Mindset of Great Achievers


It's often difficult to get much needed space from your busy work schedule to gain a clearer perspective on your career. Yet great achievers find even little moments to review where they’re at and where they aspire to be. They also share one common trait: how they view opportunities and setbacks.  

Your road to SUCCESS in work and in life is greatly determined by your MINDSET.

At least that’s what compelling scientific research by Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, suggests. Examining the effects of praise on children in the ‘90s, Dweck determined that:

·      Students who were praised for their intelligence and the end result developed a FIXED mindset.

·      Students who were praised for the process – their hard work, focus, improvement, and perseverance – developed a GROWTH mindset.

It is the growth mindset, which begins to take shape in our early childhood years, that separates the super-achievers from stagnant individuals. Those that succeed are not necessarily blessed with IQ points or born with superior talents; according to Dweck, their superpower is their mindset.

Do you have a GROWTH mindset or a FIXED mindset?

Growth mindset

If you’re someone with a growth mindset, you most likely thrive in your role and embrace opportunities to further develop your skills and talents. And, if you’re not enjoying your current role, you’re willing to make the necessary changes to reap the rewards of a more fulfilling career.

You prioritise life-learning. You’re not threatened by the thought of challenge or even failure; instead you view them as an inevitable and valuable part of the learning process. Your mindset ignites you to develop your unique talents every single day.

Fixed Mindset

If you believe you were born with a certain amount of intelligence or talent that cannot be improved and you are reluctant to take risks for fear of seeming incapable or less ‘smart’, you have a fixed mindset. According to Dweck, your mindset holds you back, creating endless mental roadblocks on your path to personal and professional success.

Does this sound like you? Do you want more from your career - be it striving for that promotion or grasping new career opportunities - but fear of failure inhibits your professional development?

Don’t be disheartened if you realise you have a fixed mindset. According to Dweck – and from our personal and professional experiences – you can change your mindset from fixed to growth. Also keep in mind that for most of us, we may have a growth mindset about one thing, and fixed about another. For example, we might be growth minded about our tennis, but fixed minded about being a marathon runner. We can learn and grow from these experiences.

In fact, I once had a fixed mindset about presenting. I was convinced I was a terrible presenter and made myself believe that I could never present to large audiences. Through practice and coaching, I learned to be aware of my own negativity bias that any mistake I made dictated my future as a presenter. I then made a concerted effort to see the time I lost my train of thought as an isolated incident and a growth opportunity. I also learned to appreciate the little wins, such as when one client shared some positive comments, rather than dwell on the fact that no one but me noticed my mistake. These steps helped me build my confidence and shift my mindset. With further preparation and coaching support, I was ready to start presenting. I now not only love presenting but I also coach my clients to change their perspective and provide them with the necessary tools to improve their presentation skills.

As Marcus Aurelios once said “Our life is what our thoughts make it” and, with that in mind, here are 5 tools and techniques that will ignite a growth mindset.

1. Be Optimistic. The first step to achieving your aspirations is to believe you are deserving of them. Extensive research by renowned positive psychologist Martin E.P Seligman demonstrates the power of optimism. Naturally, optimism results in you feeling happier in life; it can also alleviate depression, boost your immune system, and empower you to better develop your potential.  For people with a more optimistic outlook, setbacks are temporary, isolated to particular circumstances, and can be overcome with effort and abilities. Thankfully, optimism is something that can be learned. It starts with being realistic and objective.

2. Become aware of your negativity bias. Simply knowing that you have a habit of being negative can put your challenge into perspective. It’s likely that we have much more success than failure in our lives, yet because our minds are hardwired to pay more attention to the negative, it may not always seem that way. 

3. Practice mindfulness. Whenever you experience success or failure, bring your attention to your body, your emotions, and then to your thoughts.  Ask yourself: how are you explaining the event to yourself? How are your thoughts related to your emotions?  Do you feel powerful or helpless? Bring your attention to your breath and awareness of what it means right now to you.

4. Transform. When experiencing success, take conscious note of it and accept credit for it.  This creates the mental habit of paying due attention to your success.  When experiencing failure, focus on realistic evidence suggesting this setback may be temporary. This may sound like denial, but what you’re actually doing is recognizing the negativity bias, questioning it and choosing to respond differently.  

5. Never give up.  Sometimes when our pathway to achieving our goals is bumpy and unsettling, we may want to give up and try something else. The fact is that most people don’t achieve their goals because they’re too quick to give up. It’s important to persevere at the times you’re most tested so you develop grit and resilience no matter life’s circumstances, and you fulfill your aspirations.

Often clients work with a Career Coach as they often feel they need a complete career change. While a change in career can be the right choice for some, we’ve found that a shift in mindset can lead to greater fulfillment for many of our clients in their existing roles. Through coaching, one client was able to change her mindset from saying “I don’t like my work and will never succeed’ to “The challenges I am facing are great learning opportunities to help me develop and become a better leader.” Her new growth mindset drove her through the challenging phase and later she had the opportunity to lead a new and meaningful opportunity that aligned with her personal values and goals.  She stayed with the company for 6 more years and was extremely grateful for the shift in mindset, which allowed her to take ownership of her success.

The super-achievers that walk amongst don’t wait for perfect conditions, they create opportunities. They draw energy and motivation from their challenges, believe they will achieve their goals, and stay on track.

Some questions to consider next time you face a setback or do something you don't think you'll ever be any good at:

1. What is your response to the setback?

2. How might you shift your perspective on this setback?

3. How might you use this setback as an opportunity to grow?

Remember: your WINNING mindset will determine the results you get!.



Ignition logo

Kully Jaswal

Kully Jaswal is a facilitator and Leadership Coach based in New York, U.S.