With all the talk we hear about how helpful growth mindset is for organizations, it’s easy for leaders to get frustrated if they notice their own fixed mindset. Sometimes it can feel like all their colleagues are learning and growing while they themselves feel stuck.
The first thing to recognize in these cases is that fixed-mindset thinking can apply to growth mindset itself. You may inadvertently be sending yourself the message that you’re bad at growth mindset and always will be. That thought itself is limiting.
But the beautiful thing about growth mindset is that just like everything else, it’s something you can learn. Mindsets can be remolded; new beliefs about your own potential can be adopted; new habits can be nurtured and cultivated.
If you do catch yourself using a fixed mindset, here’s what to do.
1. Check your thinking
Almost nobody uses exclusively a fixed or growth mindset. Humans naturally apply a growth mindset in some domains but not others. For instance, you may have total confidence that no recipe is too subtle for your culinary powers, but worry that you’ll never get better at public speaking.
The key here is to avoid feelings of inadequacy if you find yourself using a fixed mindset in some domains. It’s perfectly normal — perhaps even universal. Most importantly, it’s something you can change.
2. Recognize your potential
The realization that you’ve been applying a fixed mindset is an invitation to transform your approach to learning itself. That insight — that your skills can be nurtured and developed — marks the beginning of a thrilling journey.
Understanding that your abilities can be improved equips you with the agility to adapt to a rapidly changing world and the resilience to see setbacks not as threats, but as opportunities for growth.
3. Shift your mindset
If you catch yourself having thoughts like, “I’m just not good at this” or “I’m not naturally talented in this area,” it means you’re stuck in fixed-mindset thinking. Try replacing those limiting thoughts with more helpful ones like, “It’s not about how good I am — what matters is learning and getting better over time.”
It’s not that you can’t do something. It’s that you can’t do something yet.
Remind yourself to be playful, experiment, and treat mistakes as opportunities to learn even more. Set ambitious goals and accept that leaving your comfort zone by definition means experiencing some discomfort. If it feels uncomfortable, it probably means you’re doing it right.
Most of all, focus less on your absolute skill level and more on your progress over time. Think about where you are now compared to where you were a year ago. If you’re further along now than you were before, it can only mean one thing: You’re learning.
This article is the fifth installment in NLI’s new series, Growth Mindset: The Master Class, a 12-week campaign to help leaders see how the world’s largest organizations are putting growth mindset to use.