In the countless workshops we’ve run over the years, we’ve seen many mindsets. To help you, we’ve come up with a shortlist of the top four best mindsets that get business results.
Mindset 1: Realistic Optimism vs Pessimism
Often, there's an impression that people who are optimistic always look on the bright side of life, that they are very hopeful, they expect good things will happen and live good, happy lives.
Well, none of that is true. What defines optimism is not just a happy disposition, but your response to curveballs and setbacks.
Optimistic people are not immune to the trials and tribulations of life. They face as many challenges as the next person but what is different is their attitude to that challenge.
Let us explain: the most obvious difference between pessimists and optimists is this idea of internalisation. If you’re a pessimist, if something goes wrong, you're much more likely to think that it's your fault. When things go right in the world of a pessimist, they're much more likely to say that it was just a fluke.
The exact reverse is true of optimists.
With an optimist when things go wrong, they are less likely to blame themselves and more likely to look to the environment for context. When things go right for the optimist, they are more likely to recognise their effort and hard work paying off.
Therefore, when a challenge or setback occurs, the pessimist is much more likely to get overwhelmed by that setback, because they have linked it to their identity and self-worth.
Alternatively, the optimist, because they have linked it to external factors, are much more likely to navigate the setback and learn from it successfully.
It's not easy to be this way. Like all things in life, thinking with an optimistic mindset takes practice so be realistic with yourself when dealing with challenges – nobody can be perfectly optimistic.
This is where being a realistic optimist comes in. You've got to hope for the best but plan for the worst, and when the s**t hits the fan, you're not pinning it on your own identity. The optimist in you will allow you to rally and respond quickly to challenges and the realist will make sure you have plans up your sleeve should the worst happen.
So, be a realistic optimist. It's not always going to be butterflies and rainbows, but it will allow you to see opportunities in challenges and get creative.
Mindset 2: Growth vs Fixed
Some of you will have heard of this before. It's become popularised in the last few years, particularly in schools. Growth mindset is the work of Carol Dweck who's done a tonne of studies where she's identified what we call growth thinking and fixed thinking.
In simple terms, it's linked to your capability and your talent. Fixed thinking is signified by the use of absolutes. Statements such as "this is impossible" or "I can't change this" are examples of fixed thinking. There is usually a certain amount of drama to it.
Growth thinking is an acknowledgement that things happen, but that you put the effort in and that you strive for a different outcome when setbacks happen. Much like optimism, you look for the learning and you look for the opportunity within the challenge.
Parenting and leadership
Where we see the most obvious examples of this is in our language. Let's look at parenting as it's strikingly similar to business leadership. When you're trying to cultivate a growth mindset in children, you always have to highlight and complement the effort that went into the outcome, not the outcome itself.
So, for children in school, the outcome is for them to learn. If we only complement the learning of something by deeming a child "intelligent", "smart" and "clever", there is an association that comes with that: "To get gratitude, recognition and acknowledgement, I must be intelligent."
And this fixed thinking, it's made of an absolute. On the other hand, if you compliment and focus on the effort, energy and perseverance that went into that outcome rather than the outcome itself, then children learn to value the hard work instead.
They realise that their acknowledgement, value and love is not tied to an outcome or a characteristic like intelligence, but to something that was within their control – effort, perseverance and creative problem-solving.
The same is true for us. We could all benefit from having more of a growth mindset. The spirit of it is acknowledging that you're going to get curveballs in life, but if you face those curveballs with your limitations, you stay small and you stay still.
You can't get business results that way.
If we can skillfully manage setbacks, challenges and curveballs (2020 has given us a lot!), it makes us adaptable and an asset to our businesses or to the brands or companies that we work for.
Mindset 3: Grit vs Quit
This is something that Angela Duckworth has brought into the field of positive psychology. An attitude of perseverance typifies grit mindset, and its opposite is the attitude of quit.
Quit is how likely you are to give up on something. How likely are you to throw your arms up in the air and go "I just can't do it" or "I can't go on". The grit attitude is what gives you that perseverance, and it's linked closely to a growth mindset. Grit is about acknowledging that the great results in life and in business don't magically happen. They are a case of work.
But that doesn't mean you should get the whip out and work till you bleed. It's about having enough grit to persevere so that you don't give up the first, second and third time. It's about taking it inch by inch. Al Pacino delivers an amazing speech on this in the film "Any Given Sunday", we recommend watching it!
We can also use this as a metaphor for our own lives. Often it's just that little tiny bit of effort that can make the difference.
Grit is about visualising what you want to achieve and being able to taste, smell and hear it. It's something we teach a lot in our workshops because the mind cannot tell the difference between a synthetic event and a memory.
If your mind and your body believe you've already achieved something, you're more likely to push yourself that little bit harder, that inch more, that minute longer – that typifies the grit mindset.
Mindset 4: Abundance vs Scarcity
You've heard about this a lot. The scarcity mindset is very much controlled from a place of fear and from the sense that there is not enough. Because of this, it's very competitive – "I must have this before anyone else".
When we describe the scarcity mindset, we often reference a zombie apocalypse where everyone’s taken to the streets with guns, trying to survive.
That is the scarcity mindset, every little thing matters and you have to have it. But the flip side of that is the abundance mindset. This is a belief that there's enough for everybody.
In business, and particularly if you're an entrepreneur, the temptation is to move to a scarcity mindset: "I have to have it all because if I share it with someone else, then they might take it all and I might end up with nothing."
Abundance allows for collaboration
But there are billions of people on this planet, with millions of different needs. If we have an abundance mindset, we actually end up in conversations with competitors and there's an opportunity for collaboration. What is the impact you can have on a market when you're working with your competitors? What could that unlock?
With an abundance mindset, you unlock possibilities that would never have been there if you were working alone.
So, considering these four mindsets, you have two choices:
- Optimism ←→ Pessimism
- Growth ←→ Fixed
- Grit ←→ Quit
- Abundance ←→ Scarcity
Which side would you rather live your life on?
To find out more about how to help your team cultivate the right mindset, send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org