Are You in the Right Mindset to Succeed?

Cindy Cyr here – your guide this week to The Writer’s Life …

Last week, I read one of the most powerful books I’ve read in a very long time.

It helped me understand how to deal with success. How to deal with failure. Why I give up at times after a failed attempt. Where my perfectionist side comes from. And most importantly, what I can do to change my mindset and achieve more success.

Yesterday, I mentioned mindset as one of the obstacles for selling.

The book I read, Mindset: The Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck, helps you see how mindset drives every aspect of your life from your copywriting career to how you sell your services to your relationships and how you parent your children.

Dweck, a leading expert in motivation and psychology, discovered that everyone has one of two mindsets.

With a fixed mindset, the belief is you either have talent and ability or you don’t. You have to prove yourself over and over again. You have to look talented or demonstrate talent always. And if you don’t succeed, you are a failure and will either give up or make excuses as to why you failed.

With a growth mindset, the belief is that talents and ability can be developed and are built over time. If you aren’t growing and learning, then you are failing. You love challenges, learning, and helping others learn.

Apply the growth mindset and you’ll achieve results. Apply the fixed mindset and you’ll become stagnant and may even quit.

After reading the book, I observed my 10-year-old son, Dalton.

Dalton is a songwriter, singer, and musician, and performs all over Jacksonville, Florida, where we live. He started performing a little over a year ago after he tried out for a local musical and discovered he liked performing in front of an audience.

He practices about an hour a day, takes guitar and voice lessons, and works on songwriting a few days a week.

But after reading this book, I was stunned to realize Dalton was in a fixed mindset.

After all, he’s accomplished. He works at his craft and is successful.

However, he clearly demonstrates a fixed mindset and often judges himself harshly. For example, he just began writing songs in October of this past year and hasn’t spent a whole lot of time on it. However, during a recent songwriting session, he got upset while trying to play the new song on the guitar, read the words, and sing all at the same time. He started saying, “I suck at this. I’m terrible. I can’t do this.”

When I pointed out to him that he was just beginning to learn how to do this and not to be so hard on himself, he said, “But I’ve been playing guitar for a long time. I shouldn’t make mistakes.”

He didn’t start out in a fixed mindset, though. When he first started singing and playing guitar, he would spend hours practicing and was focused on learning. He’d pick the hardest song possible to learn and practice over and over. I even remember one day when he sang for almost 6 hours straight all on his own.

But as the months passed, he expected to get a song down in a short amount of time. And if he played a piece on the guitar during a performance and messed up, he would drop it from his set.

What made him change?

Based on Dweck’s research, I believe it is because of the praise Dalton received. He consistently has people tell him he is going to be the next American Idol. People say things like, “You are so talented,” or “You have a gift,” or “You’re someone to watch; you’ll go far.”

Girls tell him he is “the next Justin Bieber” and ask for autographs and to have their picture taken with him.

But … people rarely, if ever, recognize or compliment him on the effort and practice he puts in.

The good news is that you can use Dweck’s methods for applying the growth mindset to make a change in your life. Plus, you’ll start noticing results quickly. (For tips on how to change your mindset to a growth mindset, check out my article Is Your Present Mindset Keeping You from Reaching Your Full Potential?)

About a week after I started applying the growth mindset techniques I learned in Dweck’s book, I began to see a change.

For instance, at breakfast one day, I asked everyone in my family, “What did you learn yesterday that will help you grow today?”

Dalton was the first to jump in with his answer, “I learned I need to be more patient with myself when playing guitar.”

Personally, I had a fixed mindset about putting up a money-making website for over a year. I had the idea, did the research, mapped out a plan, wrote lots of content, but had a roadblock when it came to building the actual site. I didn’t think I could do it because I didn’t see myself as a “techie.”

Since I read Dweck’s book, I’ve examined this more closely, made a specific plan of how to tackle this roadblock, and have already taken steps towards getting my site up.

Every day presents you with ways to grow and help others around you grow. Here are five steps to how you can grow your mindset starting today:

Look for your chances to grow every day. Ask yourself, “What are the opportunities for learning and growth today for both myself and the others around me?”

Make a plan. Write out a plan with specifics on when, where, and how you will make these opportunities work for you. By answering when, where, and how, your plan becomes “concrete.”

Deal with setbacks. The best way to do this is by re-asking yourself when, where, and how you will make opportunities work for you. Then make a new plan.

Do it! Keep looking for opportunities to grow every day—regardless of how bad you feel. People with a growth mindset plow through even when they feel bad, depressed, or upset. They take charge of their success. When you do this, you’ll learn how to compensate when you need to.

Ask this question when you succeed. When you succeed, don’t forget to ask yourself, “What do I have to do to maintain and continue to grow?”

Grow your mindset and keep it in your thoughts. Learn how to keep going when you have setbacks. You’ll find you are achieving more, moving from the impossible to seeming natural. And you’ll feel more alive and more courageous in your efforts.

Do you have a story where you used a growth mindset to keep going and conquer a challenge? I’d love to hear it. Share it with me in the comments below.

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Published: June 28, 2011

3 Responses to “Are You in the Right Mindset to Succeed?”

  1. Great article, Cindy! I actually had my 12-year old son read it, because he is talented, too, but hard on himself. (Hmm...wonder where he gets that from?) Kids at school call him "little Michael" after Michael Jackson! He's performed out a couple times and hoping to do more. This helps.

    Steve Roller

  2. Excellent article. I'm fascinated with growth. A few years ago I solicited a business owner to allow me to build her a website. Surprisingly, she agreed. I've been involved with e-commerce for over 14 years though my proficiency was lacking in building a website from scratch. I probably put off beginning the task for over two weeks but finally gathered the nerve to dive in. After all, I had made my own bed. After viewing some tutorials and completing some in-depth study the task was accomplished. My client was elated. She remains my most valued client and great friend to this day.


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