Carol Dweck’s recent book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, talks about the importance of attitude and its impact on the way see into the future and how we take steps moving toward goals. She makes a distinction between a “fixed mindset,” where the belief is that our qualities are set in stone and that effort has little or no impact, and a “growth mindset,” where the belief is that our qualities can be cultivated through effort.
With a fixed mindset, future possibilities are limited and we tend to see things in terms of struggle or insurmountable challenges. The glass is, indeed, half full, leading many to give up easily, sometimes even before they start. When one has a growth mindset, future possibilities are unbounded, allowing us to tap into our creativity and find solutions to the challenges that inevitably await us. The half-full glass is on its way to being filled.
At a recent workshop, attended by people in their 50s and older, the purpose was to guide people to use what they have, their strengths, experiences, assets and the like, to get what they want. As it turned out, about half the participants had a fixed mind set and the remainder had a growth mindset. Each approached the process of goal setting and planning in different ways. Most of the fixed mindset participants focused their attention on the state of the economy, the reality of age discrimination, and being “overqualified” as they sought new opportunities. The growth mindset participants, most of whom recognized the same realities, were able to imagine themselves overcoming the “odds” to start new businesses, to see ways around the obstacles, and to feel they had options.
The reality is that most of us have both mindsets going on, and we can decide which will guide us into the future. The first step, of course, is to recognize that fact and to notice the differences between the two. We know when the growth mindset is operating because we have energy, we feel hopeful, and we know how to get unstuck. The second step is to develop goals and plans that are grounded in our deeply held values and the belief that we are co-creators of our future. This recognizes economic realities and market conditions and having a growth mindset gives us the confidence to see through and beyond those. The third step is to act on our plans in a disciplined fashion, while stopping regularly to find the lessons learned and building those into upcoming actions.
In conclusion, with longer life-spans, complicated financial concerns, and more options, we face numerous and unique challenges. These can be approached from a fearful and anxious perspective or they can be dealt with in a creative and positive way. The choice is yours.
Mark Guterman, MA, is President of G & G Associates and one of the Meaning Guys and Principals a MeaningfulCareers.com (www.meaningfulcareers.com). He is widely known as a pragmatic visionary and has trained, coached, and inspired thousands of clients and students over his 30 plus years as a career consultant.
He is the author of Common Sense for Uncommon Times: The Power of Balance in Work, Family, and Personal Life, co-author of ValueSearch, was recently awarded a Purpose Prize Fellowship, given by Civic Ventures, to honor “social innovators in their encore careers,” and will keynote the 2011 National Career Development Association Conference in San Antonio, Texas.
He can be reached at Mark@MeaningfulCareers.com or 510.487.2590.