WHAT IS A MINDSET?

A mindset is a set of beliefs, assumptions, the views that a person (or a group of people) hold. They determine how we handle situations in life, how we understand them and what actions we decide to take.

They are an indicator of whether our minds are ready to sustain the effort needed to achieve success – in school when we are young or in business when we become adults.

Carol Dweck is a psychology professor at Stanford University. Her fields are social and developmental psychology and her peak interests are motivation, personality, and development.

In 2006, she published a book ‘Mindset: The new psychology of success’ and, in 2012, she published ‘Mindset: How you can fulfill your potential’.

She used the term ‘mindset’ in the context of motivation and preparedness to grow. Her idea of fixed and growth mindsets was revolutionary.

Let us take a short look at these two concepts.

FIXED VS. GROWTH MINDSET

The basic difference between the two is as simple as passiveness and activeness in terms of understanding one’s talents and intelligence.

These are actually seen as two extremes on a scale, therefore one person need not have a strictly fixed or growth mindset.

People with a fixed mindset see their intelligence as fixed, unchangeable. They do not try to practice and improve their skills.

On the other hand, people with a growth mindset see their skills as developable. They believe that they will become better, more skillful and more knowledgeable through hard work.

We will go through the basic differences between the two concepts.

Fixed MindsetGrowth Mindset
FailurePermanentChance to learn
Bad criticismPersonal attackChance to improve
EffortMinimalWork hard
Preferred tasksEasyDifficult
ObstacleGive upSolve problems
Focus onResultsProcess
Taking risksNot likelyVery likely

People with a fixed mindset see talent and intelligence as something that cannot be changed.

Therefore, for them, there is no reason for any effort to be made in order to develop skills. They see failure as permanent.

If they cannot solve something now, they will not be able to do it in the future either. They understand criticism as a personal attack. They prefer to take on simple and easy tasks and choose not to put much effort into dealing with them.

When faced with an obstacle, they give up without much trying, as they do not believe that they will learn how to solve the problem. They are always focused on results. Taking risks is not something they would choose to do.

People with a growth mindset are complete opposites of the ones with a fixed mindset. For them, failure and criticism are chances to learn and improve. They put much effort into their work and choose to do difficult tasks which will help them grow.

They are not afraid of obstacles but gladly wrestle with problems to eventually solve them.

Their focus is not on the results, but on the process, because this helps them grow. They see risks as another opportunity to try something new and advance their skills.

TIPS FOR CREATING A GROWTH MINDSET

Now we will keep our attention on the growth mindset and see how its aspects influence a person who is (or wants to be) an entrepreneur.

We will take one businessman as an example (we will call him Mr. Smith) and walk with this person through the tips for creating a growth mindset.

Our entrepreneur has a small shop where he sells car parts. In order to run a successful business, he needs to adopt a growth mindset.

Let us take a look at how he may manage to achieve this.

1. Change the Fixed Mindset

The first step Mr. Smith has to take is to understand that his mindset leans towards fixed. He believes that he has developed his skills as much as was possible during his education and that they cannot be improved any more.

He also thinks that he does not need to put much effort into becoming successful as his intellect cannot be changed. This is not the attitude of a successful businessman.

If Mr. Smith wants to have a successful company, he needs to realize that he is not too old to learn new things.

Developing new skills and gaining new knowledge happens throughout our lives. We ought to be open to changes at every moment.

Every person changes over time, whether they realize that or not. People learn all the time, even without being aware of it.

When Mr. Smith becomes aware of this, he will make a big step towards adopting the growth mindset.

He will be prepared for furthering his skills, for learning about business and the goods he is selling, and for perceiving the right way to treat customers and business associates. He will understand that it is important to stand up after a fall and to take advantage of good opportunities even though they may seem risky.

A way to change this mindset is to make a conscious effort to think in the manner of the growth mindset.

Mr. Smith should try to do what seems uncomfortable if he realizes that that is the way to the advancement-wise way of thinking.

2. Recognize Your Weaknesses

After he has understood that success requires effort and that capabilities ought to be advanced, Mr. Smith is ready for step 2 – recognizing his strengths and weaknesses.

It is vital that he be aware of his strong and weak sides. With this in mind, he can make out what aspects of his knowledge need to be improved.

He may certainly decide to improve his strengths, and this should not be forgotten for sure. But maybe more attention should be paid to the weaknesses, to strengthening them.

