The single most important factor influencing a person’s success, whether personal or professional, is their mindset. What you think about consistently and how you think about something (your perspective), has a direct impact on your behavior and therefore reality, and not the other way around, as a lot of people seem to think. 

According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, your beliefs play a pivotal role in what you want and whether you achieve it. Dweck has found that it is your mindset that plays a significant role in determining achievement and success. Mindset, a strong and positive one, is essential to developing healthy self-esteem as it affects our daily self-dialogue and reinforces our most intimate beliefs, attitudes and feelings about ourselves. If you are serious about achieving success in any area of your life, you must learn to master yours.

Five Reasons Why Mindset is Important

  1. Developing Healthy Self-esteem – To successfully accomplish any worthwhile feat, a person must first feel capable of achieving it. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Self-esteem is born of an internal dialogue that informs how we perceive and evaluate our worth, positively or negatively. It also frames our self-concept (the comprehensive view we have about ourselves). Mindset — a strong and positive one — is essential to developing healthy self-esteem. It is an important tool that affects our daily self-dialogue and reinforces our most intimate beliefs, attitudes and feelings about ourselves. So, become the gatekeeper of your thoughts and focus them on thoughts of positivity and inspiration rather than criticism and doubt.
  1. Formulating a Winning Perspective, or Context – When it comes to success, there are few things more valuable than perspective. How we choose to attach meaning to events and circumstances has a profound effect on whether we view our glass as half full, or half empty. According to the French philosopher Sartre “Nothing in life has any meaning or value, except the meaning or value we actually give it.” The truth is that your mindset has everything to do with perspective. Our foundational beliefs, attitudes and biases naturally affect the way we process information and experience the world around us. Having an optimistic mindset increases the likelihood of formulating a winning perspective and achieving long-term success.
  1. Harnessing Drive – Drive is the unwavering determination to achieve an important goal. It includes the process of identifying and developing a vision for success and engaging in activities over time, towards that vision. Without drive, achieving most goals would be difficult at best. Mindset is critical to drive. With the power to direct focus and encourage commitment to your vision, it can urge one to challenge the status quo and push past comfort zones. People with drive are self-motivated and strive to accomplish more. They don’t waste time complaining about their circumstances, but instead work with conviction to improve them.
  1. Facing Adversity – No matter what goal you seek to achieve, the path to your success is bound to include some degree of adversity. If you want to get through the rough patches you will need to develop thick skin and learn to face each challenge head on. That includes receiving constructive feedback. This is where mindset plays a critical role. Adversity will test you. After facing an extreme hardship, a person may feel justified in succumbing to defeat, or taking on a negative view of the circumstances, or the other person and often, that is the easy path. The capacity to move through adversity is a true testament to the power of a resilient mindset.
  1. Achieving the underlying goal – Goal-setting is a multifaceted process, with achievement being the most obvious indicator of success. Nevertheless, without the proper mindset, you may not get that far. An undertaking that easily eludes even the most well-intentioned individuals, achieving a goal requires more than a mere lukewarm desire to succeed.

Mindset is really where the rubber meets the road, where that mental toughness determines whether someone will dig deep and work through hardships to succeed, or simply claim defeat. It includes exercising courage, sustaining effort over long periods and leveraging positive self-talk to move through each pivotal phase, before ultimately accomplishing the underlying goal.

So what exactly is a Mindset?

A mindset refers to whether you believe qualities such as intelligence and talent are fixed or changeable traits.

According to Carol Dweck, there are two ways to view intelligence or ability:

  • Ability is either fixed mindset, or ingrained mindset – in other words, we are born with a certain level of ability and we cannot change that. This is called a fixed mindset.
  • We can develop our ability through hard work and effort. This is called a growth mindset.

These two different beliefs, actually lead to different behavior, and also to different results in your reality. Examples are students with a growth mindset were shown to increase their results over time, while those who believed that their intelligence was ingrained did not; in fact, their results got worse.

Having a growth mindset; the belief that you are in control of your own ability, and can learn and improve, really is the key to success. Yes, hard work, effort, and persistence are all important, but not as important as having that underlying belief that you are in control of your own destiny. This will then impact and drive the hard work, effort & persistence.

Mindsets and Feedback

People with these two mindsets actually think and also react to information differently from each other. In particular, they respond differently to information about performance.

  • In people with a fixed mindset, the brain is most active when they are being given information about how well they have done, for example, test results or grades.
  • In people with a growth mindset, the brain is most active when they are being told what they could do to improve.

It’s a very different approach: One is about how they are perceived, and one is about how they can learn. You can see which one is likely to lead to better results in future.

Mindsets and Setbacks

These mindsets also cause people to deal with setbacks differently.

  • People with a fixed mindset are very discouraged by setbacks, because a setback dents their belief in their ability. They tend to become uninterested and give up. They have a negative context for their lives and focus on what is going wrong with something, or what is wrong with people.
  • People with a growth mindset view a setback as an opportunity to learn. They analyze what didn’t work, what they could do differently. They have a positive context for their lives and tend to reframe circumstances into a more positive view. They are generally positive regarding others and shake themselves off of a setback quite quickly. They tend to try harder next time in an effort to overcome the problem.

Neuroplasticity

Did you know your brain can change? The good news is that you can change your mindset.

Neuroscience shows that our brains continue to develop and change even as adults. The brain is actually quite like plastic, and can be reshaped over time, forming new neural pathways. This is what neuroscientists call neuroplasticity.

These neural pathways are developed by doing or thinking particular things. The things that we do or say more often become hard-wired into our brains as habits. These form neural pathways, or routes in our brain, which become easier to use, the more we think them, or take those same actions.

However, you can still change them. The first step is to bring conscious thought to them and to realise that you want to change them, then to practice bringing consciousness to it and choose something different, to train your brain in the new skill or thought. It may help to think about this learning as a cycle, and the competence cycle is described further in another blog we have about coaching.

There are three key things that you can do to develop a growth mindset:

  1. You need to recognise that a growth mindset is not just good, but is also supported by science. In other words, you need to be committed to developing a growth mindset.
  2. You can learn and teach others about how to develop and improve their abilities through adopting a growth mindset. This will help you to take control of your life, which is hugely empowering. Research shows that people who feel in control tend to perform better. It’s a virtuous cycle.
  3. Listen out for your fixed mindset voice. When you hear that little critical voice in your head telling you that you can’t do something, reply with a growth mindset approach and tell it that you can learn.

Summary

Mindsets are not just important for learning new skills, they can affect the way we think about everything in life. For example, a growth mindset can help you recover from illness because you believe that you can do something about the illness. They can help you achieve at work and can also help you grow and develop in relationships. Cultivating a growth mindset could be the single most important thing you ever do to help you achieve success. Take the Mindset Quiz, to find out what mindset you have, remember, the first step to transformation, is to bring consciousness to it.