Pop quiz. I know you probably hate pop quizzes, but I’m the teacher and the bell just went. Class has started. Don’t worry, there are no wrong answers. Just kidding, there are. And to answer the question that I got more than any sane human being should, “Does this count?”, yes, it does. And it will most definitely be on your report card: your life report card.
- People are either good athletes or they’re not
- You are born with a certain amount of intelligence and there’s not much you can do to change it
- Talent is something you’re born with; you can’t do much to develop it
- If you practice something long enough, you can develop a talent for it
- People who are good at a particular skill have practiced a long time to develop it
As a teacher, I know pop quizzes suck and students hate them. The answers to these questions, however, may be the most important answers you’ll ever give (mild overstatement, yes, but they are really important). Why you ask? Well, how you answered the questions communicates a lot about how you view the world and those around you. It exposes the lens through which you view your successes and challenges. Most importantly, the answers reveal how you will face those challenges, and your ability to overcome them and experience personal growth.
For those of you who are type A (yes, I’m talking to you), the answers are at the end.
No, they’re not. What a cruel thing to do to you Type A-ers. Here they are:
- People are either good athletes or they’re not (F)
- You are born with a certain amount of intelligence and there’s not much you can do to change it (F)
- Talent is something you’re born with; you can’t do much to develop it (F)
- If you practice something long enough, you can develop a talent for it (T)
- People who are good at a particular skill have practiced a long time to develop it (T)
Grow Your Mind
According to world-renowned Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, all people in the world can be placed somewhere on a continuum based on their views of where intelligence and ability come from: on one end are those with a fixed mindset, and on the other, individuals with a growth mindset.
When a person believes that any success that they have comes from an innate ability that they are born with, that their abilities are written in stone, and for the most part, can’t be altered, this demonstrates a fixed mindset. These people, believing that they can’t alter their intelligence or abilities, seek to prove themselves over and over. Their thinking is shown by an attitude of, “If I can’t BE smarter, stronger, a better leader, OR BETTER WITH MONEY, at least I can LOOK LIKE I am all these things.”
On the other end of the spectrum are those with a growth mindset. These people believe that you don’t have to be satisfied with the traits you are born with, that you can change who you are fundamentally as a person. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck describes the growth mindset as being “based on the belief that your basic qualities are things that you can cultivate through your efforts.” Although people will differ in a multitude of areas – their natural gifts, abilities, preferences, temperaments etc. – change and growth ARE possible when a person works hard at something, applies themselves, and gains invaluable experience.
People with a fixed mindset feel trapped by the hand that life has dealt them. They feel they have no other choice but to play that hand. Sometimes the hand is good, like pocket aces. But for others, they feel like life has dealt them an off-suited 2 and 7 (for non-poker stars, that’s the worst hand you can start with in poker). Because they believe they can’t change their hand, they do the only other two things they can: fold or bluff.
Perhaps you’re someone (or you know someone) who has folded their financial hand. You’re deeply in debt, and out of control with your spending. Maybe you have no emergency savings, and you’re not saving for retirement or your kids’ future education. You have no idea where your money goes each month, you just know that there is never enough of it left for what you need. You never get the promotion soon enough, and even when you do, it feels like the extra money is gone before it’s even deposited in your account. You don’t track your expenses, not because you don’t think it would help, but you feel like it would just be too depressing and hopeless an activity.
So you act like the proverbial ostrich. You stick your head in the sand, out of sight, out of mind, and pretend not to notice the financial apocalypse that is occurring in your life. Inside, with everything going on, you feel trapped and helpless. You want to give up, if you haven’t already done so.
Or maybe you’re someone who appears to have it all together financially. You live in a massive new shack with an extra tall bay in your garage for your trailer. Your palace is filled with luxury furniture from stores most of your friends have never even heard of or only dreamt of shopping in. But you like to entertain so that’s how you justify the insane cost.
You drive two brand new vehicles, one a fancy up pick up truck and the other a high-end luxury SUV. Hey, you need something to haul that trailer to your lakefront cabin, you tell yourself, and how else would you be able to pick up the kids and their friends if not for the Escalade?
