CIPD People Performance Consultants

Is your mindset sabotaging your professional success?

One of the more outdated views in modern day management is the belief that people who have higher IQs will inevitably be more successful.

In fact, all leading studies and expert research in this field suggests two far more accurate predictors of personal success- mindset and emotional intelligence. We will study emotional intelligence in more detail next time or in the meantime, take a peek at my professional hero Travis Bradbury’s TalentSmart.

Experts now analyse people’s core attitudes as falling into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. The assertion is that which mindset you possess ultimately determines your beliefs in life, which in turn determines your chances of success.

Carol Dweck, a world renowned psychologist who discovered this simple idea after decades of research on achievement and success, describes the difference between the two;

‘In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence’.

Basically, people who possess a fixed mindset believe they are who they are and set out to justify this view, requiring validation for it. They prefer to spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them, believing that talent, not effort, is solely responsible for success. The problem with this belief is that if boundaries are challenged, their instant reaction will be personally hindering because anything more than they can handle will result in feeling overwhelmed, hopeless or anxious.

So yes, being smart or having 13 letters after your name will instil confidence. But this is only sustainable when life is easy. The real test of someone’s character is more apparent by how they deal with life’s challenges and setbacks.

People with a growth mindset know that they can improve with effort and determination. They understand that dedication, hardwork, a love of learning and resilience is essential for achievement. Because of this outlook, even with a lower IQ they will always outclass those with a fixed mindset, because they welcome challenges and see failure as information, providing opportunities to learn.

What side of the chart do you fall on?


Regardless of which side of the chart you currently connect with, the important thing to remember is that you can develop a growth mindset. How we react to failure is the ultimate test. There are plenty of successful people who wouldn’t be known today if they had given up: it took Henry Ford 2 failed car companies before he found success with Ford, Walt Disney was sacked from the Kansas City Star because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas” and Oprah Winfrey was fired from a TV anchor role for being “too emotionally invested in her stories”. The latter being a particularly poignant example given her recent Cecil B DeMille award and inspirational acceptance speech at the 75th Golden Globes ceremony.

People with a growth mindset know that failure is often a vital part of the journey to success. So be passionate, be proactive, push your limits, expect results and learn to adapt to adversity and setbacks; then you’ll discover your own growth mindset.

About the Author:

Rebecca Beard co-founded Peas in a Pod Consulting Ltd, providing a holistic portfolio of accredited training courses that focus on all areas of People Orientated Development in the Workplace. Specifically, the ‘Developing Effective Teams’ course collection enhances self-awareness, personal accountability and professional effectiveness within teams. Contact us for more information!