5 tips to build an elite mindset
Insights from a world-class psychologist
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Now, onto Issue 41.
5 tips to build an elite mindset
What is mindset?
In simple terms, it’s how you view and process the world.
Our mindset impacts us every minute of every day, whether we’re aware of it or not.
Mindset isn’t just important for elite athletes and “high-performers.”
It’s critical for all of us.
Carol Dweck wrote one of the best books on mindset I’ve ever read.
Here are 5 actionable tips you can begin implementing today:
1. Challenge your beliefs
Mindset is rooted in beliefs.
What you believe about:
others around you
A fixed mindset believes basic qualities are set in stone.
A growth mindset believes these qualities can improve over time.
How can you tell which mindset someone favors?
Listen for their beliefs.
Examples of fixed mindset beliefs:
Your talent is whatever you were born with
You’re intelligent or not — it doesn’t change
You’re “wired that way” and “it is what it is”
Examples of growth mindset beliefs:
Your talent can be cultivated with practice
Your intelligence can be improved with study
You can choose new behaviors that better serve you
Action: examine your beliefs
Where do they align with a fixed mindset?
Where do they align with a growth mindset?
Building an elite mindset begins with believing you can change your mindset.
2. Nurture a love of learning
If you have kids — or are around kids — watch how quickly they learn.
Children are born with a drive to learn.
But somewhere between childhood and adulthood, that drive to learn is often extinguished.
We stop being concerned with learning and start worrying about being successful.
This is a shift in mindset.
A growth mindset views learning as exciting.
Challenges are opportunities to form new connections and grow.
A fixed mindset views learning as threatening.
Learning comes with failure, and failure threatens our sense of self.
But we need challenges to grow.
Building a world where we’re perfectly successful is the perfect way to NOT grow.
Action: Celebrate the learning process
Dweck shares a quote in her book: “Becoming is better than being.”
Never halt your journey of learning and becoming.
3. Do things that take effort
Effort is a polarizing topic in mindset literature.
The fixed mindset views giving effort as a risk.
Dweck shares two reasons for this:
“Geniuses” are not supposed to need effort
Actually trying eliminates all your excuses
Someone with a fixed mindset is worried about judgment and perfection. Giving effort undermines both.
The growth mindset views effort as essential.
Tennis legend Billie Jean King has a wonderful way of framing this: What do you want to look back and say?
If you want to look back and say “I could have been …” then play it safe, never give effort and protect your fragile identity.
Or you can look back and say, “I gave everything I had for the things I valued,” and courageously take a shot.
Action: Embrace the “risk” of effort
Where can you give more effort right now?
What potential failure are you shying away from?
Choose a growth mindset and go for it.
4. Resist labeling
One of my favorite examples in Dweck’s book is the Polgar family.
The Polgars produced three of the most successful female chess players ever.
Susan, one of the daughters, described her father’s mindset this way:
Judit Polgar, the youngest, is considered by some to be the greatest female chess player of all time.
“Judit was a slow starter, but very hardworking,” Susan says of her sister.
One of the reasons I love this example is because it doesn’t include what we so often do with young talented people: label them.
“My son is a great football player.”
“My daughter is the artist in the family.”
“Riley down the street is the smartest kid at school.”
All of these are meant as sincere compliments, and yet they make building a strong mindset much harder.
Labels set an expectation.
They create a fragile sense of worth.
Perhaps worst of all, they create a belief that other people can define you.
Action: Resist labeling yourself or others
Pay attention to where you use labels in your life (we all do).
Make a deliberate effort to strip them away.
If you want to praise, make it about effort, learning, growth and the process of improvement.
5. Growth > genius
By now, we understand the power of our mindsets.
But what about the power of an organization’s mindset?
Like people, organizations cultivate a mindset.
Dweck writes about a study she participated in of Fortune 500 companies.
The study’s key findings:
Organizations with a fixed mindset build a “culture of genius” — talent rules
Organizations with a growth mindset build a “culture of development” — growth rules
Those in growth mindset companies reported higher trust, commitment and sense of ownership
Those in fixed mindset companies reported a cutthroat environment and more unethical behavior
When talent is put on a pedestal, it encourages selfish behavior.
After all, who doesn’t want their talent recognized?
But when growth is celebrated, it encourages curiosity and collaborative behavior.
People become excited to share what they learn.
Action: Value talent but celebrate growth
On a personal level, take action to continually expand your talents. They are malleable.
On an organizational level, review what mindset and behaviors your culture encourages. Make changes to foster a culture of growth over genius as much as possible.
To recap, 5 tips to build an elite mindset:
Growth > genius
Challenge your beliefs
Do things that take effort
Nurture a love of learning
I hope these ideas help you and your teams build stronger mindsets.
I’m driving across America this week, from California to North Carolina.
It’ll be my third time driving across the country. If you’ve never done it, I strongly suggest you make the time and do it!
You’ll stop in small towns, meet different people and gain a perspective and appreciation for your country in a way that’s not possible staying in our little bubbles.
I’ll be sharing some things from my trip on Twitter — follow along there if you’re interested.
P.S. For my non-American readers, while I can’t personally vouch for driving across your country, I assume the same thing applies. Plan the road trip and do it!
I’d love to hear from you
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Thanks for reading.
See you next Sunday.