What Got You Here May Not Get You There


You’ve been proud of your innate ability with data. Or research. Or selling. You’ve found the thing you’re effortlessly good at, and you love doing it. You’re known for it.

Being the go-to is the foundation of your well-earned status. But there is a cost to regarding yourself through that fixed mindset. You cannot afford to rest on your laurels. Not now, when you have to give your all to meet today’s unprecedented challenges. With a fixed mindset, your all may not be enough to ensure you prevail, because what got you here may not get you there.

Instead, what you need is a mindset tilted towards growth.

Don’t prove yourself—improve yourself

You might recognize these two sides of the fixed mindset coin:

  • “I’m great. I got that. Let me show you.”

A fixed mindset says that you know pretty much all you need to know, maybe all there is to know. You answer any challenge to your expertise with evidence of your wins, and you have a lot of wins.

  • “I’m just no good at that. I’ve never been any good at that.”

And you might change the subject to discuss your success. It’s not a big deal to acknowledge an inadequacy because you can point to all your successes. It might be a little humblebrag.

The cost: Either way, you lose opportunities to grow your capabilities and grow your self-image. Every time you seek to prove your talent, rather than discover the reason you felt challenged, your fixed mindset will cost you the chance to grow. Every time you refuse a challenge because it requires skills you weren’t born with, because you’re pretty sure you won’t be the best, you close the door on growth.

When someone doubts or disagrees with you, you may be eager to point to past success in similar situations as proof that you’re right. What if, instead of defending your position, you sought to understand their doubt or disagreement? After all, you’re trying to solve a problem. You’re not competing for Most Knowledgeable.

Seek to get better, rather than look good

If someone’s doubting or objecting to your way or your view, have them tell you the source of their doubt or objection. Listen to understand, without looking for chances to defend yourself. Adopt a growth mindset—that is, focus more on getting better than on looking good—and try to see it from their perspective.

As a result, your own perspective may broaden or change. You may even improve in that area you thought you’d already mastered. A growth mindset is just that—your mind is set to grow.

Similarly, a fixed mindset leads you to believe that if you’re not good at it now, you won’t ever be any good, and that if you’re already good, you’ll always be good, so there’s no need to try. You may think it lets you off the hook. But we all need to stretch and grow to thrive through challenges. Why accept incompetence?

Instead of thinking you’re not good, what if you thought you weren’t good yet? Rather than thinking of yourself as a failure, what if you thought of a stumble getting you one step further along the path of learning? A growth mindset—a mind set to grow—just may lead to new capabilities, and real change.

You’re probably known for many things, including being very hard-working. Let the definition of hard-working include working hard to grow.

If you want to learn how leaders in your organization can cultivate the essential habits of growth mindset, click here.

Author: Sherilyn George-Clinton