The Barriers to a Growth Mindset

In a book I read recently, I learned more about the two types of mindsets: growth mindsets and fixed mindsets. It got me thinking about the importance of being opened minded, but how open-mindedness alone isn’t always enough to set you up for success. It can actually cause you to have a “false growth mindset,” as you are not fully stepping up to the next level of being dedicated to learning from your mistakes.

Changing your mindset requires reminders that you can’t always do everything. We love to hear about natural talent and instant success, but that is not always the reality. I had an experience with this when I started playing hockey as an adult. I played with buddies who had put hours into practicing, and since I didn’t have as much experience, I simply wasn’t as skilled as they were. But my fellow players loved my obsession with learning and practicing, and came to see me as someone who gave it my all. Even though I never caught up to their skill level, I felt like I got better with every game, and showed myself—and others—that I could love hockey despite the difficulties I faced. Once I took advantage of learning from others and grew my mindset to learn instead of dwelling of my natural talent, I was able to continue loving hockey.

This thinking is also why I loved hearing Michael Jordan talk in a commercial about the 9,000 shots he missed, the 300 games he lost, and the 26 times he missed a winning shot. It shows that even natural talents sometimes need a relentless growth mindset to help them find their best successes. 

Finally, changing your mindset also doesn’t necessarily mean trying harder. Instead, it’s about trying different strategies and adjusting your process when you don’t achieve the success you want. It’s not about trying the same thing over and over again in the same way, always hoping for different results. Remember, that’s the definition of insanity!

How Fixed Mindsets Hurt Innovation

In business and leadership, a fixed mindset is about way more than personal success and recognition. If someone at the top has a fixed mindset, it can also cause long-term problems and damage for the rest of their team. Even if someone’s successes temporarily boost the productivity of the team, a fixed mindset can have dangerous long-term effects on outcomes, succession planning, and more. Plus, a fixed mindset at the top can spread to an entire organization, leading into everyone buying into one way of thinking. When this happens, innovation is suffocated.

Next time you have an employee who is not performing as expected, think about their mindset. More importantly, think about if you have labeled them as an average or below performer. Instead of judging them, look at them with potential, and think about what they could do with more experience or more opportunities for growth. By approaching the issue as a two-way street and looking at the problem with them, wonderful things can happen.

Four Tips For Shifting Your Mindset

  1. Embrace it. Everyone has a fixed mindset. It’s there whether you see it or not, so be willing to question yourself.
  2. Notice what triggers you. It could be when you’re hitting dead-ends, when you’re hesitant to take on a new challenge, or when something has gone wrong or not turned out as planned. By knowing your triggers, you know when it’s time to shift your perspective, be humble, or ask for help.
  3. Give it a name. I call mine “Spidey” because when I was five, I had a record of a short Spiderman story that I’d listen to while wearing my Spiderman pajamas. I always admired Spiderman, but sometimes need to remind myself that I’m not him! Everyone has unique skills and my “Spidey” sense reminds me that someone else’s skill are not always my own, or that I need to practice more.
  4. Educate yourself. Get obsessed with learning and let go of irritating thoughts of feeling like a failure because you made a mistake or aren’t at the same level as others . . . yet!

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