Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fixed Mind: Saying No to Yourself Before You Ever Start

I’m a huge fan of the book MINDSET: THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESS by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

According to Dweck, a person with a growth mindset eagerly tackles new experiences even if that person knows he/she may not at first be successful. A growth-mindset person understands that what’s important is the learning that takes place in trying new experiences. It’s not a question of how smart or how stupid someone is. It’s a matter of willingness to learn new things even at the risk of failing.

In my own life I extend this concept to business. Although I know a great deal about marketing, I can learn new ideas from almost anyone. Therefore, I’m always open to suggestions and recommendations. And if at first a suggestion doesn’t seem to fit my personal brand or my project, I’ll consider how that suggestion could be changed in some way to fit my personal brand or project.

In my treadmill-for-two exercising at the local gym, my business partner and I frequently take ideas and push them and pull them into different shapes before finding the shape that best fits our needs. This is classic brainstorming.

And it is important for teens, young people, and people much farther along in their careers to have a growth-mindset in order to be open to suggestions from others. Obviously, each suggestion has to be evaluated on its own merits. Yet there’s often a kernel of a good idea even in an idea that seems way out there. That’s where the classic brainstorming with friends, family, teachers or mentors comes in – so you can uncover that kernel and then nurture it in new directions

I encountered a particular version of a fixed mindset a few months ago. That time I totally missed the signals that the person wanted her writing validated rather than being open to suggestions in improving her writing – the ostensible reason for which she contacted me.

Moral of this post? Two points: First, a growth-mindset is a wonderful life asset. If you don’t have it, read Carol Dweck’s book in order to start opening your mind. Two, when dealing with people who have asked a specific question of you, make sure that they really want an answer rather than simply validation of their own opinion. You will be saved aggravation if you learn to spot early on the people who simply want validation.

And, of course, if that person is your boss, the question of validating someone else’s opinion takes on a wholly different meaning. We’ll leave that subject for another post.

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Alex said...

Excellent points and very thoughtful advice!

Phyllis Zimbler Miller said...

Glad you liked the advice -- and thanks for leaving a comment!