I recently finally finished reading Carol Dweck’s book on Growth Mindset. It’s one that has sat on my Kindle for the longest while, yet like so many things, seems to have popped up again just at the moment when I was most likely to need it. Thank you Universe.To have a growth mindset is to develop the view of ourselves that we are capable of anything, that we are worthy of doing so and that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Done well, a growth mindset really is the key to unlocking a life lived to its expansive potential.The opposite of a growth mindset is to have a fixed mindset; something entirely inflexible and completely limiting. The average person has a blend of both. Where we have a growth mindset in some areas of our lives we might be fixed in others.I was never aware of what kind of mindset I had up until recently, when I started to consider more about what makes people thrive within startups and in particular, as Founders. To build and sustain businesses in quite the way they do means a growth mindset is essential; they have to believe that anything is possible.
This leads to the question; is a growth mindset something that we can learn?I am pleased to say that the answer is a resounding yes.Whilst I am definitely still the average person here, with different mindset approaches in different areas of my life, I’m delighted to say that in the past few years I’ve unwittingly developed a growth mindset across many spectrums of my life that previously were blocked. Though let’s also be clear it was a little more by accident rather than by design. Thank you again Universe.Up until about 7 years ago my mindset was very much fixed when it came to myself and my own capability.As a young child I was confident, sassy and felt I could do anything. The shutdown came for me at around 10 or 11 years old. I can remember a series of disappointments, often linked to creative expression, that led me to shrink myself smaller and become less confident in sharing my ideas.Even though I have always been one of the smallest people in the room, I have also often been one of the loudest. That meant I often had the attention of teachers for the wrong reasons, and that I caused a reaction in some of those teachers and their perception of me as a threat to their authority. I asked a lot of questions. Rather than work with the spirited child they were faced with to yield excellent results, instead they generally formed a negative view around my capability to learn.Granted, my ideas were often a little outside of the norm, but rather than cherish them and help me work them into something that fit the bill for what they were looking for, the teachers around me tended to squash them.The views they held on me academically felt absolute, so I took them at their word and decided quite unconsciously that traditional learning wasn’t for me. Sure, I continued to learn from the ‘school of life’, but even simple things like reading became sidelined as I focused on my street savvy as my sole means of survival. I created a hard belief about myself and my ability that mirrored theirs.Instead I applied my creative energies into a full scale teenage rebellion and perpetuated the labels that they had given me.At around that time I also started the ugly pursuit of seeking validation from the world around me and look for its approval, and in doing so, curbed my tongue on almost everything. I was constantly seeking a new tribe to belong to, one that I could feel safe in, so metamorphosised through many different identities throughout my teens. My apparent confidence was merely a smokescreen for a deep sadness and a very low self esteem.I then let the views of others dictate my reality for a very long time indeed.The key to unlocking it was love. Love for myself and love in the form of the belief of others. The key to that love was to develop a real connection with myself. Thank you (yet again) Universe.I’d been taking tiny steps in the direction of self, inspired largely by others that crossed my path. The big shift in my early 30s, when those little steps culminated into a big loud voice inside myself that told me I needed to tear everything up and start over. I needed to build a new life from the inside out. So that’s exactly what I did.I had finally found (and started to pay attention to) my own voice.Since then, I have continued taking those little tiny steps to make positive choices in alignment with what truly serves me. Bit by bit those choices have helped me to learn to love myself, respect myself and see my value in the world.One of those choices was to learn how to learn again. I did that by quietly giving myself the safe space to do so, by creating a learning commitment to myself that started small with just 10 minutes of reading a day. That has gradually developed over time and I have now become someone who is basically always learning something; whether teaching yoga, how to do the people stuff better or whatever else.This has only been possible as a by product of the love and admiration I was developing for myself. I now know (and truly believe) that I am capable of anything I put my mind to, I just have to be brave enough to do it. I am now committed to life long learning.
Whatever we apply ourselves to, we can get better at.As I said at the beginning, we generally have a mix of mindsets; we can still be abundant in some areas and closed off in others. A fixed mindset is insidious, and will creep around you in a myriad of different ways if you allow it.Sometimes you can be exposed to people who trigger old patterns within you and the fears can resurface, I have experience that in the workplace with a former boss. You have to protect your mindset when this kind of challenge occurs and become aware of when you are retreating back to something that feels safer. Be bold, be brave and hold your course.My work here is by no means done. Now that I’m aware of just how important my mindset is, I am careful to look at the areas where I am still fixed and holding myself back. From that place of awareness I can work to create the right dialogue with myself to continue to set myself free, to be bold, be brave and to hold my course.
Living expansively can be our only real goal in life. Success shouldn’t be the position we hold or our social status. Real success comes in the day to day relationship with have with ourselves and the way we regard our abilities. When making choices now, I ask myself the simple question; which one will afford me the greatest opportunity for expansion?
My lived experience helps me to guide and coach others in the same direction, whether within my immediate team or across the wider business I am operating in.
If we can be successful in creating a safe space for this mindset shift to occur within the people who work within the businesses we watch over as People people, I’ll be a very happy Penfold indeed. Then we can sit back and watch as their respective rocket ships shoot for the stars, and take our brilliant businesses with them.