After making a list of what he needs to learn, he ought to sort it based on the importance. The most important lack of knowledge or skills needs to be addressed first. He may be able to work on two things at once. It is up to him.

Recognizing our weaknesses has an awakening effect. We become aware of what we have to work on; our view of our own self may change.

But it is fundamental not to let this bring us down.

This should just be motivation for us to work on our skills, abilities, and knowledge.

If we choose to stay in our comfort zone and not change anything, we are surely in for failure.

In that case, we would be stuck with what we are now, which is not good enough for who we need to be in the future.

That is when people look for excuses – ‘this is not my thing’, ‘I am wasting my time with this’, etc.

To get back to Mr. Smith – this step may put in perspective his further actions.

He understood that he doesn’t have enough knowledge about certain goods from his store and that his interpersonal skills need polishing. He will work to improve that.

3. Focus on Learning

It is clear that transforming weaknesses into strengths happen via the process of learning. It may be studying from books or learning by practical means.

In any case, this is a process whose result is the gained or improved knowledge or skill.

The sole learning should be Mr. Smith’s focus.

Though the final goal should be in his perspective in order for him not to lose his way, his focus at any given moment should not be on what he wants to achieve in the end.

It takes time to learn, no matter what it is. Let us take into consideration the two things Mr. Smith labeled as his biggest weaknesses.

First, it is the knowledge about the goods that he is offering his customers. We will agree that this is very important to know.

Mr. Smith may choose to take a book, a booklet, or a manual about these and learn from them, and in the end to ask someone to ask him questions and in this way to estimate whether he has learned it or not. In this case, he has the final ‘exam’ in focus and learns in order to satisfy those questions.

But is this really the right thing to do? Though learning in the manner of a schoolchild is necessary for him at this point, it is not the only thing he needs to do to reach his goal. He ought to immerse himself in the process. Practical involvement would be a great way to do this.

For example, he may talk with customers and see what they think about the products in question.

Maybe someone knows more than him about it. Also, customer satisfaction is a very important factor when you want to recommend a product (or to use it yourself).

Second, in order to improve the interpersonal skills, he should immerse in the selling part of the business. He may want to watch his employee who works in the sales position or observe salespeople in other stores.

He certainly needs to try it out himself and spend some time selling the goods himself. He may ask someone for advice. The focus should be on learning, experiencing, communicating.

4. The Process Matters, Not the Results

This step is closely connected with the last one, so we will just add a few words about why it is important to focus on the process, and not on the results.

We are talking about developing a growth mindset, the one where we are open to improving, learning new things.

As we have already mentioned, the process of learning is important here.

The result is certainly the motivator.

However, having only the result in focus does not help us go through the process easily. We will not enjoy learning. Maybe we will fail to notice a piece of important information.

It is not rare that we get new ideas from something we are doing. One information may trigger a chain of thoughts which ultimately lead to a new marketing idea or how to present a new product.

If we look at this tip from the perspective of a growing business rather than of personal growth, it still makes sense.

Mr. Smith’s goal is to turn his small store into a big supplier at the national level. Instead of thinking only about this goal, it would be much better for him to enjoy the slight growths his store makes regularly.

In this process, he will meet many interesting people – customers, partners, collaborators.

He will visit conferences, fairs, bigger suppliers from which he will learn how to run his business. Going through all this without really focusing on it would be a waste of means and time.

5. Difficulties Are Opportunities

No endeavor goes by without some obstacles. They are those that make us stronger.

Every problem, be it small and meaningless or big and important, is an opportunity for us to show how skilled and mature we are. People with fixed mindsets see those as reasons (or excuses) to give up. Mr. Smith used to be like that.

However, after starting his own business, he realized that this is not a suitable way to go. Slowly, he changed his manner of thinking.

Now he does not see difficulties as tragic obstacles which prevent him from reaching his goal, but as a challenge which is an inseparable part of success.

He is not afraid of facing problems and he is excited to deal with them. After this change, his business started growing faster and faster.

Difficulties put people out of their comfort zones, and that is why the instinctive reaction is to run away from it.

However, it is much better for us to gather our strength and bravely go through it. We will emerge stronger, we will jump higher, we will run faster. We will make better decisions.

What does not kill you, makes you stronger. This became the motto of Mr. Smith.

