Mindset: how to build emotional resilience and redefine success
How do you define success? When we think about successful people, we often think of them in terms of their accomplishments rather than in the time and effort it took for them to get there. This limits our understanding of their success because many of these individuals failed at least once before getting to the stage where they succeeded. For example, did you know that Einstein failed the entrance exam to get into university and that Michael Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team? Think of how far they came to get the success that they are renowned for today.
Fixed and growth mindsets
The differences between focusing on effort and focusing on achievement to define success map onto two mindsets defined by Carol Dweck.
People with a fixed mindset think that skills are set from an early age, that they are innate and people are “naturals”. Success is believed to be the affirmation of natural ability, while failure is the affirmation of a lack of natural ability.
People with a growth mindset believe that we can develop skills, and that we all have the ability to improve and develop if we put the effort in. Both success and failure are taken as opportunities to learn.
While we tend to fall more into one of the two camps, in reality it’s a spectrum. We may have a fixed mindsets about certain aspects of our lives - for example believing that we are “No good at maths” or “not at all creative” The goal is to develop your growth mindset in all areas of your life.
Why should we aim to have a growth mindset?
While fixed mindsets may lead to success in the short-term, in the long-term they cause stagnation of curiosity, stunted growth and poor mental health. This is because reluctance to try anything that may not be part of individuals’ ‘natural’ ability will not encourage them to seek new opportunities, which will impact both their personal and professional lives. If things go wrong, people with fixed mindsets are more likely to give up in the face of an obstacle and will take this failure personally, which will impact their mental health.
In contrast, growth mindsets require curiosity, which will encourage people to seek opportunities for growth and lead to better mental health. This will expand career opportunities, build resilience in the face of obstacles and help find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.
Carol Dweck’s studies show the positive effects of a growth mindset. Two groups of children were given the same problem solving task - one group was praised on how hard they had worked on the task, the other on their intelligence. Those praised on intelligence showed fixed mindset characteristics like choosing to stick with easier tasks. Those praised on effort showed growth mindset characteristics: they chose to do a more difficult problem solving task, reported enjoying the task more, performed better in future tasks and asked for feedback. Business implications
It is also important for businesses to think about developing a growth mindset as part of their culture. This creates more empowered and engaged teams who are motivated to grow both themselves and the company. Research shows that employees at a growth mindset company are more likely to think that the company encourages innovation, and to feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to the company. Businesses with a primarily fixed organisational culture experience more cheating and deception within teams to get ahead in the ‘talent race.’
How can we develop a growth mindset?
The good news is that we can choose to put ourselves into more of a growth mindset. The first step is being aware and recognising your own mindset. Here are three ways to move yourself towards a growth mindset: 1. Identify in which areas of your life you have fixed mindset triggers
This will help us understand when we are falling into that mindset and come up with ways to address these beliefs. Some ways to start thinking about this:
Do you do things because you think you are ‘naturally’ good at them?
When was the last time you learnt a new skill? Was this for your job, a new hobby…? What skills would be useful for you to learn in your current job?
Do you seek new opportunities in your professional and personal lives? Is there one area of your life where you are less likely to take risks and could work on growing your mindset?
2. Redefine your definition of success from achievement to effort
Just as shifting the emphasis of praise from achievement to effort has drastic effects on the mindsets of children, learning to value the process over the end result can grow our mindset.
Some ways to start doing this:
Ask for feedback and look at ways to improve
If something doesn't go as well as you hoped look at the lessons learnt - write these down
Invest time to research and learn a new skill
3. Pay attention to your self talk
The way we speak to ourselves has a huge influence on our mindset. Listen to what you say to yourself - are you saying fixed mindset statements like “I can’t do that” or “I don’t know how to do that”, if so make a note of these and see if you can challenge them. We will be exploring self talk further in our next blog post and sharing tips for how you can get in control of your own self talk.
We would love to hear from you if this post was helpful, or how different mindsets have impacted your workplace or personal life. If you would like to learn more about how you can use mindset to change you or your team’s behaviour, please get in touch.