In our personal career path, we can be our own best friends or our own worst enemies. This is largely due to our mindset and what we believe about our ability. In working with leaders, I find that people have often set their own glass ceiling. Researcher Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University confirms, “Much of what might be preventing you from fulfilling your potential grows out of your mindset.”
Often, the difference between success and failure is your mindset; those with a fixed mindset will be limited as to how much they can achieve, while those with a growth mindset will not limit their ability to succeed. According to Dr. Dweck’s research, those individuals with a growth mindset outperform those with a fixed mindset. Those with a fixed mindset tend to do what validates their talent and are consumed with proving how good they are. Those with a growth mindset have the attitude that they’ll do what it takes and will apply what they learn from mistakes to develop their talent.
Where do you fall? Ask yourself the following questions: Do you believe intelligence is a fixed trait, without room for improvement or growth? When you make a mistake, do you try to cover it up or hide it? Do you make a point to conceal your deficiencies and take on projects only if you are sure you are capable of doing it? If you answered “yes”to any of these questions, you likely are limiting yourself.
Even if you feel that you have a growth mindset, we often limit ourselves in ways that aren’t as obvious. For example, how often do we say to ourselves,“No, I can’t go for that promotion. I don’t know enough. I’m not good enough. What if they find out I’m really not that smart?” That’s a limiting mindset.
Limited mindsets manifest themselves in all kinds of environments. Take, for example, the world record for the 100-meter dash. For years, it was believed that man couldn’t break the “10-second barrier”— it was commonly accepted that no runner could complete the 100-meter dash in under ten seconds. But that record was defied in 1983 by runner Carl Lewis. Once that glass ceiling was shattered, six more sprinters completed the dash in less than ten seconds during the 1980s. Since that time, nearly 100 sprinters have broken the 10-second barrier. All it took was one person defying the “unbreakable”record, and numerous others followed suit.
Our mindset ties directly into our emotional intelligence. Think this is all just mushy, soft- skills stuff? Think again. According to a recent study1from the University of Bonn, published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior in November 2014, individuals who displayed emotional intelligence were more likely to bring home a bigger paycheck than their emotionally-stunted colleagues. Emotional intelligence is a measure of your self-awareness and awareness of others. Are you self-aware about your own limiting beliefs?
So what can you do to grow your mindset? Set “stretch goals”that force you to stretch outside your comfort zone. Try to set goals that are focused on process and mastery, not goals that are solely focused on outcome. And finally, look for opportunities to fail. Yes, you read that right! Although most of us fear failure, we often learn more from our mistakes and failures than from our successes. Mistakes can lead to great ideas and new opportunities. So start looking for these kinds of opportunities. Your brain will find what you tell it to look for.
What can be learned from this? Bottom line: If you think you can’t, you won’t. When you limit yourself and your capabilities, you won’t break that glass ceiling or defy the odds. But when you unlock your mindset to allow for all opportunities, the possibilities open up to allow for remarkable achievements.
1Momm T., Blickle G., Liu Y., Wihler A., Kholin M. and Menges J. I. (2015) It pays to have an eye for emotions: Emotion recognition ability indirectly predicts annual income, J. Organiz. Behav., 36, pages 147–163. doi: 10.1002/job.1975.
About the Author: Kerry Goyette is the founder and president of Aperio Consulting Group, a human capital consulting firm based in Columbia, MO. Aperio’s mission is to help organizations increase effectiveness of their biggest asset, their people. Kerry holds her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Missouri with post-graduate studies in neuroscience and psychometrics. She was also recently elected to the executive MBA Advisory Board for the University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business.