How can I overcome my fixed mindset and change for the better?

When people exhibit a ‘fixed mindset’, they believe their intelligence is fixed and can’t be developed. They also believe that talent alone creates success, without effort.

A ‘growth mindset’ is the opposite – when we believe our intelligence can be developed. That we can learn from our experience to improve and grow.

Just to bring it to life with some more examples:

When adopting a growth mindset we:

  • Embrace challenges, seeing them as an opportunity to grow
  • Persist in the face of obstacles
  • Learn from feedback, seek it out
  • Are inspired by the success of others and learn from it
  • Believe attitude and effort determine everything
  • Might say ‘I can learn anything I want to’.

Alternatively, when we are stuck in a fixed mindset we:

  • Avoid challenges
  • Give up easily
  • Ignore or avoid feedback
  • Feel threatened by the success of others
  • Believe abilities determine everything
  • Might say ‘I stick to what I know’.

My earlier blog  What is a growth mindset and how can it help you? explains more about the concept and in particular how a growth mindset can help you when you are reflecting on your career.

I got a useful challenge from a coaching client recently. I had shared the benefits of having a growth mindset and I confess, took for granted that we can relatively easily choose to shift our way of thinking. The next session they said to me, ‘but what if I recognise myself having a fixed mindset, but I still can’t stop thinking that way?’

It prompted me to reflect on my own experiences and also to revisit Carol Dweck’s TED talk and book which expand on the concept.

Since then, I have been consciously observing myself and my language and *shock* I realised that even a coach and a personal development lover sometimes adopts a fixed mindset! I heard myself saying to someone ‘I’m rubbish at learning languages – I just don’t have that skill’. I took lessons in Spanish when I was living in Chile, but my commitment to study and practice was at best, half hearted.

I realised that it’s not always easy to just ‘adopt a growth mindset’ and if I am being really honest, there may be some situations where we don’t really want to! I am definitely better at adopting a growth mindset with certain activities rather than others. I have loved learning how to be a coach, getting accredited in tools such as Strengths Profile and Insights Discovery. But I never embraced my Spanish. I found other ways to succeed in Chile without needing it – persuading my lovely bilingual friends to help me out with something beyond my basic understanding. I threw myself into my remote studying for a qualification back in the UK (in English!). I learnt enough to get by in places I wanted to go like bars, restaurants and shops. I celebrated Google translate. But, I also knew that I was only living there for a short period of time. Perhaps if it was a permanent move I would have worked harder at it.

So, what are some ways you can try to overcome having a fixed mindset?

Adding to those in my earlier blog, I would also suggest:

  • Get clear on your goals – what do you want to change and why? (And also identify the things you are happy not to develop).
  • Be patient with yourself if it isn’t always immediately easy – especially if it is a long-term habit or way of thinking you are trying to change.
  • Keep challenging yourself – know that you do have the choice to persevere trying to change.
  • Write down your reflections regularly and watch your own language – notice when you are being a blocker or getting in your own way.
  • Reframe how you describe a challenge – move from I can’t do X, to I can’t do X, yet or I am working on getting better at X.
  • Talk to someone about your goals – is there a professional friend or mentor who could give you feedback and help to hold you accountable?
  • Even better, work with someone– is there someone who also wants to develop the same thing you could partner with?
  • Focus on things you can control and don’t concern yourself with things you can’t.
  • Try some of these coaching questions on yourself:
    • What can I learn from this?
    • Where can I get helpful feedback?
    • What will success look like?

We are all a work in progress – remember that you do have the power to change. You have the gift to choose your attitude.

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

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