Your mindset is pivotal to how you think, act, behave, and make decisions, and to how your decisions drive—or derail—your success, whether in your life or your career.
At work, in particular, you could connect the dots from your mindset to your outcomes. If success, time after time, seems to elude you, the reason is likely some aspect of your mindset.
But what exactly is your mindset? And do you really have the power to change it?
The makings of a mindset
Your mindset is made up of four key components: your goals, values, beliefs, and mode of work. Here’s a snapshot of each one.
Your goals define what you want to achieve personally, professionally, in your community, and in your area of expertise. Is a goal of climbing the corporate ladder, perhaps to the top rungs of leadership, realistic if your family time reigns supreme, and you want to work absolutely no more than eight hours a day?
Your values are the core principles by which you aim to live your life. And, notably, aligning them with your goals will help you work and make decisions in a more optimal and focused direction. For instance, if you value your family time above all, the long work hours and possible social and travel demands of a top leadership role wouldn’t align with your values.
Your beliefs apply your values to your work and decisions. What beliefs do you have because of your values? Believing that family time has some minimum requirements, as well as being present at all children’s sporting events, then work requirements will take a second place and you may miss out on a significant opportunity. On the other hand, if you believe that quality relationship-building time counts as family time, then your belief will not be in conflict with an important work situation.
Your mode of work is how you go about doing your job. It tells your narrative to others—your coworkers, collaborators, and other stakeholders—as it demonstrates your goals, values, and beliefs. How do your actions reveal your goals and values? How do your beliefs show up in your decision-making? If you make decisions without collaborators, for instance, that tells a narrative that their thoughts or expertise weren’t important to you. If you are strict with yourself about being home by 6 PM every day, you are sending the message that evening meetings are not acceptable and you are not committed to company goals as much as others might be. Perhaps looking at the topic of the meeting before deciding on your availability would send a different message, one of flexibility, to your colleagues.
Translating mindset into your work
Reflecting on your mindset helps consider the potential reasons behind the outcomes of your work. What was a setback that you thought would never happen, but then it happened anyway?
How was it that your collaborators saw you in one light, when you were certain they saw you in a different one? Such surprises can shed light on your actual mindset vs how you perceive it, and most importantly, how you might need to adjust it over time to experience better outcomes.
Your mindset also creates your persona, which impacts what and how your stakeholders think about you. That gives you a chance to consider what you want others to think about you, and how your actions and decisions might disrupt or even sabotage that. It also provides an opportunity to explore other people’s mindsets and how you can match yours with theirs so that everyone can be more successful.
From unconscious to conscious
The components of your mindset can be, and often are, automatic and unconscious. That means you’ll need to commit to uncovering them. Consider Joshua Waitzkin, a prodigy and an American former chess champion, whose early life became the plot for the film “Searching for Bobby Fischer”. Waitzkin mastered the art of bringing the unconscious into the conscious to propel himself to championship status. Then, as conscious behaviors, he could change them as needed to perform better.
To bring your unconscious decisions and behaviors into your conscious mind, reflect on the reasons that a certain outcome was not as you had hoped or expected.
Those reasons could be related to your nature or life experiences, or both, and to some particular conditions in the situation. What was your goal, and was it realistic? What did you value about that goal? How might have some of your beliefs have derailed you? And how did your mode of work contribute to the outcome?
Those are significant questions to ask yourself. Only then can you decide if changes are needed in one or more of your mindset components and how you can go about making them. Perhaps they would relate to shifts in your team or workplace, or in business conditions in general, particularly post-pandemic, when some modes of work are in flux or no longer suitable.
Finally, remember that understanding and managing the power of your mindset is ever-fluid, particularly in the challenging and chaotic 21st-century workplace. That requires you to continuously evaluate people, situations, and outcomes, and then to reflect on and refine your mindset components.