What is your mindset?

Fixed or growth?

Nearly all of my coaching is via the phone, a format which works very well, I’m happy to say.

Two other truisms: I care a lot about my clients and I learn a lot from my clients. Last week, a wise and successful client mentioned a book he liked, one I had not read. It is “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” by Carol S. Dweck.


Dr. Dweck is one of the world’s leading researchers in the fields of developmental psychology, social psychology and personality. She is now a professor of psychology at Stanford. One of her previous books was named Book of the Year by the World Education Fellowship.

Of course, I ordered the book and have read the whole thing. Actually, that is what I would like to share with you – the whole thing.

Since that isn’t practical here, I will highlight some points she makes about the view you adopt for yourself and how it profoundly affects how you lead your life. Dweck compares two mindsets, one the fixed mindset and one the growth mindset. She explains and exemplifies how these different mindsets shape our performance in business, in relationships, in raising children, in teaching and in coaching.

If you operate out of a fixed mindset, you believe your qualities are carved in stone. You feel a need to prove yourself again and again. You might believe that your IQ tells the whole story of who you are. You look for confirmation continually, for validation of these fixed qualities. Being rejected instead of validated can be devastating. You want to attempt only those tasks at which you will shine. As Dr. Dweck says, you see your traits as simply the hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens.

The growth mindset springs from the belief that your qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts; that everyone can change and grow through application and experience. People with this mindset do not believe that anyone can be anything. But they do believe that a person’s true potential is unknowable, that we cannot know what can be accomplished with years of passion, hard work and training. (I kept thinking of my golf game while reading the book. I do think I’ve developed a growth mindset, which helps me to stick to it, especially when
it’s not going well – which is often.)

Dr. Dweck’s chapter on business is rich with real-life examples of leaders who operate out of the fixed or growth mindset. She states studies show people with a fixed mindset do not admit and correct their deficiencies. They would rather lie than admit that they were wrong. CEOs in this mindset can create a time-limited picture of success, but in the long run will serve their own egos rather than the sustainable success of the organization. She recounts some stories from Jim Collins’ book, “Good to Great,” of leaders who led their companies into greatness. She describes each of these leaders as “not the larger-than-life, charismatic types who oozed ego and self-proclaimed talent. They were self-effacing people who constantly asked questions and had the ability to confront the most brutal answers – that is, to look failures in the face, even their own, while maintaining faith that they would succeed in the end.” I expect you will recognize all the organizations she highlights and readily see the impact of a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset.

The beliefs that nurture these mindsets are powerful, usually very deep-set and often hidden from awareness. The good news is they can be changed and

Dr. Dweck’s last chapter illuminates how that can happen. You might examine some of your self-talk as well as some of your out-loud talk to start identifying where your mind is set – fixed or growth?

If it can help my golf game, how can you resist?

-Jo Gorissen is a certified transition coach and a former Milwaukee-area resident. She can be reached at jgorissen1@gmail.com.

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