Week 3: The Growth Mindset
Stop arguing for your limitations!
I read a meditative reflection the other day that talked about the perfection of an acorn. It’s wonderful just the way it is and yet it’s also full of potential. Under the right conditions, it becomes a seedling, and then a sapling, and finally a tall oak tree. It has its own type of perfection at every stage along the way and yet it still has untapped potential. Even as a fully mature tree, it continues to grow – new leaves, new branches – while enduring broken limbs from storms and burn scars from lightning.
Just like the acorn, every professional has untapped potential, irrespective of their current role or educational background. And no matter where you are in your career – acorn, seedling, sapling, or tall tree – this potential can be unlocked if you have the proper mindset.
Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
Author Richard Bach wrote, “Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they're yours.” It’s a profound perspective that many of us need to consider. It’s easy to find someone to blame when we face stagnation in our careers or even our personal lives. The boss who is too demanding while providing no support. The coworker who takes all the credit but does as little work as possible. The spouse who just doesn’t seem to listen.
Pointing fingers at others doesn’t just blind us from the real problems we face, it also creates additional roadblocks because, as Bach pointed out, we’re arguing for limitations, which ensures they’ll exist.
To move forward, the journey often begins with understanding the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset clings to the belief that abilities and intelligence are static. It’s the belief that everyone is born with a certain set of aptitudes and that doesn’t change over time. If you say things like “I’m not a ‘numbers’ person” or “I don’t have an ear for music,” it’s likely you have a fixed mindset. This can lead to avoidance of challenges and a fear of failure. This is also the mindset that leads to blaming others because it’s hard to admit to ourselves what’s really going on. It’s hard to admit that we’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In contrast, a growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of a lack of intelligence or natural aptitude in a specific area, but as a springboard for growth and for stretching your existing abilities. This is also a healthier mindset because we’re less likely to blame others. There’s no reason to because we don’t see the world as conspiring against us. We realize that the world barely knows we exist. And even if the system works against us, having a growth mindset means we learn from every setback, knowing that it will ultimately help us move forward.
Take, for example, my own journey. Coming from a background in Communications, I initially doubted my prospects in the automotive industry, a field seemingly reserved for engineers. However, embracing a growth mindset, I discovered that my communication skills were not a limitation but a unique strength. They helped me negotiate better, manage teams effectively, and become the bridge between technical experts and the rest of the world. This shift in mindset transformed my career path in ways I never imagined.
“Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they're yours.” ~Richard Bach
Daily Habits for Fostering a Growth Mindset
Changing your mindset isn’t easy but it’s certainly not impossible. It begins with understanding the importance of moving from a fixed to a growth mindset. Then it’s all about paying attention to your thoughts and correcting them when you slip back into negative ways of thinking.
Let’s not over-complicate things. I suggest you try doing two things that I’ve been doing more and more consistently over the years:
Embrace Challenges: View every challenge as an opportunity. When confronted with a difficult task, see it as a gift to your future self. If you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts or feeling overwhelmed, understand that doing your best is good enough… and then do the second thing.
Use the Power of “Yet”: It’s easier to see everything, including failures, as learning experiences if we frame it properly in our minds. Instead of thinking, “I can’t do this,” think “I can’t do this yet.” When we look at it from that perspective, we’ll automatically start figuring out how to do it better the next time.
When I was a young supervisor, I was assigned to supervise an assembly cell welding engine frames. It was a dirty, difficult operation and we were working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. I felt completely overwhelmed because I didn’t know how to improve our production numbers and get the people working better together. After a major issue one night, I’d had enough and I decided that I was going to embrace this challenge and figure things out. I couldn’t make the improvements I wanted… yet.
In the months that followed, we made dramatic improvements. By the time I moved on to another assignment, production numbers were up, quality had improved, absenteeism was down, and the people who hated me in the beginning actually threw a party to congratulate me on my promotion. All because I had shifted from a fixed to a growth mindset.
Call to Action
Adopting a growth mindset can transform not just how you view your job but how you engage with every aspect of your life. It’s about seeing beyond the immediate hurdles and understanding that every effort is a step towards growth.
The cornerstone of developing a growth mindset is self-reflection. Even after focusing on this for years, I still make time each week to reflect on my reactions to challenges and setbacks. I ask myself, “Did I lean towards a fixed mindset or a growth mindset in this situation?”
To get started, set aside a few minutes for self-reflection. Reflect on your day: Where did you demonstrate a growth mindset? Where could you have shifted your perspective?
This simple practice can set you on the path to a fulfilling and continuously evolving professional journey. Remember, it’s not just about reaching the destination; it’s about growing with every step you take!
To learn more, check out The Relaxed Leader Podcast, Episode 9: Have a Growth Mindset!