When you look at high-level performers, people who’ve reached the top of their game, in any game – sports, business, science or technology; how do you explain how they got there?
Is it because they’re innately talented? Or is it because they’re persistent and have the right mindset?
Was Michael Phelps born the greatest Olympian of all time? Or did he learn to be, from experience?
How do you account for your own strengths and weaknesses?
How you answer these questions can be a sign of whether you have either a fixed or a growth mindset.
In Carol Dweck’s 2017 best-seller Mindset, she explains the difference between the fixed and growth mindset, and how learning to adopt a growth mindset can lead to dramatic changes in performance, ability and success.
People with fixed mindsets believe their strengths and weaknesses are in-built, and don’t change much. Their view is that achievements are the sum of abilities, and abilities are what we’re born with. People with growth mindsets view the world differently. The growth mindset states that abilities – and therefore achievements – are the product of effort. That we can radically develop our abilities through effort, and that this is the path to success.
Far from being just a comforting story, the growth mindset is based on the well-established science of neuroplasticity.
We used to believe that the brain didn’t change much after adolescence. That some people were “good with numbers”, others were “good with words” and there was little anyone could do about it.
But we now know that this isn’t true. The current science shows us that the brain always has the ability to change, well into adulthood. It rewires itself in response to experience and can do so at any age. When we hear stories like this one, where an 82-year-old woman learns to code, it isn’t just a heart-warming anecdote. It’s neuroplasticity and the growth mindset, in action!
Believing some people can and can’t do certain things isn’t just defeatist. It’s also scientifically invalid.
What this means for leaders
Leaders should take note of this, both for themselves and their team
In acknowledging that your blind spots and weaknesses are changeable, you also learn to see that your teams are, too.
Instead of looking at your team as a being either good or bad at certain tasks, you see potential to improve.
At CCG, we believe that leadership starts from within, and so as leaders, we should adopt this mindset and model it for our team.
Here are 3 ways that you can start doing this today!
1. Reframe your negative self-talk
Working towards improving at anything will often bring out our inner critic, and here is where negative self-talk rears its ugly head. This is a natural part of heading into unfamiliar territory, and it will be hard to avoid. Instead of trying to convince yourself otherwise, try simply re-framing it.
Here are some examples of this in action:
|Fixed Mindset||Growth Mindset|
|I can’t do it||I can’t do it yet|
|If I fail at this I’ll look bad||If I fail, I’ll do better next time I try|
|I’m just not wired that way. I’ll never be good at this||I’m not good at this right now, but with effort, I will be|
2. Value effort, not talent
To illustrate how important this is to get right, let me give you an example. Let’s say you want to start lifting weights to get stronger. Are you better off priding yourself on being able to lift heavy weights, or pushing your limits?
People who pride themselves on the former will inevitably get discouraged when they fail, and quit. People who pride themselves on the latter don’t mind how heavy the weights they lift are, as long as they’re working at the edge of their abilities. Ironically, the second group will, over time, be able to lift heavier weights as a by-product of pushing their limits.
As the old adage goes:
It’s not about whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game
If you’re driven to win this may not sound so appealing, but there’s a hidden message here. If you focus on how you play, you’re much more likely to win.
3. Embrace, and learn from mistakes
If you’re not already aware of this, I’ll let you in on a secret. You’re going to make mistakes in life. If you’re doing something worthwhile, you’re going to make a lot of them. Mistakes are unavoidable, so how we relate to them matters.
If you see failure as a sign that you’ll fail more in the future, you’re right. Not because you’ve failed, but because you haven’t learned anything. But if you see failure as useful information, you won’t make the same mistake twice.