As teachers, we’re all familiar with the current buzzword “growth mindset” and many of us have used the term to teach our students about effort and the power of the word “yet.” But do you apply the same logic to your own life? If not, are you willing to learn how to shift your mindset in order to be successful?
I hope you answered yes to that last question because in this episode, we’re going to talk about what mindset is, the two different mindsets, and how to shift your mindset, regardless of where your natural tendencies may lead.
What is Mindset?
The concept of mindset has been around for several years, but it really took center stage after Dr. Carol Dweck published her best-selling book in 2007 entitled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
This influential book named two characteristically different views of the world, or mindsets, known as the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
According to Dweck, the fixed-mindset individual, holds to the ideas that our “qualities are carved in stone” or fixed…hence the name. While this may not seem like that big of a deal, the dark side of this type of mindset is that it “creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.” thereby turning individuals into “non learners.”
Growth mindset, on the other hand, is based on the belief that “your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.”
Now before we go any farther, I want to point out something. You’re going to hear a lot of information during this episode that could be misinterpreted as shaming. But let me be crystal clear; I am NOT shaming anyone who has a fixed mindset.
In fact, I have had a fixed mindset in many areas of my life for a LONG time. Yet, I’ve personally discovered just how valuable it is to adopt a growth mindset…even if it feels foreign to you right now.
Dweck says it like this, “Just learning about the growth mindset can cause a big shift in the way people think about themselves and their lives.”
So that’s the goal of this particular podcast episode. We’re going to break down how the fixed mindset is holding you back and how adopting a growth mindset will set you on the path of success.
How the Fixed Mindset is Holding You Back
In the Mindset book, it says, “When people hold on to a fixed mindset, it’s often for a reason. At some point in their lives it served a good purpose for them. It told them who they were or who they wanted to be (a smart, talented child) and it told them how to be that (perform well). In this way, it provided a formula for self-esteem and a path to love and respect from others.”
Honestly, that is why I held onto my fixed mindset. I’ve ALWAYS been someone who likes to succeed at things and REALLY dislikes failing. Ironically, this was never something my parents taught me; it’s just how I was “hardwired.”
The fact that I picked up on new concepts quickly and found school to be relatively easy actually solidified my fixed mindset because I equated my success with my natural ability. I never realized that the success I was seeing was a result of the effort I was putting into studying and learning.
My oldest son has a textbook fixed mindset. He would rather keep doing the same thing over and over rather than take a chance on learning something new and failing. Ironically, my younger son is the polar opposite. He enjoys learning new things and doesn’t consider failure a reflection of his character.
The difference between their mindsets is most evident on the golf course. Both of my boys are on the local high school golf team and this past season was the first time I got to watch them both compete.
When my oldest made a bad shot and go mad at himself, he couldn’t shake it off. He moved onto the next hole and struggled to get his emotions in check. On the other hand, when my younger son made a mistake, he responded with, “well, I could have done worse!”
My oldest son’s fixed mindset crippled him while my youngest son’s growth mindset allowed him to just enjoy the game.
So how is your mindset translating to your life right now?
Fixed-mindset individuals find comfort when “things are safely within their grasp.” Therefore, if you believe your abilities are fixed and you need to prove yourself over & over again, you’ll never leave the classroom.
Why? Because doing what you’ve always done is safe…and you’ve proven you can do it.
But if you chose to leave, you would open yourself up to the possibility that someone might think you were a quitter or that you just weren’t able to hack it as a teacher. And that would equate to failure on your part.
Let’s take a moment here and entertain a question.
What if you mustered up the strength to leave…only to fail at a different career?
In the mind of someone with a fixed mindset this would be the ultimate failure resulting in failure being “transformed from an action (I failed) to an identity (I am a failure).”
Dweck points out that “The idea of trying and still failing – of leaving yourself without excuses – is the worst fear within the fixed mindset. It robs you of all your excuses. Without effort, you can always say, ‘I could have been more [fill in the blank].’ But once you try, you can’t say that anymore. And the loss of one’s self to failure can be a permanent, haunting trauma.”
Have you ever found yourself thinking like that? Thinking, “I’ll only give it half my effort. Then if it fails, it doesn’t really matter.” That is so much safer than going “all in” and coming up short.
In fact, this fear of failure becomes so paralyzing to someone with the fixed mindset that leaving becomes something they truly believe they could NEVER do. So they continue feeling trapped until the day they can retire.
And that’s why it’s so important that we examine ourselves to see if this is the mindset we’re currently harboring. If so, we have the ability to change.
Unfortunately, this is tricky because “as a society, we value natural, effortless accomplishment over achievement through effort.” So even if you genuinely want learn how to shift your mindset, you aren’t going to find much support in the world’s view of your effort.
