A Growth Mindset Takes Commitment

“Read!” said Sister Margaret. There I was, 6 years old at the front of my catechism class paralyzed in fear. Catechism is an after school religious education class for Catholics. Sister Margaret was barely 5 feet tall but having her glaring down at me, made her feel 10 feet tall. I remember looking at her thinking “you are crazy, no one my age knows how to read.” No one had ever asked me to read out loud to a classroom before. But I didn’t say anything and kept my mouth shut. That would be my earliest memory of experiencing shame, experiencing that I wasn’t able to do something that others could. It was the imprint that led me to believe the whole world must be smarter than me.

Our personal views, experiences and childhood imprints directly affect our mindset and the way we live our lives. Our mindset can either accelerate us to our dreams or hold us back. Stanford professor Carol Dweck in her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” explores two extremes to mindset: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. She defines the fixed mindset as the idea that our qualities remain a certain way; that skills, talents, and capabilities are predetermined and finite. Contrary to this is the “growth mindset.” This mindset says that skills, talents and capabilities can grow and evolve over time. That through continued learning and discipline we can all continue to evolve and grow. This is proven to be true through neuroscience which states that our brains can evolve and change due to their neuroplasticity.

Think back to an early life experience that you believe to have left an imprint on your mindset. What was that experience and how do you think it contributes positively or negatively to your professional situation? Did this experience create a “Fixed Mindset” or a “Growth Mindset”?

When working with coaching clients, fixed mindsets typically surface when clients are exploring doing something new, something out of their comfort zone. When pushed to stretch themselves I often hear stories about why things cannot be a certain way. In a client’s head, these stories are actually hard facts. They typically start with “Oh, I’m not good at…”

  • Numbers, forecasting, modeling
  • Sales
  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Difficult conversations
  • Trusting people
  • Having confidence in my abilities
  • Systems thinking
  • Design

As a result clients play it safe and avoid anything that might challenge their “facts or truths.”

What are the stories or situations in your life where you might be stuck in a fixed mindset?

My early experience with Sister Margaret can either feed into my growth mindset or my fixed mindset, depending on how I structure the experience.  The facts about this story is that, Yes, I was 6 years old and didn’t know how to read…in English. I was a French Immersion kid who is proud to say I learned how to read in French before I learned how to read in English. However the damage was done and it doesn’t matter what the facts say, because the emotional imprint was big, but I can honestly say that today, I am grateful for that experience. The memory serves to motivate me to always keep learning and to never become complacent. Sister would be very happy to learn that I indeed learnt how to read in English, can speak two languages and recently completed an MBA while running my business and having 2 children under the age of two.

What’s a fixed mindset statement you need to face to accelerate your career? What will be your new growth mindset statement that will allow you to “flip your script” on this story?

Maintaining a Growth Mindset takes regular focus because it is consistently being tested. I recently encouraged a client to apply for a training grant for one of my leadership training programs. The grant was denied for various reasons which were all very assumptive. Nonetheless when it was denied it triggered my “not good enough” mindset. It really got me down and it embarrassed me in front of my client. I asked a partner that I work with in the granting process if I should just leave it or fight the decision. Their answer was to fight it. Together we collaborated on a letter to tackle each assumption and sent it off. I really found myself spinning for a few days with thoughts, “if only I was a more effective communicator, I would have been able to better articulate and define the program in the way that would have made its approval obvious.” This thinking is part of the Fixed Mindset from my childhood experience “I was a French immersion kid so my communication skills are not that strong.” Under pressure it can really show up. I’m excited to say that because of my letter the criteria being used for approval is now under deeper scrutiny by the government and my client’s grant was approved. Fortunately, I was in the middle of writing this article at the same time the issue with the Grant was happening, so it really did test me to practice what I preach, and maintain my growth mindset!

Working on your growth mindset takes as much work as going to the gym regularly. In the gym, muscles are physically exerted and over time, and with repetition, start to change. This same holds true for the mind and plasticity of the brain. A growth mindset requires a deep willingness to change your patterns and your neuro biology. With this willingness comes consistent action and activation of the Growth Mindset. Paying attention to your mindset and mental health should now be an intention you set as regularly as your physical and self-care goals.

Here are my top 10 tips for optimizing and maintain your mindset in order to accelerate your career:

  1. Set a mindset goal/intention. In what area do you want to stretch?
    1. I will regularly review my financials.
  2. Create a growth mindset statement
  3. Get a full night’s sleep 8-10 hours
  4. Eat real food.
  5. Limit your screen time…especially before bed. Never sleep with your phone next to your bed!
  6. Pay attention to the amount of alcohol and drugs you consume. Alcohol is a depressant and it can directly impact your brains ability to think clearly and positively.
  7. Move every single day. Neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are released during exercise and are the super drugs of our day.
  8. Power Down Consistently. Take 15-30 minutes in your day to get quiet. Go for a walk, meditate, pray, read, even nap!
  9. Journal 15 minutes every day on your mindset. Start noticing. What’s showing up right now? What is the essence of your thoughts? Pay attention to the language in your head, ask yourself would I speak to a friend or my children this way?
  10. Surround yourself with like-minded growth mindset people who elevate you and push you towards your hopes goals and dreams.

From this list what are the top three things you need to improve to optimize your growth mindset and accelerate your career?

Our personal views, experiences and childhood-imprints directly affect our mindset and the way we live our lives. Our mindset can either accelerate us to our dreams or hold us back. A growth mindset, one of curiosity and continued learning helps us to achieve those dreams. A fixed mindset rooted in old beliefs from the past keeps us stuck. To optimize your Growth Mindset, begin to know the root of your fixed mindset and its common beliefs and biases. Then like a muscle set an intention to train your Growth Mindset every day. Stretch your mind and yourself towards achieving the vision you have for yourself in your head and in your heart.