Your Mindset –NOT Your Skills—Are Holding You Back
A new path
It’s important to understand that we all can have fixed mindsets in certain areas of our life just as we discussed in the last Article. The first step to switching to a growth mindset is to start noticing the areas in which you have a fixed approach.
Take note of your reactions. If someone performs better than you, is your response that you could learn something from that person, or that you’re just not as smart? When you make a mistake, do you get anxious, or do you respond with, “Huh, that’s interesting that it didn’t work. What should I try differently to get a more successful result?”
A fixed mindset tells you that you can never grow and change. It says, “I must always be right. I don’t want to make mistakes because if I do, that shows I’m not as smart as I thought I was.”
Compare that with the growth mindset, where a person is always learning, always looking for new challenges. People with a growth mind-set measures their success by how much they’re developing personally and how much challenge they’re taking on.
It’s OK if a new challenge makes your heart beat a little faster. Being nervous about a new endeavor doesn’t mean you have a fixed mindset; being too afraid to ever try anything new does. Everyone wants to succeed; it’s how you react to the bumps in the road that shows your outlook and ultimately your chances at a bigger success.
The school system often reinforces students with fixed mindsets with
labels — you’re smart, you’re artistic, you’re math-minded. That’s one of the reasons Robert said he turned to his rich dad for an education rather than depend on the school.” His rich dad showed him by example that to be successful in business, he must always be willing to risk — and always be willing to learn”.
I haven’t shied away from failure myself. Trust me, not all of my investments are a success. But if I allowed those that didn’t perform as well to scare me away from the sometimes-risky process of acquiring assets and boldly looking for opportunities, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have built the life of financial independence that I enjoy now.
The key is that I learned from my failures. I used them to drive me to new heights, not scare me back into what I’d done before.
We want to label everything as black and white: good or bad, smart or dumb. But failure can be either — it all depends on how you react to it.
But instead of being excited about what possibilities failure might open up, our system tells us, “Don’t fail. Don’t do it this way. Do it the way we’ve always done it.” And that’s never going to lead to the kind of innovation that changes lives.
The fixed mindset also makes you unpleasant to be around, because you’re so worried to let your mistakes show that you blame others, justify your actions and get defensive, always having to keep proving to the world how smart you are.
However, a growth mindset focuses on things that you can cultivate and grow. Your talents, your intelligence, your personality — none of it is set in stone. All of it can improve through effort, and your potential is limitless.
Doesn’t the latter option sound a whole lot more attractive?
So you’ve got to start by being honest with yourself. No one wants to admit that they’re insecure about failure and shortcomings. Pay attention to the situations in which you have the self-defeating, fixed mindset, the areas in which you’re fearful of failing. Use that awareness to retrain yourself and your thinking.
Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I fail?” Almost always, the consequences aren’t as dire as you fear. Then ask yourself, “What’s the best that could happen?” Stop focusing on the fear and instead train your sights on the potential, on the exciting achievements that are possible when you reach outside your comfort zone.
Retrain your thoughts
Robert’s poor dad never broke out of the traditional path in academia. He didn’t go into a field he didn’t have multiple degrees in; he didn’t do anything to risk his state pension.
But he also never found financial independence or the kind of success that would give him the life he wanted.
His rich dad was the opposite. He wasn’t afraid of risk, and he wasn’t afraid of failure. He wasn’t worried that something he did might offend someone or make people think he wasn’t smart. If he tried a business venture and it failed, it didn’t mark him as a failure. It was just a learning experience that made him smarter and more able to find success the next time.
The day Robert rejected his poor dad’s path and decided to take the lessons from his rich dad was the day he began his path to success. It wasn’t a straight upward trajectory with zero setbacks. But the setbacks didn’t define him. He had learned from his rich dad to use those failures as a way to sharpen his skills and hone his strategies according to him.
For the person with a fixed mindset, you have to keep proving to yourself (and to the world) how smart you are by not making mistakes and by pretending that you already know everything.
With the growth mindset, mistakes just allow you to learn and grow. You’re not afraid of failure because you know that’s how you grow, that’s how you get better.