You take your 2.5 kids on several nice vacations each year (Hawaii, Disney World, all inclusives in the Caribbean), and you never miss the local pro sports team’s games, sitting in your lower bowl seasons seats. You love taking people to the games and seeing how impressed they look as they settle into their extra wide, cushy seats.
But each night as you fall asleep, there is a massive knot in your stomach.
Sure you make great money in your job, but it too never seems to be enough. You have nothing saved for emergencies and a tiny amount in your retirement and children’s education accounts. You have an image that you need to project, one of career success and financial prosperity, but keeping up appearances is not cheap. You’ve maxed out several credit cards, and the equity in your home has almost all been used to pay for life’s finer things. The facade can’t last forever, you know, and you are scared spitless.
You handle the money, so even though your better half has an idea that things are a bit tighter than they were in the past, they have no idea that you are hanging on by a financial thread, especially since your business has been hit hard by the economic downturn. You tell yourself you just need the economy to get a little jolt and you’ll be fine, but you know that even if you make a bit more money, with the way you’re going, it’ll be gone before it even hits your bank account.
A Growth Mindset
People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, don’t believe they have to play the hand they’ve been dealt. They believe that through applying themselves, working hard, and trying new approaches to old problems, that they can actually improve their hand. Because of this, it’s not necessary to fold or bluff.
These are the people that at one time in their lives could’ve found themselves in either of the above financial situations. However, they were able to change their circumstances by changing the way they thought about their circumstances, their mindset about money. They learned from their failures and grew BECAUSE OF, not in spite of, the challenges they faced.
This isn’t some new age, name it and claim it, power of positive thinking thing. This is about fundamentally changing the way we view our lives, our successes, the obstacles we all face on a daily basis, and our circumstances. Let me give you an example of what this change in mindset may look like using an example from Mindset.
Imagine you’ve applied to go to a graduate school. You didn’t bother applying to any other schools because this was the one you had your heart set on. Also, you were extremely confident you’d be accepted since all of your superiors and colleagues considered your work to be original, cutting-edge, and very exciting. As you open the envelope and read the letter from your Alma mater to be, you feel as though you’ve been punched in the gut. You’ve been rejected. You’re crushed.
A Fixed Mindset Reaction
At first, you try to convince yourself that it was a truly competitive program, and there were lots of great candidates. Your failure to get in is not a negative reflection on you, as much as it is proof of the number of top-drawer applicants for the program.
But no sooner have you convinced yourself of this than a little voice begins whispering in your head. You’re trying to rationalize why you didn’t get in. Your work just wasn’t that good compared to everyone else’s. You pulled the wool over your eyes thinking you were better than you actually were. Your ideas were just run of the mill, and the admissions committee had seen similar things hundreds of times. The experts in your field have passed judgement on you and your work; it’s just not that good.
With some effort, and perhaps some therapy, you’re able to convince yourself of your first conclusion, and feeling a bit better each day, you move on with your life. And that’s the end of it for a person with a fixed mindset. For the person with a growth mindset, however, this is just the beginning of the learning process.
A Growth Mindset Reaction
An individual with a growth mindset views each failure as an information-rich experience. Patterns of thinking and behaviour can be changed using this information. Success in future outcomes can occur as a result.
This type of person thinks about all the things they can do in order to stay on track with their goal of getting into grad school. They think about the steps they can take and information they need in order to give them a better chance of success in the future. Maybe they could apply to a variety of different grad schools. Perhaps they could make a phone call to the admissions head and see if they could sit down and speak about ways they could improve their skills and abilities to enhance their odds of getting in. What types of experiences or volunteer activities do they value as part of the process? In response to this potentially devastating situation, there are hundreds of questions to ask and actions to take for a person with a growth mindset.
The View Matters
What is key, though, is how each type of person views the situation. A person with a fixed mindset views it as the endpoint. In their mind it’s a finished process, with judgement passed. The gavel has been sounded and court has been adjourned. You’ve been rejected. You’re a failure. Do your best to ignore those negative feelings, and move on with your life.
