necessarily bad to have a fixed mindset, but it might hold you back in your progress and professional development if you only focus on what you know you’re already good at.
And if you’ve ever found yourself working with someone who has a fixed mindset about a lot of things, you’ll know they can be hard work. Any suggestion, idea or even a different opinion on your part will be shot down in flames as not possible, not workable, and unnecessary.
Here, trying to help that individual change their mindset is, unfortunately, going to be a waste of time (yours) and energy (yours again).
If that person is not listening, is not open to suggestions or alternatives, then sending them on training courses is a waste of money and providing them with a mentor is likely to produce frustration all ’round.
Only we can change our mindset, by making the decision for ourselves and then putting in the effort to learn and improve and monitoring our progress over time. The closest you can get to changing someone else is to help them to gain their own insights into other perspectives.
Why is a growth mindset helpful right now?
Unless you’ve been on an Antarctic expedition out of human contact for the last 18 months, you’ll know we are living at a time of a global pandemic. The adversity and challenge wrought by this includes not just the threat of the virus and the illness it causes but also the emotional turmoil and stress caused by the separation from family members who live interstate or overseas, and the financial hardships caused by losing your job, your business going under or being forced to accept reduced hours and lower pay.
Successfully navigating these choppy waters on such a vast sea crossing when there is ongoing uncertainty about when you may see land again is draining.
We are all highly adaptive and often more resilient than we give ourselves credit for, but a person with a fixed mindset will find it harder to stick to the new way of doing, especially if it feels difficult and you’re not sure what the benefit if anything will be.
A person with a growth-oriented mindset knows the future path will be tough, there will be continuing obstacles and setbacks, but is willing to persevere, remains realistically optimistic and retains hope for the future.
If fear, anxiety, and fatigue are holding you back, there are several things you can do to move towards a growth-oriented mindset.
A good place to start would be to read Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and Adam Grant’s latest “Think Again.”
1. Use the data provided by your emotions
Your choice of emotional apparel provides you with the data needed to make better sense of what’s happening right now and to respond appropriately. Emotions are neither good nor bad, they simply are.
Accepting your emotions means the real authentic you shows up. This makes it easier to communicate your true feelings and to ask for help if needed. It also makes it easier to tap into why you might be feeling this way. If you’re feeling unsupported, or that you’re being asked to do things that don’t align with your values, it can make you feel very uncomfortable.
Ask, what is this emotion telling me?
2. Partner your intelligence with your emotions
Workplace wellbeing begins by understanding how your mindset and emotions work together to determine your actions. Listen in to your inner chatter, what is that little voice (that often sounds so loud) telling you now?
Are you sowing the seeds of self-doubt? You want to apply for that new promotion, but you’re not sure you’re up to it. You worry that you’ll fail, and others will judge you.
Have you received some less than flattering feedback? Did you take it personally, deflect responsibility or blame someone else or your circumstances?
Here partnering with the positive thoughts to remind yourself, you’re more than qualified for the job, and how much you’d love it can make all the difference.
And as for the feedback, switching from adopting a “threat and defence” position, try asking for assistance to do better, to partner with someone for guidance and mentoring and set yourself on the course for new opportunity and learning.
Tap into your values and check that what you do and who you work for is in alignment. This also serves to help you stay true to what matters to you the most.
Ask, what stories am I telling myself? Are these based on fact or fiction?
3. Remember your mindset is a dynamic process
Your mindset is not static. It is constantly shifting. If fear is holding you back and you’d rather stay comfy and safe in the status quo, ask yourself “What would I gain if I focused on what could go right instead of staying stuck in what could go wrong?”
You might not be the frame of mind you’d like to be yet, but as Michael Jordan reminds us, failing lots of times along the way sets us up for success in the longer term.
How would shifting to be in a growth mindset transform your thinking and outcomes?
4. Challenge that thought!
A growth mindset isn’t thinking positively or heaping on lots of unfounded praise or just staying optimistic. Trying harder needs to be accompanied by seeing you’re making progress and learning something from the process. Turning up and getting a participation certificate doesn’t mean you have a growth mindset. Praise and reward are important but need to be appropriate to the effort and learning.
Reframing your self-talk from “I’m not sure I can do this” to “I’m going to give this a try anyway,” will help you to stop your negativity bias from getting too big for its boots.
Grant suggests we surround ourselves with those who will also challenge our thinking helping to override our blind spots and biases.
How do you challenge those limiting self-beliefs?
5. Become a mindset gardener
When you sow the seed of thought that things can be different, in a positive and helpful way, remember to check in on a regular basis to see how that new mindset is growing. It will need regular watering and inspection for pests or disease. If need be, seeking input from a more senior or experienced gardener can also be helpful.
As with any plant, some will grow easily, and others may need more love and attention.
If you’ve set yourself a challenge; to lose those Covid kilos, to increase your level of physical activity, to improve how you interact with your work colleagues and not spend every waking moment working, having the right mindset will be critical to your success.
Changing your mind and nurturing a new healthy habit takes time and plenty of perseverance and practice. But having access to your marvellous plastic brain means this is readily achievable without the need for any “additional support” in the form of drugs or potions.
How do you nurture your growth-oriented mindset?
Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is now available for purchase
If psychological safety, resilience and mental wellbeing is something you’d like to find out more about, please contact me to set up a time for a chat.