For the fixed mindset, you’re as good as you’re going to get at the start. For the growth mindset, who you are now is just the starting point. It’s
exciting because you don’t know how far you’ll be able to grow.
Robert’s poor dad was an example of the fixed mindset. He wanted to play it safe — and encouraged his son Robert to do same — by getting a “good” job with a steady retirement after years of service. But retirement wasn’t Robert’s goal— success was.
His rich dad showed him what it meant to have a growth mindset. He showed him how to learn from situations where it seemed he’d run into a dead end. Unlike school, he showed him how thinking differently would be more beneficial and would take him further.
Which mindset would best define the way you’ve lived your life?
If you welcome failure and challenges and mistakes, keep it up. There’s a lifetime of growth ahead of you.
However, if you feel like you’re stagnating but the thought of risk is keeping you scared and rooted to where you are, then you’re likely using a fixed mindset. Start paying attention to your reaction to obstacles and mistakes and you’ll start to identify the areas of your life where you’re applying fixed thinking.
Retrain your thoughts. Focus on the ultimate goal and view your failures not as game enders but as game changers. Learn from your mistakes and use that knowledge to help you escape the rat race.
Struggle isn’t a sign that you’re attempting something you shouldn’t. Struggle is an opportunity to grow your abilities and sharpen your smarts.
Do you think every musician is a prodigy the moment they put hand to instrument? Do you think every athlete makes the shot from Day 1? Why would you expect anything different from yourself?
It takes hard work and endless practice to become a world-class musician, or athlete, or surgeon, or chef, or entrepreneur. It takes a willingness to admit what you don’t know, in order to become smarter.
If your reaction to admitting that you don’t know something is defensiveness or paralyzing fear, you’re never going to grow.
A question of time
Listen, there’s no magic pill to success. Even with the most positive of mindsets, it’s going to take work. But it is so much harder when you enter the game assuming, “I’m talented up to this level and no further.”
When babies are learning to walk, they never get it on the first try. They wobble, they fall, they might cry … but then they try again. Imagine if we all gave up the first time we toppled over as toddlers. We’d have a world full of helpless adults who could never get anywhere!
That’s exactly what happens in so many people’s lives. They try something new, they wobble and they fall over — and rather than see that failure as just one step in the process, they give up. And as a result, they don’t get anywhere. They don’t stretch themselves into a new path that could take them to great places.
The average life expectancy for Americans is about 81 for women, 76 for men. That’s a lot of years to not be growing and going anywhere if you assume your abilities are frozen when you get out of school.
You might say that you’re in your late 40s, your mid-50s, your 60s and it’s too late for a major life change, too late to start as a newbie in a new field. But you might still have a third or more of your life left! What if you went into a movie and the screen went blank two-thirds of the way through. You’d demand your money back! There’s a whole lot of story that can happen in that final third of the movie. The same is true of your life.
If you tend toward the fixed mindset, it may take some practice to start seeing your life through a new lens. But it is so worth the effort; wouldn’t you regret it more if you looked back in five or 10 years and saw the time you wasted being fearful?
Maybe the time isn’t quite right yet to jump into a new job. Maybe you need to acquire some new skills first. So what’s stopping you?
When you come home after a day of work, do you plop yourself in front of the TV for the latest shows, or do you eagerly jump into learning about your next challenge?
There are so many hours of the day that people can waste on things that don’t help them grow professionally, personally or health-wise. Imagine if you harnessed the power of those extra hours to read or attend classes or practice the thing you haven’t conquered yet.
Imagine if you harnessed the power of those extra hours five years ago. Imagine where you’d be today. Don’t let that thought discourage you though. Use it as motivation for the next five years.
Do something now that your future self will thank you for.
Be bold. Struggle wonderfully. Embrace your mistakes not as a sign that you’re a failure, but as an indicator that you’re on the path to success.
Only with that growth mindset will you utilize the momentum that allows you to break out of the rat race and enter a new level of success. Conquer your fear and who knows what new heights you will discover.