How mastering your mindset is key to your career success

career alignment career fulfillment coaching career key career success Feb 11, 2021
Key to your career success

We hear the word mindset get thrown around a lot these days, but what does it actually mean? And what does it have to do with achieving your big career goals? That’s what I am going to address in this article. 

Carole Dweck, a psychologist and author of the popular book entitled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success., defines Mindset as the following: “A mindset is a self-perception or “self-theory” that people hold about themselves. Believing that you are either “intelligent” or “unintelligent” is a simple example of a mindset.” Put simply, mindset has to do with how you perceive yourself in regard to your ability to learn. Depending on what this perception is, you have either a fixed or growth mindset. 


Fixed vs growth mindset

When you have a fixed mindset, you believe that your intelligence is static and unchanging. As a result of this belief, people with a fixed mindset feel a need to prove themselves and their intelligence in order to look smart. This belief can lead to avoidance of challenges or obstacles because failure to overcome them would be perceived as a direct reflection of your intelligence or capabilities and therefore be a threat to these. Having a fixed mindset also makes receiving feedback difficult because it is perceived as an attack on your intelligence, given that the underlying belief is that change is not possible. Consequently, it is not received or internalized. Another sign that you have a fixed mindset is that you feel threatened by the success of others.

When you have a growth mindset, you believe that intelligence can be developed. You believe you have the ability to learn, grow and improve. For this reason, individuals with a growth mindset don’t perceive challenges and obstacles as a threat but rather as an opportunity. They tend to embrace challenges rather than avoid them because, regardless of the outcome, they see an opportunity to learn. Also, receiving feedback when you have a growth mindset is not only easier because you don’t perceive it as a personal attack, it's usually welcomed and sought after. As for the success of others, it tends to be a source of inspiration for someone with a growth mindset.

Furthermore, the type of mindset you possess greatly influences your perceived sense of control over your life. Those with a fixed mindset feel like they have little or no control and perceive life as happening to them, whereas individuals with a growth mindset feel like they have greater control over their life and perceive life as happening for them. As you can imagine, the latter perspective has a tremendous positive impact on your motivation and perseverance, as well as overall mental health and psychological well-being. 


What does this have to do with achieving your career goals, you ask?

EVERYTHING! Ok, maybe not everything, but it’s definitely a key player, and let me tell you why.  Having a fixed mindset greatly inhibits career growth and development. It keeps you stuck. When you fundamentally believe that you are born with all the intelligence you will ever possess and believe that traits are static, you will do everything in your power to protect the image of your intelligence. Translation? You will only do things you know you are good at and avoid challenges, new opportunities, and change out of fear that you will fail, make mistakes or expose your weaknesses. Consequence? You won’t make changes, seek new opportunities, or grow. 

Having a growth mindset makes it more likely for an individual to achieve their career goals and even reach their full potential because failures and setbacks are seen as learning opportunities and experiences to build upon rather than be defined by. Translation? They will be more willing to try new things, embrace challenges, and seek change because they know that no matter the outcome, they will learn from the experience and that these lessons will only serve to bring them closer to their career objective. Consequence? They are more likely to be successful at achieving their career goals. 


How to nurture a growth mindset

If you are in the process of realizing that you have a fixed mindset and want to shift over to growth, don’t fret! It’s entirely achievable. The first step is awareness, and you just completed that first step. Now that you know you have a fixed mindset, you can’t un-know it. The next step is to retrain your brain. It may sound complicated, but it’s simpler than you think. Like learning a new skill, it comes down to consistent practice. 

Below, I share 5 things you can do to start shifting your mindset from fixed to growth so you can get serious about chasing those big career goals you have for yourself:


1. Step out of your comfort zone.

The most effective way to challenge your mindset is to step out of your comfort zone. Doing something you have never done before forces you to face your thoughts and fears and thus provides you with the opportunity to challenge and change them, thus practicing your growth mindset. So, go ahead and try something new - a class, a hobby, a sport. Don’t focus on whether you are good/bad or succeeding/failing. Instead, focus on what you are learning in regards to both the task and yourself.

2. Learn to embrace failure and become ok with making mistakes.

No one likes to fail or make mistakes.  However, when you see failure as an opportunity to learn, grow and improve, failure isn’t nearly as scary. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that it can be empowering! Yes, you read that right. When you know what doesn’t work or where the mistake lies, you are that much closer to knowing what does work and how to succeed next time. For example, say you go to a job interview, and it’s a total flop. Someone with a fixed mindset may have the tendency to blame someone or circumstances for their perceived failure as a way to protect themselves or take the failure personally and feel bad about themselves and not try again. On the other hand, someone with a growth mindset will take that negative experience and try to understand what went wrong and how to improve next time. They don’t see it as a reflection of themselves or their capabilities but rather as an experience to propel their improvement.

3. View challenges as opportunities. 

When faced with a challenge, don’t try to avoid it. Instead, accept it and approach it with a sense of curiosity and openness. See it as an opportunity to learn something new, no matter the outcome. Trust in your ability to overcome the challenge. You just might be surprised by what you are capable of!

4. Value the process over the results.

In the words of Miley Cyrus, “It's not about how fast you get there, it’s not about what's waiting on the other side, it’s the climb” (FYI - I can’t believe I just quoted Miley Cyrus in a serious article about Mindset. Anyway, let’s get back to the point). Results are great, but it's’ the process that forces us to grow and teaches us the most about who we are and what we are truly capable of. When we focus only on the result, we miss the most important lessons. 

5. Become a lifelong learner.

You have probably noticed that in all of the ways mentioned above about how to nurture a growth mindset, the running theme is learning. Become a lifelong learner. Learn from your mistakes, failures and experiences. Learn from the successes of others. Learn the skills you need to get to where you want to be. Learn from the feedback of others. Seek out new opportunities to learn from. Growth is about learning. Having a growth mindset is about shifting your perspective from “did I succeed/fail?” to “what did I learn/how can I improve?”. It’s the difference between allowing yourself to be defined by your failures and using your failures as a place to grow from.


With this new insight around the role of mindset in your career growth and development, I want to leave you with a question to reflect on: Has your mindset been getting in the way of your career success?

Your Career Coach