Editor's note: Brian O'Neill, CMSWire Contributor and former chief client officer for FIS, wrote for CX and other teams in his former organization a series of articles. Each were titled, “The Path ... " with each edition being a new take. For example, he would discuss culture, leadership, ownership, purpose, etc. In his six-plus years in his CX role, he sent out 286 notes with the intention to empower, reinforce and frame his company's mission by sharing insights to help his team improve its game and increase its level of engagement in what it wanted to accomplish. He revives some of these notes and adds some current perspective in this Fall 2022 CMSWire series. 

In early 2017, I brought forward the idea of a "growth mindset" in an edition of The Path to help my team as we were confronting a number of changes (don't worry, we'll address change in a later edition) and wanted to surface what may well have been an underpinning of their hesitation to embrace the new, the uncomfortable, the difficult.

Would we be open to what it takes to embrace a growth mindset?

The Benefits — and Challenges — of Growth

By definition, growth is the process of increasing in physical size. Let's face it, growth can be good, really good, and not so great. Your saving and 401(k) are growing? Great! Your waistline is growing? Umm, not so great. You get the idea.

When it comes to a mindset, it is fair to say that all of us would lean on the side of being intrigued or excited by having an expanding mindset, one that continues to grow and seemingly evolve. This is most certainly the case if your other option is that of a fixed mindset. The "it is what it is and that's all there is to it" thinking.

Again, if we are being honest with ourselves, who would willingly admit to not wanting to grow, to evolve, to learn, to take on failure and make it an opportunity?

Well, that's the joy of being human.

Think of it from a "fear factor" perspective: where is there more comfort . . . is it in doing your best and just saying, "well, this isn't for me," or, embracing something difficult and be excited by the journey of solving the problem?

Had we been operating with a fixed mindset?

Related Article: The Path to Excellence, Part 5: Inspirational Leadership

The Roots of the Growth Mindset

The idea of the growth mindset first appeared over 30 years ago, when Dr. Carol Dweck and her colleagues became interested in students' attitudes about failure. They noticed that some students rebounded while other students seemed devastated by even the smallest setbacks.

Dr. Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence.

Here is a visualization of the two types of mindsets:


Again, while we may fancy ourselves of a growth mindset, the reality is that it is less likely to be binary and much more accurate to describe where we fall as part of a continuum from FIXED — to — MIXED — to — GROWTH and that is totally fine.

The key is in recognizing that you, the individual, have the power to overcome a fixed mindset that may be limiting to you in your career or even in relationships to one that is more growth oriented. In fact, even the belief that you can achieve a growth mindset begins to fire-up the brain to make that a reality.

Related Article: Can CIOs Change Fixed Organizational Mindsets for Digital Transformation?

Learning Opportunities

Can You Break Free From Fixed Mindset?

Back to the fear factor (that pesky almond-shaped mass of gray matter in our brain called the amygdala) and success. We tend to think of athletes that have demonstrated such dominance of a particular sport, but forget the time, energy, and effort put forth to get them there. It was Michael Jordan who was cut from his high school basketball team. A fixed mindset would have quit . . ."I'm either good at it or not good."

Not so fast.

Jordan himself is quoted as saying, “the mental toughness and the heart are a lot stronger than some of the physical advantages you might have. I’ve always said that, and I’ve always believed that.”

Here is our collective reality . . . have you ever been really good at something that is fairly difficult on the very first try?

Walking? Reading? Skiing? Skating? Coding? Public Speaking?

Dare I say that your level of resilience may well be associated with your mindset?

It's not a big leap, I get that, but why let anything hold you back?

Start with belief, take some action, watch how you grow and how this fortifies your belief that creates confidence and even more action driving even bigger and better results.

Ah yes, the self-fulfilling prophecy: they are the best kind and the ones that break the barriers of a fixed mindset and allow you to enjoy the benefits of a growth mindset.

Enjoy the journey!

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