What mindset do you have?

I am always inspired by the people I get to work with by their creativity, courage, energy and talents. I had the pleasure and privilege of working with Jessica Podzebenko last year and she has agreed to share one of her thought provoking posts here.

Jessica is a writer, blogger, lawyer, stay at home mother and explorer at heart. Having grown up in New Zealand, Jessica has lived in Belgium, London, Canada, France and New York, and travelled many places in between. Sydney is now home, where she raises her growing family and writes a blog to feed her mind.


To read more of Jessica Podzebenko’s writing, go to www.acuriousdot.com.

My normal summer holiday reading list consists of several books I have received from family for Christmas – it’s a box of chocolates; you never know what you’ll get. This past holiday, my annual catch up with my life long neighbour at our beach house resulted in her loaning me a gem of a book – ‘Mindset’.
The book is the brainchild of American psychologist, Carol Dweck, and explores her idea that people either have a ‘fixed mindset’ or a ‘growth mindset’.  As simple as it may sound, the impact and difference is critical to one’s success.

Dweck describes our mindset as our set of beliefs – what we believe to be true about ourselves and about our fundamental character traits.

People with a fixed mindset think their qualities and traits are fixed – you get what you are born with and can’t change it.  This mindset can go to qualities like intelligence, artistic ability or sporting talent – you are born ‘bright’ or ‘sporty’. That given talent, rather than hard work, will determine your success.

The result, she argues, is that people of this mindset worry if they are musical enough or bright enough, and feel that they constantly have to prove both to themselves and others that they pass muster – that they have a certain degree of sporting talent, or a particular level of intelligence.

In contrast, people with a growth mindset view their qualities as evolving – they can work on their inherent qualities and abilities, and through hard work and commitment, grow and develop these qualities throughout their lives.  Instead of being limited by a fixed view of their talent, those with a growth mindset relish a life of learning and self-development. There is the sense of the unknown – what I can achieve with a significant degree of persistence, hard work and passion? It is acknowledged that people are indeed born with a certain level of intelligence, physical co-ordination or musical prowess, but the growth mindset is that human potential really is unknown until we push and stretch ourselves.

In Dweck’s view, living with a growth mindset spurs on a passion for self-development and cultivates resilience – building blocks for success. Instead of fearing failure, someone with a growth mindset sees failure is as an opportunity to learn and grow.

As a recent ‘graduate’ of Gai Foskett’s superb coaching sessions, this book struck a chord with me – both in terms of my recent work with Gai and my role as a Mum and how I might help foster a growth mindset in my boys.  It reminded me of many things I worked on with Gai – personal beliefs and values, persistence and setting limitless goals.

For me, the coaching experience involved a lot of introspection, probing and, I might add, hard work and stretch on my part. Without blowing my trumpet too much, the book resonated with me as I truly felt like I could stake claim to having a growth mindset – I grew a lot working with Gai, and realised I could grow and be a lot more.

I worked hard to unearth what it is that I really, really want to do – by identifying what I am good at, what I am passionate about and what gives me meaning.  Yes, I was a successful lawyer – I had reached a level of professional success objectively deemed  ‘acceptable’ but it wasn’t enough for me.

Now a stay at home mother and bamboozled by a number of passions and ideas, niggling away at me were goals that had been simmering for years. One in particular was to write for myself and put my words and ideas out there, while satisfying my passion for exploring.

So it took some workshopping with Gai, some ‘stretching’ and commitment to make that hard choice of actually putting my money where my mouth was, and to just ‘do it’. To take action and write, and commit to doing something I loved. I did it. And in doing so I grew, I put in effort and the result is seeing my dormant talent develop and improve. The endpoint is a wonderful, and at times scary, unknown.

The philosophy of the book also ties in with advances in neuroplasticity and the ability for our brain to change and develop, another area discussed in my coaching. Through every chapter I thought to myself, if Gai hasn’t read this, then it must go straight to the top of her reading list.

For me, the book linked a lot of ideas and concepts I knew about, such as not praising children for intelligence (praise effort instead), constant self-improvement, resilience, and tied them together in a simple, cohesive way.  By using and exploring the concept of ‘mindset’ in this way, the penny seemed to just drop for me.  The easy to read book is well worth it.

Source: www.mindsetonline.com ‘Mindset’ by Carol Dweck.




Gai Foskett is one of two Master Certified Coaches in New Zealand. Gai specialises in executive leadership coaching.
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