Is Your Present Mindset Keeping You From Reaching Your Full Potential?

"Talent without work is useless, thank God." – Mark Twain

It is common for people to attribute the success of the most creative writers, businessmen, musicians, athletes, and more to the science of genetics—wanting to believe they are just “born with it.”

The truth is, according to the findings of Carol Dweck, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of personality, social psychology, and developmental psychology, it’s the mindset that causes the most creative geniuses in art, literature, business, science, and sports to achieve superior results.

Her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, demonstrates how your mindset causes you to respond to failure differently.

In one example, she talks about professional tennis player John McEnroe. Considered to be a natural-born athlete from an early age, in 1979, McEnroe lost in three straight sets in a doubles match at Wimbledon. He also lost his serve twice while no one else did. Thinking back on the experience, McEnroe says, “That was the ultimate embarrassment.” He handled his failure by not playing mixed doubles again for twenty years.

In contrast, professional basketball player, Michael Jordan, was not considered a “natural.” In fact, he was cut from his high school varsity team and wasn’t recruited by the college he wanted to play for, nor was he drafted by the first two NBA teams that could have chosen him. He, on the other hand, met his failures with his legendary dogged practice.

So how is it that two successful people behave so differently when facing failure? And how is it that Jordan, who, according to Dweck, was not considered a natural reached a level of success so much greater than that of McEnroe, who was considered a natural?

Dweck discovered from her research that when it comes to failure there are two perspectives to how talents are developed: a fixed mindset, which is what McEnroe displays, and a growth mindset, which is what Jordan displays.

Dweck says, “When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world—the world of fixed traits—success is about proving you are smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other—the world of changing qualities—it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.”

The fixed mindset believes:

  • You cannot grow or learn more in an area, no matter how hard you try.
  • Risk and effort are two things you feel might reveal your inadequacies or demonstrate you aren’t up to the task.
  • Everything is about the outcome. If you fail or are not the best, your effort is wasted.
  • Failure defines you.
  • Getting rejected, such as writing a promotion that doesn’t beat the control, losing a client, or getting a low score in your peer review from an instructor, is interpreted to mean you’re not smart or talented.

The growth mindset:

  • Believes you can learn when you put forth the effort, time, and energy and commit to focus on the area you want to grow in.
  • Values the process of what you are doing—regardless of the outcome.
  • Believes failure does not define you.
  • Loves challenge and believes in effort.
  • Shows resiliency when faced with setbacks.
  • Views talent as something you develop and ability as something you build over time.
  • Experiences greater success than fixed mindsets.
  • Defines failure differently than fixed mindsets. For example, one of the top executives at the company my husband works for is a growth-minded leader. Once he held a meeting and asked, “How many of you have had a big failure this year?” When no one raised their hand, he said, “If you haven’t failed, then you aren’t trying hard enough.”

    With the growth mindset, if you’re not reaching for things, then it means you’re not fulfilling your potential.

When you have a growth mindset, you are at an advantage because believing talents can be developed allows you to fulfill your potential and achieve greater success.

It’s possible to have a fixed mindset about some things and a growth mindset in other areas too.

For example, you might have a fixed mindset about being able to get your copywriting website built and think it will be difficult for you to do.

But when it comes to taking AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, you might be in a growth mindset and believe you can learn to become a better copywriter.

The good news is that you can change your mindset at any stage of life and develop a growth mindset.

When you shift your thinking to the growth mindset and meet the challenge to learn, you will reach your full potential. And by reaching your full potential, you’ll be more successful too.

Here are nine tips for how to change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset:

Change your internal dialogue from judgmental to growth-oriented. Your beliefs are what cause your problems.We all have internal dialogue going on all the time. With a fixed mindset, your internal dialogue is focused on judging …

“This means I’m not cut out to be a copywriter.”
“This means I’m a better person than they are.”
“This means I’m a bad wife.”
“This means I’m selfish.”

The growth mindset’s internal dialogue focuses more on taking what’s happening to you and looking for what you can learn and what action you can take …

“What can I learn from this?”
“How can I improve?”
“How can I help my client do better?”

By being aware of the conversation going on inside your head, you can work to change the way you think. This will help you stop being intimidated by big dreams that are paralyzing you and give you ways to make your dreams real. And before you know it, you’ll find you’ve changed your fixed mindset dialogue from saying things like, “Don’t do it. It’s not worth the risk. Don’t share your writing. Your dream could be destroyed,” to a growth mindset that says things like, “Make it happen. Develop your skills. Learn. Improve. Become a better writer. Pursue your dream.”

Think differently about your mind. Many people think we are born smart, dumb, or average. However, Dweck cites research and numerous studies which show your brain is a muscle which grows when you practice and learn new things. The more you challenge yourself, the stronger your brain gets and the more it grows. This means things you once found difficult or maybe even impossible become easy over time as you practice.

Have patience with yourself. Realize that learning takes time and practice. Instead of focusing on your successes and failures, try focusing on whether or not you learn something new each day.

When you experience rejections, reach out for information that will help you improve. When you don’t get the result you were hoping for, think about your goal and what you can do to stay on track. Ask yourself what kinds of steps you could take to succeed or what information you could gather.