Honestly, it’s no wonder we find ourselves trapped in this thinking pattern of avoiding risk and effort because they are the “two things that might reveal [our] inadequacies and show that [we] were not up to the task.”
The truth is, “the fixed mindset is so very tempting. It seems to promise a lifetime of worth, success, and admiration just for sitting there and being who [you] are.” And that “is why it can take a lot of work to make the growth mindset flourish where the fixed mindset has taken root.”
But it can be done and I’m going to show you how!
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How to Shift Your Mindset in order to Change Your Life
The differences between a growth mindset and fixed mindset are vast, but the most distinguishing feature between the two is “the belief that cherished qualities can be developed” in a growth mindset.
“In the world of changing qualities, it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new; developing yourself. People with the growth mindset thrive when they’re stretching themselves, and they know that it takes time for potential to flower.”
This ability to view growth and change as part of the journey instead of an opportunity to be seen as a failure “even when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”
Everyone wants to succeed, but success doesn’t give us much insight into ourselves. In fact, success can actually be a hinderance to a growth mindset because it makes us think that our value and our worth is tied up in the outcome of our success as opposed to the effort we put into the task.
The truth is, it’s all about how you view and respond to failure that dictates your mindset.
So How Can You Embrace & Maintain a Growth Mindset?
As Dweck states, “It’s not easy to just let go of something that has felt like your “self” for many years and that has given you your route to self-esteem. And it’s especially not easy to replace it with a mindset that tells you to embrace all the things that have felt threatening: challenge, struggle, criticism, setbacks.”
But it’s worth it.
The key is understanding how to shift your mindset in order to leave the classroom to pursue a new career, whether that be entrepreneurship or as an employee in a company. You’re going to have to stretch yourself to learn new things and be willing to fail in an effort to thrive.
And there is no more pressing matter at the moment in your life than the choice to leave the classroom or not. So here are three steps that will set you up for learning how to shift your mindset and find success through effort and hard work.
Make a Plan
Make a concrete plan for leaving the classroom and decide when you will follow up on that plan. Ask yourself these questions…
- What is your timeline for leaving?
- Do you have a specific end date in mind?
- How are you going to accomplish this?
- How much money do you need to make to replace your income?
- Are you vested in retirement?
- What career are you pursuing in place of teaching?
You want to think about as many of the details as possible so that it truly becomes a goal.
Dweck asserts, “These concrete plans…about when, where, and how you are going to do something lead to really high levels of follow-through, which, of course, ups the chances of success. So the idea is not only to make a growth-mindset plan, but also to visualize, in a concrete way, how you’re going to carry it out.”
There are going to be times you don’t feel like “staying the course” and you want to give up. Maybe you’re in a fog of decision fatigue and analysis paralysis that are keeping you stuck in thinking mode. Maybe you’re struggling to make progress on your goal of leaving because you don’t really know what you need to do first.
You know creating a plan with a definitive timeline will increase your chances of success dramatically. But where do you start?
That’s where I come in. You see, you need someone who can look at your situation objectively, map out your optimal direction, and provide you with a concrete plan & action steps to accomplish your goal.
This is why I offer a FREE 30 minute discovery Zoom call to teachers, just like you, to determine the best next steps in their journey. I’ve helped many teachers overcome the fear of the unknown by simply talking through their concerns, fears, and mapping out their potential for the future.
Work Your Plan
While making a plan and getting help is important, you have to actually work the plan to make forward progress. The key to any plan is actually mapping out the steps you will take in order to see the goal come to fruition.
And just as Dweck states, “Important achievements require a clear focus, all-out effort, and a bottomless trunk full of strategies; plus allies in learning. Ultimately, a growth mindset allows people to carry forth not judgments and bitterness, but a new understanding and new skills, and that’s why it helps their abilities grow and bear fruit.”
It’s easy to say that kids should adopt a growth mindset because it’s important for them to be open to learning and trying; but the same holds true for us as adults. We all need to be lifelong learners who are not afraid to try something new.
You can learn how to shift your mindset, but you have to be willing to do it…otherwise, you’ll NEVER leave the classroom.
Yes, you can find success with a fixed mindset, but it will be a constant struggle to prove yourself over and over again. And as Dweck mentions, “It’s ironic: the top is where the fixed-mindset people hunger to be, but it’s where many growth-mindset people arrive as a by-product of their enthusiasm for what they do.”
Finding a career that you love (and that gives you purpose) is imperative. But it will require you to stretch yourself and learn how to shift your mindset into one that says, “I can learn new things. I will fail at times, but I will ultimately be successful because I won’t give up.”
You have to decide whether you want to stay trapped by your own fixed mindset or take that scary leap of faith. You are a champion, my friend and I don’t want you to ever forget that! You CAN do this and I want to cheer you on along the way!!