I’m typically a “possibilities person,” someone with a “growth” mindset geared for challenge and change.

Recently, however, I’ve been weighted down by the realization that last week I was supposed to be presenting at the ATD International Conference and hosting a retreat with my team. I’ve been mourning the loss of those dates, missing the joy of anticipation that comes with making plans. And I’ve been thinking and using the word “can’t” way too often. In short, I’ve been feeling stuck.

But that’s my “fixed” mindset talking. I’ve come to recognize it sneaking up on me. Fortunately, I have the tools and information to realize when I need to make a mindset shift…and fast!

Carol Dweck, the Stanford psychologist and researcher who wrote Mindset, has identified two types of mindset most humans adopt: fixed mindset and growth mindset. According to the Neuroleadership Institute, a growth mindset is the belief that skills and abilities can be developed or improved over time, rather than being fixed from birth.

Dweck explains that “the growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.” People with a growth mindset stretch themselves and are willing to face fear and failure in order to develop. “This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.” A growth mindset can be learned; it exists in the world of “changing qualities.” On the other hand, “Believing your qualities are carved in stone—the fixed mindset—creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.”

Developing a growth mindset is imperative to achieving your highest level of leadership presence and team development.

The mindset you adopt as a leader directly impacts your ability to lead yourself, others, and the organization. But a growth mindset can be tricky right now because you may be working on your own to come up with ways to develop it.

At EPI, we recently completed an advanced leadership series that focused on the immense value of a growth mindset. Just developing that program encouraged our own commitment to pursuing it! Here are some of the things we’ve learned and some things I personally do to get back to the right mindset:

Make the choice to view challenges as opportunities.

Rather than using a fixed mindset (the belief that your qualities or behaviors are set in stone) and seeing challenges as sources of threat or discomfort, adopting a growth mindset will push you to see challenges as opportunities. I’ve discovered that within these opportunities we sometimes face failure. But don’t fear it! As long as we can learn from our failures (and do better next time), we can consider a failed challenge a success.

Check your daily language.

The daily language you use makes a powerful impact on your growth mindset. This is a good reminder to me not to use self-deprecating or fixed mindset language in conversations with myself or my colleagues, including “I can’t…” or “I’m bad at…”

And using the word “yet” is a game changer: “I can’t do this… yet!

A growth mindset is about more than effort.

That effort must lead to learning. Encourage your team to seek new strategies and ask for help when they’re stuck. But don’t overwhelm a team member who’s exhibiting a growth mindset by thinking they have infinite time or mental resources. Having this mindset means we persevere, but it doesn’t mean we have a limitless capacity. Make sure your team’s efforts toward learning and growth increase, rather than decrease, their sense of agency.

Find value in improving.

Focus on improving, not proving yourself over and over. When you pursue a growth mindset, you start to realize that the skills you need to face upcoming challenges are simply something new to nurture. Learn to recognize when your thoughts become self-limiting and then purposefully work to move toward growth and improvement.

Encourage a growth mindset by first nurturing your own.

Mindset impacts your ability to be a great leader. When you become aware of your mindset, you can optimize your influence.

We can all encourage a growth mindset in our families, friends, and colleagues. But it starts with nurturing our own. Every time we let go of a fixed mindset in favor of growth, we increase our resilience for the next challenge.

If you’re feeling stuck, take a moment to reflect on your mindset. Maybe it’s time to do something new and uncomfortable, build a new habit, or take a new class. Push yourself to identify where you can improve. Finally, add “yet” to those creeping negative “I can’t…” thoughts. When I implement these tactics, I get unstuck.

It’s mindset over matter.

If we can help your team learn about and reflect on their own mindsets, or if you’d like to tell us about some of your own growth mindset tips, please email me. I’d love to hear from you. 

Headshot of EPI CEO Michelle Kelly

Michelle Kelly, CEO (Chief Enjoyment Officer)

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