Updated: Jan 12
The human brain is primed to function best with familiarity. Whether it is a situation, a subject, or a task, that which is familiar is easiest. Underlying a person's comfort level is confidence.
What happens when someone is presented with a new situation, subject, or task that requires perseverance? Often, confidence gets rattled. This is where our inner voice can reflect one of two different mindsets: fixed or growth.
A fixed mindset reflects the belief that what a person excels at is an innate ability. If it were to have a motto, it would be: "it is what it is." A growth mindset is more flexible and curious, reflecting that success in any situation is more the result of hard work and the diligence to find a solution—rather than natural aptitude. A phrase to describe this mindset would be, "I can put in more effort and become better at this (new behavior in a situation/subject/task)."
Fixed and Growth Mindset and Their Inner Voices
Let's look at a simple situation and understand more about how the inner voice sounds different between the two mindsets. Say you take the same highways and city streets to the office every commute. On a rainy Monday morning, you accidentally miss your exit. To make matters worse, you have forgotten your phone so there is no GPS guidance. For many people, the act of getting lost is very stressful.
If a person has a fixed mindset, the inner voice immediately pipes up with something like, "I hate getting lost. I will never find my way out of this. I am just not good at figuring out where to go once I am lost." A growth mindset inner voice will sound more along the lines of, "Well, I should be able to figure this out. Let me try this next exit and keep heading in the direction I think the office is located." See the difference? Note that one is more calming and easier on both the mind and body's stress responses.
Moving Forward with a Growth Mindset
"I tell my clients: concern over future performance is natural. It is conscientiousness, humility, and the desire to succeed. If you didn't care about something, you wouldn't be concerned. The moment the concern about your future success surfaces, it is a sign that you are on the right path and one where you will grow," says Executive Coach Beth Siegert, CPC, CPRC, ACC, CFAA. "We work together to not let the concern boil over and identify the path ahead calmly and with focus."
A new situation needs growth mindset. Fixed mindset holds back success. Look at this situation from the perspective of communication innovations. If it weren't for the growth mindset that fuels invention, we would all still be using phones plugged into a wall. Thankfully someone invented the cell phone and now we can leave our homes and still communicate!
The Path to Growth Mindset
To move forward from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, check yourself when your inner belief is fixed and reframe it as more of one of growth. Here are a few common fixed mindset examples and a way to reframe them to invite more growth.
I cannot change how smart I am ----> My brain can be trained to perform differently.
Mistakes equal failure. I must avoid all failure. ----> Mistakes are opportunities for me to learn.
I could never do that. ---> I can work hard to become more skilled.
I ignore useful and helpful feedback. --->I learn from others who genuinely care for me.
How to Face a Challenge
Once you have acknowledged that you are facing a challenge, here are some steps to work to achieve success:
Trust yourself. "At the root of trusting yourself is the understanding that you are very capable, " says Siegert. "I often take my clients through some exercises to help remind them all that they have lived through and accomplished both personally and professionally."
Design the path. "Executive Coaches help you to design the route. We are like using Google Maps for your career," Sieger says with a smile.
Cultivate the life you want to lead. "I often help my clients to cultivate the life they want to lead—not the life that parents, society, or culture tells them to lead."
List small and large "timeline goals" on your journey for growth. Success is arrived at through consistent work and it is imperative to acknowledge four things to yourself: the application of consistent effort, steady progress, smaller timeline goals, and finally, larger timeline goals.
Overall, believe in yourself and utilize a support network. An Executive Coach is an impartial advisor who will encourage and keep you accountable.
For more information about working with Beth Siegert, CPC, CPRC, ACC, CFAA in an Executive Coaching capacity, send an email to email@example.com
For more about Executive Coaching and Overcoming Obstacles:
Feeling Stuck in Your Career?
For more information about growth mindset (originally an education concept) we recommend this article: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/series/growth-academic-mindset-carol-dweck