What’s Your Mindset?

June 5, 2013 by Bill Bradley


Title: Don’t be Fooled by Who You Think You Are

Competencies: self-development, managing self

Who benefits: absolutely all of us

Consultant Usage: great resource for coaches at all levels and career development specialists

What’s it about? Once upon a time, many years past, I came home from school and was greeted by my mother.  “How was your day, son?” she asked.  “I think I flunked the math test” I replied.  “Son, you must learn to be more positive,” pleaded mom.  After a moment of careful thought, I agreed.  “You are right mom … I am positive that I flunked the math test.”

Although I did not know it at the time, I was suffering from a fixed mindset.  I lacked neuroplasticity.  Hell, if you had used the word “neuroplasticity” in a sentence, my fixed mindset would have kicked in and convinced me that I didn’t have the foggiest idea what you were talking about.

What I also didn’t know was, despite good intentions, my parents were placing limits on my future and inculcating me with mental limitations.  I was being taught that “average” was about the best I could do.

Now let me introduce you to Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  Author Carol Dweck is a highly respected and quoted professor of psychology from Stanford University.  Her ability to communicate is amazing.  She uses words and phrases of everyday language.   As I read the book I felt she was sitting in the room reading aloud to me.  We were just hanging out as she gave me an education.  I give the professor an “A+” for writing skills.

What I found most interesting in the early part of this wonderful book was that author also suffered some strong limitations placed upon her by a sixth grade teacher.  Oh man, could I relate.  Fortunately, she found a way out from her “Fixed Mindset”.

Now what about you?  Do you have a Fixed Mindset or a Growth Mindset – (how’s your neuroplasticity)?  The good news, a Fixed Mindset can be changed, and through understanding you can get to a Growth Mindset.

Here is a tricky teaser that is answered in the book: Should you praise children for their intelligence or their effort?  Be careful how you answer.  How you answer that question is how you are programing your children.

To understand fully what this book is about we need to understand some modern ideas that are generally accepted about who we are.  As the author reminds us, “It’s not nature or nurture, it’s not genes or environment”.  It is all of these.  And what that means in practical terms is we all have the capacity for life-long learning.  We all have the capacity to “expand our mind” – with an important caveat frequently cited by my colleague and wise friend Ken Nowack, our brains are like rubber bands, they only stretch so far. (I, for instance, have a tight little rubber band that only stretches a little bit.)

Your mindset will affect how you lead your life.  Having a Fixed Mindset means you have to prove yourself over and over again.  Looking “deficient” just isn’t an option.  Sadly I know this possibility all too well.  Can’t fail, can’t look dumb, can’t be rejected.  Honest, but extremely limiting emotions.

We are better served by a growth mindset – one that says where we are in our mind is just a starting point.  Like the rubber band, we can stretch, we can expand.  Once stretched even a rubber band never goes back to its original size.

“There are two meanings to ability, not one: A fixed ability that needs to be proven, and a changeable ability that can be developed through learning.”  That’s a pretty good summary.

No matter your age, status, or situation, if you can see yourself as a learner, that you can develop and expand your capabilities, that what you are today isn’t what you must be tomorrow, then this book is for you.  Live and learn.

Catch you later.

Bill Bradley (mostly) retired after 35 years in organizational consulting, training and management development. During those years he worked internally with seven organizations and trained and consulted externally with more than 90 large and small businesses, government agencies, hospitals and schools.

Posted in Leadership Development

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