Overcoming my problems — changing my mindset

This is the second part of my post on mindset. Here I talk about the actions that I’ve taken to correct my faulty mindset.

In the first part I talked about how I identified that my mindset was faulty and about the effects that my faulty mindset had been having on my life.

Two Rubik's Cubes, one unsolved and one solved, representing a changed mindset

Understanding but not believing

I had identified a contradiction — I understood that effort = success but I also believed that effort = failure. I could see that the contradiction made no sense.

I understood on a theoretical level why it was clear that success = effort; the only way to get better was to make mistakes, correct them and move on. But I needed proof. To be specific, I needed:

  1. Examples of people who had started at the bottom, without ‘talent’ and had worked to the top. This would convince me that initial talent wasn’t everything and that effort wasn’t something to be feared
  2. Examples of the mistakes made by successful people. This would convince me that mistakes were a necessary part of achieving success and also not something to be feared
  3. A full explanation of what a true learning-focused mindset looked like. This would give me a real alternative mindset to aim for

At the time I didn’t know that those three things were what I needed. I didn’t search them out specifically — instead I went on a journey of discovery and eventually figured them out.

Seeing examples

The first step on my journey was to delve a little deeper into stories of success. This went hand-in-hand with my work on stopping my procrastination — these stories gave me motivation to push that bit harder and started to fix some of my beliefs about success.

I read Josh Waitzkin’s Art of Learning, a book about his journey to becoming a chess grandmaster and world champion martial artist. In both disciplines he started out as bad as any other rookie, made tons of mistakes and learnt from them.

I also read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, a book that suggests that there is far more than innate talent underlying success stories. He talks in detail about the external factors that have led to many a success story (Bill Gates and The Beatles to name just a couple) and, most importantly for me, the effort they put in.

Another great source of examples was The Tim Ferriss podcast. Ferris loves to pick apart the processes behind the success of world-class performers — perfect for what I was trying to prove to myself.

Whenever I found myself wanting to emulate someone else’s success, I’d take the time to figure out their journey to success. Every time I found a story of a ‘normal’ start, with no initial talent, I’d feel a small change in my mindset. Every time I found stories of endless mistakes made and learnt from, I’d feel another small change.

Although these small changes were adding up, I didn’t know where they were taking me. What was the ideal mindset?

The real definitions

I first came across the definitions of fixed mindset and growth mindset when listening to Josh Waitzkin’s first appearance on the Tim Ferriss podcast.

Waitzkin briefly explained the definitions, which are as follows:

  • To have a fixed mindset is to believe that your intelligence and talent are fixed. They aren’t developed with practice or effort — they are inherited
  • To have a growth mindset is to believe that your intelligence and talents can be developed through practice and effort

These are simply more precise definitions of the two ideas that I presented at the start of the first part of this post. They weren’t new to me and hearing them on the podcast didn’t blow me away.

What did blow me away was the full picture of what a growth mindset looks like.

The true growth mindset

Carol Dweck is the pioneer of mindset-related theory — she came up with the two definitions above.

Reading her work opened my eyes to how mindset can affect every area of your life. As I mentioned in the first part of this post, it applies as much to your personality as it does to work, sport, hobbies or any other skill.

The examples that Dweck presents in her book Mindset, both real-life and from controlled experiments, present a really clear picture of the effects that each mindset can have on your life.

I already looked in the first part of this post at the negative effects that the fixed mindset had on me — they were the five ‘symptoms’ that I listed. Here they are again:

  1. I was afraid of making mistakes
  2. I wouldn’t learn from mistakes when I did make them
  3. I would miss opportunities
  4. I cared a lot about the opinions of others
  5. I didn’t take responsibility for my development

Dweck’s work shows how having a growth mindset can actually turn each of those negatives into a positive.

  1. Mistakes become a source of feedback on your performance — without feedback, you don’t know where you can improve. Mistakes are an opportunity. If you don’t believe your talent is fixed, mistakes no longer take away your only hope of success — they indicate the path to success
  2. Mistakes are learnt from because you no longer have such a negative reaction to them
  3. You are able to focus on the positives of opportunities because you’re no longer afraid of mistakes
  4. You value the opinions of others when they’re in the form of feedback and you’re better able to ignore unconstructive criticism — you no longer need confirmation of your talents
  5. You recognise that you control your success because you control your efforts. You accept that setbacks will occur and thrive on them — they’re a challenge that can be overcome

That was the blueprint that I needed — I could see how each of my fears could actually be turned into a strength.

Moving forward

We all start with some level of ability. Some people will start with more ability — they have that initial talent. From that point onwards, however, it’s all effort. It’s impossible to know what your full potential is until you put in the full effort. What’s clear is that with the correct mindset you give yourself a far better chance at achieving your goals.

My mindset is still far from perfect. I find myself reverting to fixed mindset viewpoints and often have to correct myself. The important part is that I now know how to correct myself and what mindset I should be aiming for.

I can recognise when my mindset is holding me back and make corrections. Mistakes no longer have to be feared. Opportunities can be grabbed. Criticism is a resource, not a danger.

Here’s a recap of the steps that I’ve listed across the two posts, with tips on where in my Inspiration to Action eBook series you can find some more help. If you think one of the chapters could help you, just send an email to rob@findaspark.co.uk and specify the chapter that you’d like — I’ll send you a free copy of that chapter.

1) I identified how my mindset was holding me back

  1. You can set goals with the Goal Setting chapter and then identify blockers to your success with the Reflecting chapter. Both are in the Progress Tracking module
  2. You can figure out your own definition of success using the Redefine Success chapter of the Set Your Own Rules module

2) I found examples of how successful people made mistakes and started without obvious talent

  1. You can use the task and worksheets from the Understanding Brilliance chapter of the Set Your Own Rules module to analyse successful people in your field

3) I deepened my understanding of the growth mindset and identified where I had a fixed mindset that needed changing

  1. You can use the task and worksheets from the Learning Mindset chapter of the Set Your Own Rules module to analyse your mindset for different areas of your life

Originally published at Find A Spark.