Growth mindset in business

What stands in the way of your making your business a success or growing continuously? If you are a solopreneur operating your business on your own, it could be that it is your mindset!

The above is not just a woolly claim but is backed up by an array of robust psychological studies, as Carole Dweck shows in her incredibly important million-copy selling book Mindset. If we have a limited mindset, we imagine that our capabilities are fixed, and we define ourselves in terms of them. For instance, if I believe my mathematical skills are fixed, then I will think that poor results in maths tests are an external sign that I have reached my limit or ‘glass ceiling’ with this particular ability, and I will grow despondent and give up trying to improve it. If on the other hand I have a growth mindset and I get poor results in maths tests, I won’t assume my mathematical skills are fixed but instead I will be curious to figure out what was holding me back from doing better, so I could turn the ‘failure’ into a learning experience. In fact, as Dweck shows, there is plenty of evidence that our skills are not fixed and can be continuously improved. This is what the growth mindset implicitly assumes.

What is particularly interesting is that the effect of mindset on capabilities does not just apply to the traditional set of capabilities which we call ‘IQ’; it also applies to a whole range of capabilities, from sporting and artistic ones to emotional intelligence, where our fixed mindset can also put an artificial limit on what we are capable of achieving.

Think about what this means for your business – which areas do you think you are ‘weakest’, or perhaps have given up on ever being good at? I suggest you write a list of them. Now ask yourself: do you believe you have fixed ability in those areas, and you have reached your ‘glass ceiling’ in them? Chances are, you haven’t. Whether it is networking, numbers, confidence dealing with difficult customers, persuasion, marketing, sales… whatever it is, approaching these with curiosity of a growth mindset, you can continually improve them, and give much higher chances of success to your business.

Belief in fixed abilities and ‘glass ceilings’ is pervasive, but as Dweck argues, that it is not supported by the best psychological evidence. True, these studies cannot tell us how far our abilities can extend (this would be something only you can find out!). Nevertheless, they allow us to say that the feeling that you have reached a personal glass ceiling doesn’t mean that you really have.

The reason why it is useful to identify your beliefs and feelings about your different capabilities involved in running your business is because it would allow you to be more strategic and more efficient. Here is in what way:

  • It’s great to be aware of the areas you are naturally excellent at, so you can allow yourself to focus on doing more of this – because isn’t it the reason you’ve become a solopreneur on the first place?!
  • Once you have identified areas you tend to avoid (consciously or unconsciously!) because you feel not good at them (or it’s just not enjoyable for you), you will be able to make an important decision about your strategy: either to adopt a growth mindset and just get on with it or, if the first option is not appealing, to delegate it to someone else who can do it better than you.

At the end of the day, whatever needs to be done for your business to grow and be successful needs to be done, one way or another!

In conclusion, I would say that Dweck’s growth mindset emphasises how intelligence alone just isn’t enough. It’s what we do with it that’s important. So, whenever you feel “stuck” in your own ways, combine this premise with Confucius’ saying: “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop”, to find inspiration for changing your mindset and discover new possibilities for growing your business.

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