The science of cultivating a winning mindset.
“Mindset is everything!” You have heard that before, haven’t you? But is it, really? Science appears to concur with Scripture on this view: that life flows out of thoughts.
Research shows that mindset heavily impacts performance across all spheres of life – from health to relationships, ministry and career. Simply put, mindset can impose a lid on or enhance peak performance.
What is mindset?
It is one of those words that are thrown around, but each person has their personal meaning. Mindset is a set of powerful beliefs – how you have set up your mind to think – and determines how we are programmed to respond to life’s circumstances.
According to Carol Dweck, a global mindset thought leader, there are two major types of mindset. The fixed mindset believes talent and intelligence are fixed states that you can do little to improve or change. It is a core belief that only talent and intelligence lead to success, but they cannot be improved upon. Fixed mindset deems effort to be of no benefit to influencing results. An avoidance of challenges is therefore common, in order to avert failure. The fixed mindset tends to personalise setbacks and failures. It takes constructive criticism hard, and gets upset by it.
Conversely, the growth mindset acknowledges that, with the right processes and efforts, and applied long enough, expertise in any field can be achieved. It takes personal accountability for outcomes. It holds that learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience. Those with a growth mindset understand the importance of effort on success, and are willing to put in the hard work required. They believe basic abilities, such as talents and intelligence, are a starting point for what can be achieved in life.
Research shows that most world changers hold a growth mindset. In fact, so crucial is the link of this trait to optimal performance that it is one of those that large corporate employers, like NASA, seek in recruitment of space engineers.
Brain is Adaptable
The good news is you can change your mindset. Many years ago, neuroscience taught that the brain was fixed. Now we know that the brain is adaptable, and can grow in size, speed of function, and also in complexity of its connections. In effect, the brain is able to transmit signals quicker and with greater efficiency, resulting in better performance.
Cultivating a Growth Mindset
Recognition of areas of fixed mindset is key to breaking their limiting holds. Begin to pay attention to your self-talk and inner dialogue, looking for features of a fixed mindset.
The next step is to recognise and reclaim the power of choice. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change (Max Planck, Quantum theorist and Nobel Prize winner). How you interpret setbacks, challenges and detours is your choice, and yours alone. It is entirely within your control. Viewing challenges as opportunities to be embraced for growth – rather than insurmountable hurdles to be avoided – is crucial to a winning mindset.
To cultivate a growth mindset, prioritise learning over seeking approval. Shift your focus from what others think about you, to bettering yourself.
Rather than focusing on results or outcomes, place emphasis on enjoying the learning process. Part of that pleasure is to choose learning well over learning fast. That includes seeing mistakes as opportunities for reversed learning. Learning can result both from knowing how to, but also how not to. Making mistakes does not make one a failure until one personalises the experience.
The mistake doesn’t have to be yours. You can learn so much from those who have arrived where you are headed. Mentoring from world-class captains of any industry is now easily accessible from books and online resources.
Embracing constructive criticism is another powerful way of learning. Instead of taking feedback personally, focus on what you can take away.
Grit, the ability to stay the course on a long haul goal – and remain committed when faced with obstacles – is another feature of the growth mindset. The good thing is that grit can be cultivated. Putting the ‘why’ for your journey on a vision board, in a place that you can see it daily, is one way to develop grit.
Finally, to cultivate the growth mindset, allow yourself time. The notion that it takes 21 days to form a new habit is a myth. It apparently originated from a 1960s article, when a plastic surgeon noted it took that long for patients to get used to face transplants. Recent research from University College London concludes that habit formation is variable from 18 to 254 days, based on the complexity of the task. Remember, new habits require rewiring brain connections, so be gentle on yourself during your journey to cultivating a winning mindset.