Why Our Mindset Matters

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about labels. Not labels that we put on an envelope, but the ones we put on ourselves, and the labels others put on us. It’s interesting how labels come about. Some labels are placed on us as young children by parents, teachers, and siblings. Other labels evolve over time — as our colleagues, jobs, and relationships leave their imprint on us. These labels are a product of our mindset. A growth mindset has one set of labels while a fixed mindset offers another set of labels.

In my life, I’m self-aware enough to recognize which labels are stuck on me. As a student, I wore the label, “bad at math and science” — “a good athlete.” As an adult, I gathered the labels — “a good employee,” “a hard worker.” I’ve always felt comfortable and secure in my ability to learn anything and grow exponentially in my professional life, but less able to make changes in my personal life. Why? Were my labels getting in the way? After reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, I understood the importance of a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset.

Identifying Your Mindset

Some readers refer to the book as a “motivational” book. And, while it certainly does offer great motivational, and inspirational content, I think it’s a book about how to grow and improve your quality of life, learning, and self-esteem. Dweck suggests steps that can move you to action, to change your mindset, and give oxygen to your dreams. So what influence does our mindset have on our labels? First we need to understand the growth mindset and the fixed mindset.

Carol Dweck defines these two mindsets; a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.

Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these basic characteristics” (6).

This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience” (7).

Dweck argues, “the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.” The growth mindset, “allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.” Moreover, “people in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it.” In the growth mindset, “…failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.”

If we can work on developing this growth mindset, we can and should believe that whatever our current lot in life might be, we have the ability to change it — make it better — go further, and reach our dreams. We can lose our labels and free ourselves to grow.

In contrast, if we stay in a fixed mindset, we become defeated before beginning. Our fixed mindset demands we continue to do the things we do well so we can validate them with “success.” However, this mindset and path of behavior don’t allow us to believe we can learn more or go further. The fixed mindset inherently limits us. It allows our labels to gain a stronger grip on our lives and limit our futures. Much like a decal or bumper sticker we put on our car, the longer it remains affixed to the surface, the harder it is to remove it.

How to Develop and Nurture a Growth Mindset?

For those of us seeking to cultivate a growth mindset, Dweck encourages us to “make a concrete, growth-oriented plan, and to stick with it.”

With that in mind, we can develop our own plan using many easily accessible resources on the Internet. Often, we get so caught up in complicated self-help programs and self-improvement courses that we miss out on some simple steps that we can take at our pace and in our own time. In an article, “Five Steps Toward Self-Development,” I offer five steps that you can take today that will lead to personal and professional growth.

Jim Rohn, a personal development expert, believes that we become the combined average of the five people we hang around the most. Rohn suggests that the combined influence of our “circle of five” contributes to our attitude, health, and income. In the article, “Change the Company You Keep,” I offer actions we can take to ensure we’re surrounding ourselves with positive influences and an encouraging support system.

Rarely does a week pass that a former colleague, client, or friend doesn’t bring up the idea of changing careers after more than twenty years in their chosen field. They seek to reinvent themselves, remain relevant in the workplace, and invest in new ventures. However, they feel their age and longevity in their current field labels them as “too old to change.” They remain stuck in dissatisfying jobs or industries in which they’re no longer passionate. I refer to it as the “American Midlife Career Challenge.” But developing a growth mindset breathes oxygen into our dreams, provides resources for learning at our own pace, and steps we can take to reimagine our futures.

Remove Your Labels and Grow Your Mindset

As with all change, the hardest step is the first one. But, I found that reading this book was a great first start for me. I put together my plan for furthering a growth mindset, and I’ll be sharing my progress with my readers over the next several months. I’ll be tearing off the labels that have held me back, and pursuing new skills, new adventures, and new ideas.

What will you do to expand your mindset? Do you find your labels are holding you back or keeping you stuck in a job, relationship, or location that no longer inspires you? I look forward to hearing your stories, plans, and suggestions.

Work Cited

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. Print.

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