Reforming our Mindset

Article 48 approximate 500 words . The article is written by Carmen Codreanu.

Think for a moment at all the things that play in your head on any given day. Narratives like ‘I’m not good at maths’,  ‘I’m not assertive’, ‘I don’t take well on change’. These are thoughts spinning an unhelpful story, rather than telling the facts. But what would happen if we could rewrite these inner monologues? 

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset. The view we adopt for ourselves profoundly affects the way we lead our life. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford Professor Carol Dweck distinguishes two extremes of the mindsets people tend to have about their basic qualities:

In a fixed mindset, “your qualities are carved in stone.” Whatever skills, talents, and capabilities you have are predetermined and finite. Whatever you lack, you will continue to lack. This fixed mindset applies not just to your own qualities, but to the qualities of others.

In a growth mindset, “your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts…everyone can change and grow through application and experience.” Qualities like intelligence are a starting point, but success comes as a result of effort, learning, and persistence.

We bring such assumptions to the micro level of everyday life. So it’s obvious that when left unexamined, they may restrict us or lead us in the wrong direction altogether. 

Mindsets in Sports. Whatever mindset people have in a particular area, it will guide them in that area. And nowhere can it be seen more clearly than in the world of sports. Mia Hamm, the greatest female soccer star of her time, says it straight out. “All my life I’ve been playing up, meaning I’ve challenged myself with players older, bigger, more skillful, more experienced – in short, better than me”. First she played with her older brother. Then she threw herself into the number one college team in the United States. “Each day I attempted to play up to their level…and I was improving faster than I ever dreamed possible.” Had she thought her skills to be fixed, she wouldn’t be the star we know today.

Mindsets and Business Ecosystems. Collaboration. Our work environments, too, can be full of fixed-mindset triggers, especially when it comes to building relationships and collaboration. A fixed mindset fosters a zero-sum view of the world: if you win, I lose. This perspective fosters conflict and mistrust and so relationships governed by relative power, tend to be transactional and are rigidly defined to protect each party’s share of the value. A growth mindset instead, fosters a broader view of the possibilities: by working together, we can create more value than if we work individually. Talent Management. A fixed mindset leads you to focus almost exclusively on attracting and retaining talent. The assumption: each person’s skills and capabilities are set. You will tend to devote too many resources to those with a perceived stock of knowledge and overlook employees with limited stocks but great learning potential. With a growth mindset, you understand that individual and organizational capabilities can be cultivated and developed, to improve performance and to expand in new directions.

Mindsets in Relationships. Our mindset determines our ability to build healthy relationships, particularly loving relationships. People with the fixed mindset expect everything good to happen automatically. It’s not that the partners will work to help each other solve their problems and gain skills. It’s that this will magically occur through their love, that being in love means never having to do anything taxing. As with personal achievement, this belief – that success should not need effort – robs people of the very thing they need to make their relationship thrive. It takes work to communicate accurately and it takes work to expose and resolve conflicting hopes and beliefs. The growth mindset, on the contrary, says all of these things can be developed. Love is not effortless, love is effortful. 

Mindset and Aging.  Many of us associate aging with decline, decay and inevitable loss, which obviously have a detrimental impact on one’s physical and mental health. If you believe that you’ll be physically fatigued or inapt, how much effort would you put in exercising? Older people who perceive themselves as a burden to others view their lives as less valuable, which in turn increases their risk for depression and social isolation. But a growth mindset helps the way we age. Research shows that young people who have positive stereotypes about aging tend to live longer. Aging is not just an aspect of genetics, but of how we live. Deciding to live better is synonymous with deciding to live younger. The cognitive decline (from aging) observed across age varies around the world. Cultures that revere the elderly as wise, sage, and learned – such as in parts of China – do not show the same degree of decline observed in cultures with more negative views of the elderly – such as in most of the US. 

It’s also worth adding that there’s no such thing as one person with a fixed mindset and another with a growth mindset. It’s not that black and white –  we’re all on a spectrum between the two, to a lesser or greater extent, often switching from one to the other in certain situations without even realising it.

To come back to the introductory question of what would happen if we could rewrite our inner monologues?  For me, it means getting in the right frame of mind and exploring the world in a spirit of flexibility and playfulness. Working our way out of our traps and against the inertia of our minds, discovering multitudes of us. We come to power. 


Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck

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