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Our mindset can be both an asset and a liability. It can be hard to get a handle on it, yet the right mindset can be a secret weapon in business and life. Today, let’s dive into what mindsets are, and how to build ones that work for you.

Mindsets are the lens through which we view the world. Being able to see them, and know what they are, is powerful. For years I had a ringside seat on the power of mindsets through the work I saw in villages across the world. There, even in harsh conditions, when people’s mindsets were transformed, a brilliant new future for ending hunger became possible.

Carol Dweck’s seminal research identified two predominant mindsets that she called fixed and growth. A fixed mindset believes that we have inherent abilities to achieve something. So if we struggle at something, we think it means we are intrinsically unable to do any better. Say you had a relationship and it broke down, a fixed mindset would have you believe you are therefore bad at relationships. If you lose money on a business deal, you are ‘no good at business’.

A growth mindset sees the same issues in the frame of being able to do something or learn something to improve the situation. Someone with a growth mindset believes they can improve. A failure is only a lack of experience or knowledge, and improvement is always possible. So if money is lost on a business deal, someone with a growth mindset will interrogate what the gaps were and find ways to improve their experience, guidance or knowledge to prepare them better in the future.

The wonderful aspect of this is that growth mindsets can be cultivated.

When I was younger, I never knew about mindsets. For me, the world was as it was. People were a certain way. I was a certain way. I had power in some things, but mostly I was at the effect of what was going on around me.

For instance, I grew up in a family that struggled financially. With 7 kids and a dad often out of work, money was tight. I developed a belief that money was scarce, hard to come by, and our family would never have any. I now know this to be a mindset – but I would have disputed that at the time. You see, it felt very true, this belief I had about money. I had evidence for it. This belief and I had history! I could point to proof that me and money would never be friends!

What I developed growing up was what I call a scarcity mindset, and it’s pervasive. Many of us have a version of this, and you find it in those areas in your life of ‘not enough’. In my case it was money, but there are many scarcity mindset subsets, including not experienced enough, not clever enough, not loved enough… Some of the richest people in the world suffer a scarcity mindset!

It was only when I started learning about mindsets that I began to have some power over those that were holding me back. I started to question those beliefs if they were not empowering. I knew the power of transforming my mindset.

We all have different mindsets about situations and people in our life, and we are mostly unconscious of them. Mindsets are not good or bad per se. It comes down to what is empowering.  Keep the mindsets that work for you and ditch the unhelpful ones. An unhelpful mindset is one that limits the power you have to take action and experience power and joy.

To interrogate your mindset, think of something you’d like to do or be. Write it down, or share it with another person. And if there’s a ‘but’ that follows it, that’s your limiting mindset!

Let’s use my scarcity mindset as an example. Sometimes it rears its head. An example might be “I’d like to go to the UK to catch up with friends, but… I don’t have the money.” BOOM! Scarcity mindset automatically appears!

Now I may or may not have the actual money in the bank to support an unplanned holiday to Europe, but this won’t matter to the scarcity mindset. Left unchecked, this fixed mindset will make the decision for me.

However, a growth mindset interrogates the ‘not enough‘ belief. It has me ask whether it’s actually true that I lack money. It asks how I might be able to afford the trip with ease. Could I pick up some work over there? What new clients can I get so I have space for fun and for making money? What do I need to put in place now to make that happen? *

All of a sudden, a new future is beckoning me. It may turn out that the finances don’t work out for an unplanned visit to Europe, but through examining my mindset, the way I think about a situation and my ability to change it has been expanded. Mindsets aren’t magical thinking – you can’t just will a new thing into being. But checking your mindset and what’s stopping you gives you space to think, choose, reflect and create.

So if there’s an area you’re feeling stuck in, I encourage you to examine your own mindset. Think about what’s important to you, or a dream you have, and see if you have a limiting mindset that underpins it. If so, acknowledge it. Interrogate it. Ask, is it really true? Play with it! See what else is possible.