The Incredible Power of Beliefs
Create the right mindset and the sky’s the limit!
“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.” ~Richard Bach
Every single one of us has a way of looking at the world and psychologists have shown there are two general mindsets that help shape our individual perspective. These mindsets have been formed by our experiences, by the feedback and reinforcement we’ve received from others, and by the way we’ve processed all of those things. Research has shown that our beliefs – about ourselves, others, and how the world works – can predict both the ambitiousness of our goals and how likely we are to reach them.
The two general mindsets identified by researchers are the fixed-mindset and the growth-mindset. What researchers have discovered is that if they can identify a person’s general mindset, they can reliably predict some amazing things. Mindset can predict a person’s likelihood of success in every aspect of life: school, job/career, hobbies, and even personal relationships. In essence, what people fundamentally believe creates the limits of their success.
Relaxed Leaders must understand the power of the beliefs driven by these mindsets – fixed and growth – and then work to mold our beliefs to better support our personal vision and goals!
Nature, not Nurture
Having a fixed-mindset means you believe that things like intelligence, talent, and even personality traits are inherited or somehow assigned via genetics. You assume people are born with these things and they remain fairly static over time.
Before you conclude that having a fixed-mindset is bad and therefore you don’t have one, keep in mind that it’s actually the most common of the two mindsets. Be honest with yourself. Have you ever said (or thought) anything like this?
“I’m not a numbers person.”
“She’s an extroverted people-person.”
“He’s just more creative than me!”
If you have a fixed-mindset, you tend to see both strengths and weaknesses as simply part of who a person is. You think each person has natural gifts and talents, including areas where they excel more easily than others. You also believe that no one is perfect, so we all have areas where we simply have no natural talent and will always struggle. You simply accept this and deal with it by understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, which drives the choices you make.
Many people I’ve worked with over the years have this mindset and some of them have managed to build successful careers and maintained strong relationships. Having a fixed-mindset doesn’t automatically mean you’ll fail, but there are some negative consequences you need to consider.
If you have a fixed-mindset, you tend to:
Seek opportunities that play to your strengths because you see it as your only path to success
Avoid opportunities that expose your weaknesses because you don’t believe you can overcome them
Avoid opportunities that would require new skills because it increases the likelihood of failure
Believe mistakes are simply a lack of natural ability, so you miss opportunities for self-reflection and development
Quit when faced with a major setback because struggling with something means you’re just not good at it
If you have a fixed-mindset, you can still build a successful career and even become a decent leader – but your opportunities for improvement and even greater success will be seriously limited. And if you multiply the limiting mindset by the people you lead, it should be clear that you will never be a truly great leader.
One final thing to note is that having a fixed-mindset also makes you less resilient overall. It’s hard to bounce back from a setback when you see failure as something caused by a lack of innate talent and ability. When you believe you failed because you lacked something that’s impossible for you to learn or needed a skill you can never master, then you tend to start setting your sights lower. You start settling for less. Relaxed Leaders have to avoid that trap!
Nurture, Not Nature
Having a growth-mindset means you believe that things like intelligence, talent, and even personality traits can change significantly over time, especially with focused effort and lots of practice.
Before you conclude that having a growth-mindset is good and therefore you must have one, keep in mind that it’s actually the least common of the two mindsets. Be honest with yourself. Have you ever said (or thought) anything like this?
“I can do anything I put my mind to.”
“She succeeds because she never gives up.”
“Anyone can learn to be an excellent communicator.”
If you have a growth-mindset, you tend to see both strengths and weaknesses as things anyone can change. You don’t believe that initial aptitude in something means it’s some natural gift. You also don’t believe that initially struggling in something means you can never succeed in that area or turn it into a strength. You create your personal vision, set your goals, and then figure out how to achieve them. When it comes down to it, you know that good planning, hard work, and continued growth and learning is the key to success. You don’t believe you’re limited by so-called “natural talent,” which drives the choices you make and allows you to more confidently set lofty goals for yourself and those you lead.
Over the years, I’ve worked with people who consistently exhibit a growth-mindset; and though it doesn’t automatically guarantee success, there are definitely some positive effects that helped them.
If you have a growth-mindset, you tend to:
Seek projects where you can learn something and expand your skill set, even if it exposes your weaknesses
Take risks because personal growth is more important than avoiding the possibility of failure
View mistakes as opportunities for self-reflection and development, not as just some permanent lack of ability
Embrace negative feedback as necessary for personal growth
Persevere when faced with a major setback because struggling with something simply means you haven’t mastered it yet
If you have a growth-mindset, you truly believe that hard work and perseverance will pay off. You don’t believe you’re limited by intelligence or “natural ability.” You believe you can learn what you need to know and acquire whatever skills are necessary to achieve your goals. Having a growth-mindset helps you focus on developing your future self and allows you to stop worrying about protecting or defending your current knowledge and abilities. You don’t argue for your limitations – you argue for your unlimited potential.
