Most of us assume that it’s our performance at work that determines our eventual success. But what if you were told your chances of success are significantly determined by you, well before you’ve even entered the building?
In reality, a strong predictor of our success or failure is typically the attitude that we bring to each challenge. Or put simply, our mindset.
In this context, ‘mindset’ refers to ground-breaking work by psychologist Carol Dweck from Stanford University. Dweck first presented research comparing the attitudes of two types of people with differing mentalities – ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ mindsets.
What is a fixed mindset?
According to Dweck, if you believe your qualities or skills are unchangeable, you have a fixed mindset. People with a fixed mindset have a tendency to want to prove themselves correct over and over, rather than learning from their mistakes and improving.
Conversely, people with a growth mindset believe that their basic qualities and skills are things they can cultivate through their efforts. These types of people have a passion for challenging themselves and putting in the effort to learn and grow, even if that means failing and being rejected along the way.
Dweck argues that in any area of life, including our careers, a fixed mindset can hold us back and a growth mindset is the key to success.
How to cultivate a growth mindset
If you’re looking for new career opportunities, unlocking your potential means letting go of preconceptions, and reminding yourself, ‘I’m here to learn new things’. Accept that you can’t change the past – you can only learn from it.
Try these tips for cultivating a growth mindset when it comes to work and career.
1. Be willing to push your boundaries
Former regional talent development director for PageGroup in Asia Pacific, Jimmy Pang spent much of his time training sales teams in the benefits of approaching challenges with your mind tuned to the possible benefits ahead. “Growth mindset is defined as the ability to learn. If you have a growth mindset, you’re a person that is always willing to learn and push your boundaries,” says Pang.
2. Don’t rest on past glories
People with fixed mindsets, on the other hand, literally live on their legacy. They’ll say, “I have a good track record, I’m proud of what I’ve achieved before. I live by that, and there’s no reason for me to grow any more”. In a corporate context, the broad definition of this behaviour is leaning on your legacy.
In a corporate world, it’s easy to obsess over results – KPIs or sales targets can literally dominate our view, which risks being self-limiting. So adopting a growth mindset means viewing the result as important but less important than the process itself. “Regardless of whether you make it or you don’t, it’s what you learn from the result that really counts,” says Pang. In a contemporary work discussion, some would describe this as a willingness to fail, in order to gain the most important lessons.
3. Forget winning vs losing
Key to embracing a growth mindset is to remove black and white notions such as success or failure from the work equation. With that added stress factor – win or lose, make or break – we are placed in a better state to truly perform at an optimal level.
Pang worked on the mindset concept for three or four years, a mode of conditioning that is also applied in realms as diverse as education and sports. “In a corporate world, the only way to learn is to push your boundaries and to be comfortable in doing so,” he says.
4. Ditch the blame game
What if something goes wrong along the way? “I don’t like to blame people. I’d rather find the root cause of the problem and explore what it is we can do differently. This attitude can liberate you (and your team) from past mistakes,” Pang shares.
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