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Growth Mindset

Patrick Nelson, April 13, 2015


Have you ever been asked to do something outside of your comfort zone? Something that you may have never done before or was even outside of your role at work? A few years ago I found myself in a similar situation while volunteering for a local non-profit organization. I was asked to head up their sales committee for a charity golf event. My first thought was, “Me? Sell sponsorships? No way!”

I dismissed the idea completely because I had zero interest in it and, if truth be told, I felt that I wasn’t going to be very good at it. Where did I get this idea? It was actually my fixed mindset talking to me.

Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset, is committed to helping professionals recognize their true potential by sharing her research around fixed and growth mindset. Through her work, she has concluded that we are born with a growth mindset. We embrace challenge and the joy of learning when we are young. But as soon as we start to become evaluated, such as in formal learning institutions or at work, something happens to us — we start to switch between a fixed or growth mindset. When we adopt a fixed mindset, we limit our opportunities for growth.

Clearly, in my situation, I let my fixed mindset take over. My first response wasn’t to embrace the challenge; I wanted to stay in my comfort zone, and if I had to do it, I was not going to put in any effort.

Thankfully I had the self-awareness to recognize my fixed mindset. I knew that type of thinking would not only inhibit my professional development but also impact my career potential. I took that negative energy that I had about sales and I used it to motivate me. I turned that fixed mindset into a growth mindset. I recognized the challenge that I was facing and looked at it as a learning opportunity. I knew that the skills I needed to be successful could be developed and I was determined to develop them.

In my first real sales experience, a volunteer opportunity that I could have easily said no to, I sold more than $100,000 worth of sponsorships for a golf tournament. Not bad for someone who wanted nothing to do with sales and avoided it at all costs.

Your mindset is your choice. Here are some tips of when your fixed mindset is influencing you:

  • An opportunity is presented to you but your immediate response is “I can’t do that” or “I am no good at that.”
  • A peer gives you feedback regarding a project you are working on but you get defensive and are not open to honest and critical feedback that can be helpful in your success.
  • You start a new project but you face one setback after another and just want to give up.
  • You reluctantly take on a new assignment but you really are not interested in learning anything during the process and just want to get done as quickly as possible.
  • You miss a deadline and vow to never take on anything like that again. You let failure define you.

During these moments, remind yourself that your mindset is your choice. Then make a conscious choice to switch to growth so that you can benefit from the experience.

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