As I walk past a local primary school, I see a banner attached to the railings. It proudly promotes the school’s commitment to embedding a growth mindset in its children. Carol Dweck‘s concepts of a fixed mindset and a growth mindset are alive and mainstream. Whether they are in use as she intends is another matter. However, it reinforces my view that mindset is as important (if not more) than knowledge or skills for success. As the saying goes, if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

Here’s an approach I use with clients that helps you break free from a fixed mindset. Use it to help overcome self-limiting beliefs, create more clarity, and give you momentum for your job and career direction.

Prepare your mind

You want to be in the right frame of mind for this approach to work best. Prepare yourself by pulling the past into the present. Recall an achievement, situation or significant moment in your life that gave you immense pride and satisfaction. Imagine yourself there again and what it feels like. Here’s an example from my experience.

Fixed MindsetI passed a part-time Master’s degree in management while working full-time. I can hear the ripple of applause as my name is called to receive the certificate at the awards ceremony and the pride at being the local Chartered Management Institute’s Student of the Year. My emotions are of elation, pleasure, and relief. I remember the letter of congratulation from my boss. That little voice in my head congratulating me, saying how it had always known I could do it. I see my wife and daughter outside the hall taking pictures of me in my gown. I see the letters after my name in the programme. It feels good just thinking about it… was that me?

I also recall the turning points when things seem impossible, problems are overcome, and new things learned. Difficult people or relationships change, moving things towards my final success.

What is the sweet smell of success?

Draw upon that feel-good experience. Next, identify something you want to achieve, however big or small, and start with the end in mind. Fix a specific date in the future when your vision has been achieved. The timeframe can be hours, days, months or years.

Build a compelling vision of your ideal outcome as if has already been achieved (e.g. the job, role, career, or success you want). We all have an imagination, so let it flow!

Identify some headings and write a sentence or two under each one. For example, job type, qualifications, income-level, location, remote v location-based working, amount of travel time etc. Describe your success in the present tense as though you are already successful. Reflect your personal values and beliefs and use all your senses to make your description compelling.

What can I see, hear, touch, feel? What is the sweet smell of success?

Go into reverse gear

Fixed Mindset

Work backward to identify the key dates and events, turning points and problems overcome on the way. This is your critical path to the success you describe. It’s your high-level ‘to-do’ list and priorities. Make the process realistic by taking account of known future events that will have an impact.

What must have happened for you to have successfully reached your ideal outcome? What happened one hour ago or one month ago?

Add more detail

Build in detail between those major events. For example, new things you learn, skills you acquire, decisions you make, people who help you.

What did you do to make things happen?

Find first gear

Use the outputs from above as an activities list. Apply forward planning processes to identify what resources you need. Decide what to do in detail and how. See the route to your goal as a project. Don’t be afraid of reviewing and revising your plan in the light of unexpected developments, changes in your situation or new experiences. Give it the freedom to evolve into something that brings even greater value.

What are you already doing that contributes toward achieving your vision of success?

Now you have your ideal outcome, the roadmap to get you there, and you know the first steps! A fixed mindset can be an asset for the single-minded and determined or lead to tunnel vision or inertia. If you want to break free, shift your mindset to possibilities and away from what holds you back.