The growth mindset person views this situation as one point on the meandering process of learning, filled with both success and failure. Success, they know, never occurs in a straight line. It is filled with ups and downs, forward thrusts and backwards slips. Along the way there will be obstacles. They know there will be things to learn, adapt to, and improve on, in order to be successful.
Your Mindset Your Choice
With our money, we’ve all faced obstacles. Some of you have larger challenges than others. Although some may have been thrust upon you, if we’re honest, many have been self-inflicted, at least to some extent (debt, overspending, lack of self-control, purchasing Caribbean cruises from telemarketers over the phone, etc.). We can’t change the past. No matter how much we bemoan the facts of our particular dilemma, one thing never changes. The DILEMMA!! The only thing we can do is to learn from our past mistakes, and not repeat them in the future.
Are you someone who has never saved? You tell yourself, “Oh I could never save. Where would I find the money? There’s never enough money left. We just have far too many expenses. We’ll save after I get the promotion I’ve been waiting for 5 years to materialize.”
Maybe you’re deep in credit card debt. You never pay off your balance, and you always spend more than you make. You can’t get your spending under control and your lifestyle far outpaces your paycheck.
Or perhaps you’ve had your head stuck in the sand and your butt in the air and you’re getting kicked. You’ve never been good at managing your money, and it shows. Rather than face the nastiness of your situation, you’d rather cover your eyes and pretend it’s not there. And on, and on, the stories go.
7 Shifts In Mindset
Doing the same thing over and over and getting the same results gets old really quick. Try these 7 shifts in mindset to supercharge your thinking and your money.
- View Failure in a New Light – look at failure as a gift, the gift of time and perspective to enhance your effort and strategy, to learn from your mistakes and improve your results.
- Enhance Your Self-Awareness – Become completely aware of your strengths, gifts and natural abilities. On the other side of the coin, embrace the knowledge of your weaknesses and areas for growth
- Ask for Feedback – This one can be scary, but ask your close friends, family, colleagues, and supervisors for feedback on your areas of strength and areas for growth. They all have a unique perspective to bring to the table, and if you’re open to hearing them, it can be powerful.
- View Obstacles as Opportunities – When faced with challenges, don’t allow negative self-talk. Rather, look at these situations as opportunities to develop your skills and crush the challenge. Train yourself to say, “How can I learn, grow or overcome this situation.”
- Use Fear as Fuel – Feeling fear is often regarded as a negative. For a person with a growth mindset, fear tells them that they are outside of their comfort zone. They know it’s the only place growth happens. Whether it’s on stage giving a public speech, or starting a blog and putting your opinions out there, know that fear = growth.
- Cultivate Curiosity -View events with a learn-first attitude. When things go sideways, in work, life, or with your finances, train yourself to ask the question, “10 months, 10 hours, or 10 years from now, what will I want to have learned from this?”
- Surround Yourself with Rockstars – Not Milli Vanilli or Def Leppard, but the rockstars in terms of growth mindset. Find people who are always learning, growing, and are constantly out of their comfort zone. These can be friends, family and colleagues who exhibit the mindset you want to attain. Some more well-known people to check out are Carol Dweck, Michael Hyatt, and Angela Duckworth. In the personal finance world, growth mindsets abound, but some high flyers are Dave Ramsey, Pat Flynn, Michelle Schroeder.
A Growth Mindset Foundation
By committing to changing your mindset, you are creating the foundation to change your finances. If you can grow in other areas of your life, say for example, by learning how to play an instrument you’ve always wanted to, then you can learn to handle your money effectively. If you can fail at work and learn from your mistakes to get that promotion, then you can learn from your past destructive spending habits to crush your debt and pump up your savings.
Your situation will not change until you do. You cannot change the past. But you CAN change the future, YOUR future, by changing your mindset and yourself.
For other methods and mindsets to inspire your finances, check out more at www.methodtoyourmoney.com.
Share your story about where you’ve had a fixed or growth mindset and ideas for how you can Grow Your Mind, and Grow Your Money.