For example, if you are competing against other copywriters for someone’s business and aren’t chosen, you could say to your contact, “I don’t want to dispute your decision. I just want to know if I decide to submit a proposal again, how can I improve?” Or if you have a piece of copy that doesn’t do well, you could ask an instructor or a copywriter who is more experienced than you what you could do to improve it.

The critical thing is to make a concrete, growth-oriented plan and to stick to it.

Make a vivid concrete plan. We often plan to do difficult things, but then don’t follow through. We think, “I’ll do that next week …” and then never get to it. What works is to think of something you need to do, want to learn, or a problem you must confront, and then think of “vivid details” for following through. Think about where you will do it. When you will do it. And how you will do it.

For instance, “Tomorrow, after I drop my son at school, I’ll get a lemonade, close the door to my office, and call that company I want to write for.”

Don’t let failures define you. Dweck cites findings of sports researchers on what makes people successful. They found, “Those with the growth mindset found success in doing their best, in learning and improving. And this was exactly what we find in the champions.” They also found that growth-mindset people found setbacks “motivating,” “informative,” and a “wake-up call.”

Talk to copywriters who’ve successfully made the leap to the writer's life. Going from your previous profession to the writer’s life is a huge step. You can’t possibly know everything. Even after you’ve been studying for a while, there will be things you won’t know yet. Tell yourself making a switch to the writer’s life takes adjustment and learning.There are things you will need to find out and learn. Instead of hiding your insecurities, talk to copywriters at AWAI’s FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair and on the AWAI forums who’ve made the leap. You’ll find they are more than willing to tell you how they felt and what they did to overcome any difficulties you are experiencing. As you speak with other copywriters, you’ll start to feel like you’re a part of an organization that wants to help you succeed and grow.

Commit to growth. Effort isn’t everything and not all effort is created equal. Consider the benefits of time and effort.When you hear about or read about the copywriters who have “made it,” a fixed mindset can sometimes make us think, “I should be up there.” However, it’s important to realize that some people stand out because of their commitment and effort. If you find yourself thinking a successful copywriter you admire has extraordinary abilities and achieved success with little effort, go and find out the truth. Find out the tremendous effort that went into their accomplishment. Then ask yourself what are some steps you can take to get there too. Think about new ways to look at effort. As you put more effort in, you will see you get more of the rewards you want.

Don’t let setbacks paralyze you. Realize your old beliefs aren’t just removed and replaced. The brightest, most resourceful people can become paralyzed by setbacks. Oftentimes, we just need to take a simple action to make things better, but we don’t.

Then when things go wrong, we feel powerless or incapable.

This is a sign of your fixed mindset, and even after you change, you may still experience this, but not to worry. Your new beliefs are “taking their place alongside the old ones, and as they become stronger, they (will) give you a different way to think, feel, and act.”

Billie Jean King says, “It’s all about what you want to look back and say.” Dweck agrees by saying, “You can look back and say, ‘I could have been … ,’ or you can look back and say, ‘I gave it my all for the things I valued.’ Think about what you want to look back and say. Then choose your mindset.”

By changing your internal dialogue and the way you think about your mind, focusing on learning and effort, and making a vivid plan and sticking to it, you’ll find your mindset shifting from fixed to growth.

You'll soon transition from a “judge and be-judged framework” to a “learn and help-learn framework.”

And doing so, you’ll live a richer, more courageous, and better life—one where you view an obstacle as an opportunity to learn and not something that throws you for a loop and slows down your progress.

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Published: June 24, 2011

14 Responses to “Is Your Present Mindset Keeping You From Reaching Your Full Potential?”

  1. this is a great summary of the book. thank you for the huge effort and the enormously valuable tips on how to improve ones mindset. Great job!


  2. Excellent article! Gotta go read the book now. Thanks for showing us how a growth mindset is the key to changing those internal dialogues that no longer serve us.

    Debbie Newman

  3. Found the article fascinating reading about your mindset keeping you from reaching your full potential. Just hope I can get past those barriers and reach my potential, will certainly be trying my best. It's in my hands.


  4. This article has hit the nail on the head for me. I was raised to believe that if I wasn't perfect, then I was worthless.

    I know I need to change my mindset. What I need is more info on how to do it. It is difficult to change 60+ years of habit.

    Guest (Nancy)

  5. Wow! Another great article. Thanks for sharing. This is very much in line with what the concepts of "Talent Is Overrated," by Colvin. I was fixed in my thinking for the longest time and still sometimes fight it but ultimately I've overcome all those barriers. I used to beat myself up for not finishing the Accelerated course. Now, today I've landed many high profit clients simply by changing my mindset. Again, very insightful stuff. Thanks again! ac

    Anthony Contreras

  6. Great, great article. Now I gotta go and get the book :0)

    Guest (NewbieWriter)

  7. Great article, Cyndi, and so true!

    Guest (Melanie VanNuys)

  8. Cindy,

    You did a great job summarizing this wonderful book, I'll have to read it now. People get "stuck" in their thinking, and this article did a great job in showing how you can have a "growth mindset".

    I agree that it's never too late to change your mindset! Old dogs can learn new tricks.

    Thanks for the great info,


    Tonimarie Marrese

  9. Cindy, My simple comment on this particular article is that it is a great piece of work. Surely the way we think determines what we turn out to be. In fact it is an eye opener. I am working on fulfilling what I plan to do.

    Thanks a lot Christine

    Christine Muleme

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