He has experienced many problems since he started his business – he had a period of a very small number of customers, the sign with the name of his store was printed with a spelling mistake, he had an issue with the amount of money needed to pay taxes – but he lived through them all. He was calm and decisive. He did not let obstacles get him down.

6. Failure Leads to Success

The next step, closely related to the one above, is concerned with failure.

As Mr. Smith is safely treading the path from a fixed to a growth mindset, he is learning to accept failure as an opportunity to learn and develop both his personality and his business. He is walking towards success.

It is normal to fail. It can happen. We may try something new, which may seem risky. There are two possible outcomes – success or failure.

Though we always want to succeed, it is smart to be aware that we may fail. And we should not be afraid of that.

Being afraid of failure makes us want to retreat to the comfort zone, to give up, to shy away.

The lucky ones who are strong enough to deal with these feelings are successful kind. Mr. Smith used his willpower to transform himself from a loser to a winner.

Failing at something is another learning opportunity. We learn how not to do something. And that certainly is a piece of valuable knowledge.

Mr. Smith has several failures. For example, he made a big discount hoping to attract more customers, but after some time noticed that his revenue became lower due to a bad calculation of the discount. But he did not close the store. He found a solution and got back on his feet.

How we interpret failure is an indicator of how we will deal with it in the future.

We may see failure as a definitive thing which shoes that we are not capable of doing something.

On the other hand, we may see failure as just one attempt.

In the next one, we will improve what we did wrong in the first one; maybe it will work.

If not, there is the third attempt, the fourth, as many as we need. Is it not better not to give up?

7. Do Not Fear Criticism

The last piece of advice for our dear Mr. Smith is not to fear criticism.

This may be very hard. It is in our nature to want other people to have a good opinion of us. However, we should not let a bad critique take us down. Not everyone will agree with our choices.

Not everyone agreed with Mr. Smith’s decision to open a car parts store. Nevertheless, he did. And he does not think it was a mistake.

It was hard for him to turn down the volume on the voices that were telling him not to do it.

But, as he learned that that is a characteristic of a fixed mindset and that he would not succeed if he listens to them, he managed to change. Mind you, it was not easy, but it was worthwhile.

There are various sources to get feedback about your business. It may be the customers.

This is actually very useful, as we can get first-hand information about what to improve in our business.

The feedback may come from our business associates or partners, or even from the people who are close to us, like our family or friends.

It is very important to remember not to take criticism personally. We should sort what we hear and choose good ideas – they are bound to be there.

FINAL WORD

To summarize, a mindset is a set of beliefs that guides us through our lives – both personal and business-related.

There is a scale with two extremes – a fixed mindset at one end and a growth mindset at the other end. All of us are somewhere on that line.

People who have a fixed mindset believe that the intelligence and talent a person has is not changeable, that it is fixed. They are not open to recognizing opportunities to learn and grow. They do not like to take risks. They prefer to do easy tasks which require little effort.

On the other hand, people with a growth mindset see talent and intelligence as changeable. They are open to changes and learning. They always seek opportunities to advance their knowledge. This mindset is a recipe for success.

You have read here about Mr. Smith, a small entrepreneur who has changed from a fixed to a growth mindset. You saw which tips he followed and which hardships he endured.

If you want to create a growth mindset as an entrepreneur, you should follow some basic tips. You should recognize your mindset. If it leans towards fixed, find a way to switch to the growth mindset.

You should have a clear picture of what your good and bad sides are. It is important to cultivate the strengths and to improve the weaknesses.

After pinpointing them, you should sort them according to their significance and make a plan on how to turn them into strengths.

Transforming a weakness into strength is achieved through learning and practicing. Remember that we learn during our whole life and do your best not to lose motivation.

An entrepreneur always has new developments to follow, new products to sell, and new programs to use.

While you learn, enjoy the process. You can get more than just the desired knowledge if you immerse yourself completely.

Do not be afraid of unpleasant situations. They may be some smaller obstacles on your way to success. You may fail in something you are trying to achieve.

Do not give up, this is a chance for you to draw some conclusions and to improve your mistakes next time.

And lastly, do not fear criticism – it is an opportunity for you to hear something about your business from another angle.

All in all, the ultimate advice is to be open and hard-working. Keep up the effort and it will produce good results!

How to Create a Growth Mindset as an Entrepreneur

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