When there’s a setback, someone with a fixed mindset will start thinking, ‘Maybe I don’t have what it takes?’ They may get defensive and give up. A hallmark of a successful person is that they persist in the face of obstacle, and often, these obstacles are blessings in disguise. – Carol S. Dweck
I was listening to a podcast on my walk to pick up the morning paper and had just started a new one where the presenter talked about how her focus was on mindset and her interviewee’s focus was on strategies that resulted in success.
I thought this was an interesting way to look at the two elements – particularly the idea that you might be able to work on one independently of the other. After all, surely you need both to be able to do anything well? That seems fairly obvious, doesn’t it? There’s a thinking job and a doing job and it is better if you use both parts of you, if possible.
That said, I suspect my approach to the mindset part is not what many people teach. The approach we come across most is the idea that if you focus on something and want it badly enough the universe will sort things out for you. These ideas are seductive – they promise results while you sit on the couch, because all you have to do is think yourself rich or thin or successful.
On the other hand we have advice to work hard, to put the hours in, to push yourself as much as you can. I don’t know if that leads to success either. It sometimes leads to making the wrong choices. Whenever I think of this Scott Adam’s words come to mind who says managing your creativity will make you happy and rich. Managing your time will make you tired.
If I were to look at the ideas of mindset and strategy once again and apply it to myself, knowing what I now know about the ideas and fads I’ve tried in the past, I think I would try and make things simpler. Mindset is about understanding what you want for yourself and for others. The amount of money you have is an outcome of the choices you make, as is how you spend your time. For example do you want to be famous, do you want to help others, or do you want to help yourself? Perhaps you want all three – to be well known, to make a positive contribution and feel like you’re doing something fulfilling. Perhaps looking at it another way, mindset is really the set of your mind. Maybe the way we should look at it is as intersecting circles and somewhere in the intersection is what you’re meant to do with yourself.
If I did that for myself I might come up with reading and writing as two things I like to do. I also think I might like teaching – I did it a long time back in a different context but it’s never gone anywhere since then. So I might start with a set of mind that looks something like this.
There’s a weakness for me, because while I read and write, I don’t teach. But then there will be other considerations, including making a living and whether I really want to teach in a system of some kind or whether I want to do something else – and what that might then mean in terms of what teaching actually is.
Which brings us to strategy – the decisions you have to make about how to actually do something. I’m starting to see strategy differently, from viewing it as a plan or idea or approach to a much more tangible set of things you are going to do. It’s another set and the way that intersects will show you a bit more about yourself. Again, if I do that for myself it probably looks like this.
I might start with my professional experience and skillset. That took up the first twelve or so years. Then I started this blog after doing an MBA, and now, four years later, I’m trying to get more engaged in research and reflective learning, which may in turn help me with that teaching bit that I identified in the previous section.
The point, I suppose, is that perhaps as one gets older you stop looking for the shortcuts and try instead to enjoy the journey. Putting some work into knowing what you want and having a strategy to get there seems like a better idea than hoping and wishing that something amazing will happen.