When I work with leaders to develop their leadership, I first:
- Demonstrate that mindsets are foundational to their leadership effectiveness.
- Identify four sets of mindsets that they need to be aware of, with each set ranging on a continuum from negative to positive.
- Have them take my personal mindset assessment to identify the degree to which they possess the positive mindsets.
Because only 5% of people who take the personal mindset assessment are found to consistently operate with all four positive mindsets, one of the most frequently asked questions that I get is: How do I go about improving my mindsets?
Cognitive Science Basics
In order to properly answer this, I first need to explain the cognitive science behind mindsets. To summarize, our mindsets are neural connections in our brain that are stronger and fire more rapidly than other neural connections. These neural connections cause us to quickly process information in predictable and repeated ways over time.
For example, if we have a fixed mindset, we have developed a strong neural connection that causes us to predictably and repeatedly see challenges as things to avoid. This doesn’t mean that we do not have the ability to see challenges as things to learn from (i.e., growth mindset), it just means that our neural connection associated with a fixed mindset is stronger and fires more quickly than the neural connection associated with our growth mindset.
Improving Our Mindsets
With this understanding, it becomes easy to recognize that improving our mindset involves rewiring our brain, or more specifically, the neural connections in our brain.
We have got to lessen the strength of our negative mindset neural connections and strengthen our positive mindset neural connections.
How we do this though?
Two Approaches to Improve Our Mindsets
There are two primary approaches that we can take to improve our mindsets.
First, we will do well to remember the adage: neurons that fire together, wire together. This suggests that we need to consciously try to override our natural wiring. We need to consciously take more time to process our situations and rather than react to them, consciously respond to them.
For example, if a student that has a fixed mindset gets a low score on an exam. Instead of reacting by thinking that he/she is a failure and giving up for the rest of the semester, that student needs to consciously respond by choosing to see this as a learning opportunity and take advantage of the opportunity to review and learn from his/her mistakes, and possibly meet with the professor.
Of course, this is difficult because it does not come naturally to us. But, it is worth the effort.
Second, it helps to consider the process of improving our mindsets as being similar to becoming fluent at counting to 10 in a different language.
I don’t speak German. But, if I wanted to learn to count to 10 in German, the process would be to first learn the words associated with each of the numbers. This would probably take 30 minutes of concerted effort. Then, from there I would need to engage in relatively small daily actions to practice counting in German. And, over the course of a few weeks, I would become quite fluent in counting to 10 in German.
The process of shifting our mindsets follows that same pattern. We first need to learn the language of mindsets. That is what the mindset assessment is for. Then, we need to engage in regular interventions to use and strengthen the neural networks associated with the positive mindsets.
What are interventions that we can engage in to shift our mindsets?
There are a wide variety of interventions that we can engage in to shift our mindsets. Research has found that single interventions of what are listed below can have effects for two or more weeks. Thus, the more regularly we engage in these interventions the more rapidly we will shift to a more positive mindset and then, most importantly, sustain that positive mindset.
Here are some of the interventions:
- Read and learn about the mindsets, particularly the positive mindsets (11 books that I recommend to improve your mindsets)
- Watch videos that promote the mindsets you want to develop (15 videos sure to upgrade your mindsets)
- Write two paragraphs relating to the positive mindsets
- Develop a clear purpose for your life
- Have small group discussions about mindsets
- Teach someone about the positive mindsets
If you would like to work with me to shift the mindsets of the leaders in your organization, please click on the button below.