A few years back, Google conducted an intensive study to better understand the traits of its highly effective managers called Project Oxygen. The internal examination of more than 10,000 manager impressions included performance reviews, surveys, and nominations for top-manager awards and recognition. From this, Google identified eight habits of its best bosses.
One of the vital attributes that came out of this research was a growth mindset--a term coined by Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University. It's a simple belief that intelligence and talents can be cultivated over time.
By contrast, a fixed mindset suggests that intelligence and talents are predetermined. You're essentially stuck with your current strengths and abilities. I know--not an earth-shattering concept. However, Google found that simply believing you can evolve makes you more eager to learn, challenge yourself, and experiment--which eventually boosts potential and performance.
Where do you stand? What kind of mindset do you have?
A fixed mindset makes people wary of trying new things. At the first sign of failure, those with this mentality get frustrated and think about giving up. They believe you're either good at something or not--there's no in-between. Rather than embracing the challenge and persevering, a fixed mindset suggests writing a challenge off as something you're "not wired for."
Those with a fixed mindset don't find constructive criticism useful. They get defensive and fear that opening up to feedback may unmask weaknesses.
Those with a growth mindset love to experiment and try new things. They see new opportunities as a way to learn and grow and embrace challenging situations willingly--even though the chances of failure are high. If a growth-mindset person doesn't succeed at first, then they try and try again.
Failure is seen as a part of the learning curve. A growth mindset suggests that a person's potential is only limited by the amount of effort they're willing to put in. Setbacks are temporary hurdles that can eventually be overcome by persistence.
Because a growth mindset believes that talents are developed over time, it encourages people to embrace feedback--to use criticism as a way to pivot and polish until you've achieved your goals. A growth mentality is grateful for coaching and willingly admits their weaknesses or mistakes in hopes of receiving advice that can help them grow.
How did you end up?
That's a trick question. No one has either a growth or a fixed mindset entirely. They are not mutually exclusive of one another. The challenge is to recognize fixed mindset tendencies and address them to ensure you're not unconsciously limiting your potential.
Dweck suggests these four strategies in a blog post on her website. I've added my own personal spin to them:
1. Recognize when the fixed mindset is trying to take over your brain.
These are the negative thoughts that run through your mind telling you that you're not good enough, that you don't have the necessary skills to succeed in life, or that mistakes and setbacks mean you've reached your limits.
I can't tell you how many opportunities I've turned down because of stupid reasons I've told myself: "You're too young," "you're too old," "you're not smart enough," or "that's not one of your strengths."
Every day, we're at war with an invisible enemy telling us our fate is already sealed. Don't listen. You're much more than what you've become--if you're willing to work for it.
2. You control your destiny.
How you bounce back from feedback, setbacks, and mistakes are your choice. You can chalk them up as losses, or you can embrace and use them for growth. You can choose resilience.
I did the former: I let a few bad math tests talk me out of pursuing a career in engineering. Alright, it was a few bad years of math tests. Still.
3. Let the fixed mindset have a piece of your growth mindset.
Using my example from above and applying Dweck's research, don't say, "I'll never be good at math." Instead, say "I'm not good at math, yet." Unfortunately, I didn't--I pursued business instead of engineering because of my fear of calculus.
Especially as an entrepreneur, you'll feel doubt and uncertainty that'll force you to question your trajectory. Stick to your guns. If you're truly passionate about something, there will always be another way to figure it out.
4. Put your new mindset into action.
You can't make things happen on hopes and dreams alone. Success will always require tenacity, hard work, and concentration. For me, this means taking challenges head-on with a positive attitude, embracing and working on constructive feedback, and not letting my mistakes define my capabilities.
For you, it means that the only limit on your potential is yourself. Don't let a fixed mindset limit the extent of what you accomplish in life.