My ‘For Example’ blogs aim to reflect on my learning from my listening and share that learning to enable me to cement it in my mind and become part of a new set of behaviours for my personal leadership. In this one, we will be exploring growth mindest and how to change from a fixed mindset.  In turn, I hope it will be useful for any reader and also to inspire others to pick the books up for themselves.

For those of you who know me either through training or coaching, you’ll already know, that I love an Audible book and will often be found listening to a good bit of leadership inspiration whilst gardening, driving, or walking the dog. I aim to listen to at least one book per month and sometimes get through two if they are shorter. I’m currently listening to Barack Obama’s book ‘A Promised Land’ which is a total of 29 hours so it is likely to be a one book month for June!

Often books are inspired by a previous read and May’s book was one of these – Carol Dweck’s ‘Mindset’ – recommended by Brendon Burchard in his book ‘High-Performance Habits’ – another great read, or listen in my case!

quote by Carol S DweckCarol’s book is an advocate for the power of continuous learning and how this is achieved through mindset – not a job title or having achieved a university degree some years ago. The book simply describes the difference between two mindsets – a Fixed one and a Growth Mindset and describes how the Growth Mindset enables personal achievement, fulfilment, and happiness through countless examples. It also talks through how to challenge our own, often ingrained Fixed Mindset and how to adopt the Growth Mindset.

People with a Fixed Mindset believe that natural talent is all there is to it and if they don’t have that talent, will think all they are set to achieve is failure. They believe they are either born with it or not and will never attempt to improve something they are not so good at.

Those with a Growth Mindset believe that anything they want to achieve will be possible, as long as they learn and practice the learning as much as they can.

During May this year, whilst on an organised motorbike trip to Portugal, I realised how easy it was for me to fall into a Fixed Mindset. To give you a bit of background, I have been riding a motorbike for 11 years, currently ride a Kawasaki Ninja 1000sx and have been undertaking regular advanced training to improve my riding. I have undertaken three tours to France as well as trips to Yorkshire, Scotland and Devon. Here you could simply perceive – yes, she can ride a bike, no problem! Of course, we know, simply passing a driving test doesn’t make you a great car driver and we go on to develop bad habits unless we choose to undertake an advanced driving course and complete an advanced test. The same applies for motorbike riding and is especially important due to the enhanced risk of being on two wheels.

So returning to the recent trip to Portugal, right at the start during the ferry trip to Santander, I was already slipping into the Fixed Mindset and spent overnight worrying about whether I should be there. I was listening to language such as ‘we’ll be riding really fast’ and hearing tales of previous trips where people described just making the rides from A to B as fast as possible. There it started – ‘oh they’re all so much better than me’ ‘I’m not good enough to be here’ – Fixed Mindset.

Here was the first of my conversations… having a word with myself worked in part as I reminded myself I was here on the tour to learn, to improve my riding and develop my technical skills as a safe advanced rider. I also shared my concerns with my partner Mike who used my own coaching questions on me – so off I rode from the ferry full of expectation and with the aim to learn as much as I possibly could.

This lasted through some really technical days when I tackled some of the most difficult roads I had ever ridden. I learnt new skills in engine braking, positioning and counter steering – all of which improved my cornering. I rode my own ride and allowed those who were faster to progress onwards while I practised, practised and practised – asking for feedback from more experienced riders on things I could improve.

Then came just the worst couple of days – I was tired and despite just being off the pace of the main group, was completely overtaken by the Fixed Mindset – ‘I can’t keep up’, ‘they’re all much faster than me’, ‘I’m doing my best which isn’t enough’ – all of these were using a single fixed measure of ‘speed’ being the indicator of my competence. I was riding by myself for the majority of time and was wondering why I was on tour with others – what was the point in that? One of my core values of ‘fun’ had completely disappeared and my ‘adventure’ value which is about stretch and learning, was being stretched beyond belief. The worst thing I did at this point was to stop talking and I didn’t share my overwhelm…

So how did I dig myself out of this negative place…?

Liz and Mike selfieI knew this was my responsibility and no one else’s – this was where I started!

I did however stop being overwhelmed by that Fixed Mindset by sharing it with Mike – thankfully he didn’t ‘rescue’ me (this would have taken away my responsibility for myself) and asked me some great coaching questions: ‘what specifically do you need to do to enjoy this tour?’ ‘what do you need to do differently?’ – these actually made me laugh out loud with the response – ‘what great questions – who taught you those?!’ Just these two questions shifted me to the Growth Mindset – it was that instant!

Also, I listened to some of Carol’s great book prior to getting on my bike the following morning! I knew this stuff – I just needed to apply it!

Being tired from the heat and the hours on the bike, I took time off – I knew I wasn’t riding my best ride as I wasloungers on a sandy beach with umbrellas shading them concentrating so hard. I also know I make improvements away from the bike as my subconscious is working away applying my learning while I’m not noticing!

Embedding myself in the learning made available on the tour – provided in advance of days riding and I asked for feedback from instructors and practised those things at every available opportunity.

I immersed myself with the friends I was with on tour – reminding myself it was down to me to put the ‘fun’ into the tour – it is my value after all! I also stopped being so hard on myself and banned all Fixed Mindset self talk – replacing it with positive thoughts on learning, growth and improvement – repeating these constantly inside my helmet when we were out.

And finally, we both reminded ourselves that we were on the tour to also spend some time together – away from the demands of our businesses back home. Mike and I had a day together and rode out enjoying scenery, relaxing over a coffee, practising our cornering of course and putting fun into our day!

So returning to Carol Dweck’s book – here were my reflections which relate to the tour:

• Life is full of measures and judgments (mostly from ourselves) and will turn most of us into a Fixed Mindset focused person – you therefore have to be very conscious of not getting drawn into it, especially if others are using the Fixed Mindset language.
• We are all born with a Growth Mindset – curiosity and desire to learn – make sure you devote time to it and keep practising – always!
• Practise positive self-talk and actively seek the support of someone who will coach you – note this isn’t someone who will either rescue you or tell you what to do. It only takes a couple of great coaching questions from someone else to completely shift your mindset from a Fixed one to a Growth Mindset.

Thank you Carol – your book was very timely.