Relaxed Leaders can do amazing things when powered by a strong growth-mindset.
Mindset and Stereotypes
Having a growth-mindset is very beneficial for your career but it can also protect you against some of the negative effects of bias. Relaxed Leaders understand that stereotypes and their negative effects play out every day across this country, in neighborhoods, schools, universities, companies, organizations, online, and in our politics. Some groups are stereotyped as being intelligent or ignorant, high-achieving or lazy, naturally good in academics or naturally athletic.
Stereotype threat is when someone is being evaluated on something and a group they identify with is negatively stereotyped in regards to the task being evaluated. Studies show that the person is more likely to do worse than they’re capable of doing. If this happens repeatedly, stereotype threat causes lots of problems. It often leads to lower overall performance, which causes people to choose easier subjects, embark on less ambitious career paths, and avoid anything that challenges the negative stereotypes. Developing a growth-mindset can help a person overcome the effects of stereotype threat.
Relaxed Leaders should start by understanding three things about growth-mindsets:
A person with a growth-mindset is more strategic, puts forth more effort, is more persistent, and exhibits far more resilience, which significantly improves overall performance.
A person can learn the growth-mindset through coaching interventions that are brief but consistent.
A person with a growth mindset has protection from the most damaging effects of negative stereotypes, which will improve their performance, encourage them to tackle more challenging projects, and allow them to truly enjoy their work.
How to Create a Growth-Mindset
Relaxed Leaders may or may not be able to ensure their organizations promote a growth-mindset. Your immediate influence may be limited by your position on the org chart. Even if you can’t change your organization’s culture, you can focus on your own development and the development of those within your sphere of influence.
Do you lead a team? Then be aware of the power of your own mindset and how it’s reflected in your words and actions.
Conduct review sessions to help team members learn from mistakes instead of fearing them.
Have regular coaching sessions with all team members and avoid categorizing them as either high-potential or low-potential.
Offer challenging projects and other developmental opportunities to everyone and not just the chosen few.
You can help others develop a growth-mindset and experience all the benefits that mindset brings, but only if you’ve truly developed a growth-mindset yourself.
Research continues to show that our beliefs powerfully affect our future because they change how we understand both success and failure, and determine the choices we make and the opportunities we accept.
Luckily, you can shape your beliefs so they help you achieve your personal vision and goals. Do these four things and you’ll be well on your way to creating a growth-mindset that will help you achieve your goals and personal vision:
Determine your current mindset. Review the definitions above, including the common phrases. It’s likely that you’re not completely in one camp or the other, so try to figure out where you are on the spectrum from fixed to growth
Practice growth-mindset “self talk.” Like a muscle, your brain gets stronger with exercise – so practice thinking the right thoughts. When you catch yourself exhibiting a fixed-mindset, make a conscious effort to change your thoughts. Tell yourself you can learn whatever you need to know and acquire whatever skill is necessary. Tell yourself you CAN grow and change.
Push the boundaries of your comfort zone. Establish your personal vision, set appropriate goals, and identify something new you need to learn in order to move you toward your goals. Choosing something that clearly moves you closer to an important goal ensures you’ll have the proper motivation. Work on it until you succeed, then select something else to learn. Success reinforces success, so keep going!
Respond to struggles or setbacks by using the power of “yet.” No one is perfect and no one succeeds at everything they try… the first time. Having a growth-mindset means understanding that failure is temporary, not permanent. So when you’re trying to learn something new and find yourself struggling or making mistakes, don’t say, “I can’t do this!” Instead, try telling yourself, “I can’t do this… yet!” Know that you’ll get there and, sure enough, you will.
What we fundamentally believe determines the limits of our success. If we have a fixed-mindset, we unnaturally restrict ourselves in far too many ways and ensure we will never come close to reaching our true potential. However, if we have a growth-mindset, the sky’s the limit. We see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, not as threats that will expose some imagined permanent weakness, and we take risks that can lead to amazing accomplishments.
Luckily, anyone can develop a growth-mindset and experience all the benefits that come with it - being more strategic, putting forth more effort, becoming more persistent, and exhibiting far more resilience – and also be a great role model to others. If you want to be the best Relaxed Leader you can be, start working on your mindset today!
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