What a difference 16 months makes! When I first did the SQI assessment, it was on 16 June 2015, and at that time, I was the COO of a mid-sized training company looking to drive new revenue via a tired business model. At that time, things were starting to progress, and we were seeing the fruits of some of our labours. There was reason to be optimistic, although somewhat cautious. In my mind, there were many things still pending, and new hypotheses to test. But since the strategic direction was still hazy due to a lack of executive will, there was less to worry about in terms of near term progress (we just had to continue what we started). My resultant growth mindset profile was as shown:
All the five traits were showing the growth mindset (a score of 2.4 or above denotes a growth mindset; the higher the better). Despite my growth mindedness, my “Humility & Discipline” score was the lowest, meaning that relatively, this is my weakest trait and if there should be something that I needed to focus on in developing my growth mindset further, it would be this. I must learn to let go of the past glories and allow the situation to dictate action, rather than to base it on my own personal strengths. But, since this is still in the growth mindset region, there was cause for some “rejoice”.
Fast forward 16 months to October 2016. I had since left the employ of that company close to 8 months now, and had embarked on a new startup. As a startup, we had to bootstrap a lot of things, and as the Founder, I had to foot the bill. While we have had some revenue, this revenue was cycled back into the company to keep it growing, hence I was not getting anything back from the business. One cannot say that the business was doing badly, and by all intents and purposes, it was doing quite well, with a modest revenue of less than $100K since founding. But as with all business people, I wanted to see faster growth, and that started to impinge on my growth mindset. To wit, my new profile looked like this in October:
Notice the sudden contraction in my “Humility & Discipline” traits? Where it was once a growth trait 16 months ago, it is now a fixed trait. This was the outgrowth of my increasingly impatient mindset. Wanting more and faster results, it had caused me to go back to the “old ways” of control, of wanting things to be done my way, according to my schedule. It is a wonder that the score was not lower; but that is because I have a Co-Founder that keeps this in check, of pushing me to be less autocratic, of being less impatient, and of letting go things that I have no control over. (That is why when you are running a startup, you need a Co-Founder that balances you and keeps you in check!)
Another score had also come down, Diligence & Courage. This is the risk-taking element of the growth mindset. While the score was still in the growth region, it had dropped by 17%, somewhat significant. But this was not to be unexpected. Since I was now footing the bill for the company, and was eating into my personal reserves, the propensity to take more risks had been mitigated. Don’t get me wrong… I am still comfortable betting on the future, on something not particularly known in the market. But as my cash drew down, each new expenditure was scrutinised a little more, and opportunity cost was weighed, and the rate of expenditure slowed down. Not a lot, but still, we were being more prudent as it stretched on. Hence, the risk-taking trait came off a little bit.
My Progress & Agility traits had also come off a little, but it was not very significant. It was a 5.7% drop or 0.2 points. On a good day, there would probably be a fluctuation of 0.1 to 0.2 points on either side, so I shall say that there had been no significant difference, then and now, to my Progress & Agility trait. This same discussion can also be applied to my Resilience & Boldness traits.
But look at my Curiosity & Development trait! If ever there was a significant shift, this was it. At 1.1 points (or 36.7%), this was a significant increase in my trait score! This is the learning trait – the ability to seek out new ways of doing things; and indeed, as I started the business, adopted new strategies, learnt new skills, got newly certified, my learning increased. But the question begs, which drove what? Did the learning drive the trait increase, or did the trait increase drive the learning? Well, it was both. Remember, I started out with an already high score for learning, and as a trainer and programme developer myself, I should well embrace this trait. Yet, as I went out there and further developed myself, it led to a trait increase, and this led me to then further develop myself. A virtuous cycle emerged which led to a significant uptick in the trait and in the action!
So, what can we learn from this?
(1) Your traits will change when there are changes to your circumstances.You may be a growth mindset champion one day, and yet, a few months later, you might well turn into a fixed mindset person. Hence, you need to be cognizant of the changes in your life, and the impact those have on your traits. Some changes are obvious but others may be imperceptible. You therefore need to constantly take stock of your traits, and understand what that does to your life right now.
(2) Don’t stop improving. There is some danger in being branded a “growth mindset champion” because that might stop you improving. In a sense, that was what happened to me as I found out early on that I had a growth mindset. I used that to judge others, and stopped growing. That had the debilitating effect on my mindset because I starting moving towards the fixed, as can be seen from my Humility & Discipline traits. So, don’t rest on your laurels; if you are a growth mindset thinker, use that to further your growth. If you have areas for growth, strive to do more. The more you do it, the better you will get at it; and the better you get at it, the more you want to do it. That’s the virtuous cycle once again.
(3) Change is not always a bad thing. When I look at my recent growth mindset profile, I am not extremely happy about it; there is an element of the fixed mindset in it. This is a negative change, one might say. Yet, this change is not necessarily bad because I have come to identify my behaviours that brought this about, and I can do something about it. Certainly, I need to let go of control, realising that there are things I will not be able to do anything about. Demanding for things to be done, and to turn out, the way I want it to would be a fool’s errand, and will surely lead me to increased stress and more frustration. That would have a knock-on effect on my Diligence & Courage trait, preferring to opt for a safer option to conserve resources. Not that conservation is a bad thing; but when that causes you to contract more than the cost of conservation, that will be bad. And that might well happen when I try to ensure that everything turns out the way I want it to. Hence, change is not always a bad thing, you just need to know what to change to move the change in the right direction.
So, what is your growth mindset trait? How long has it been since you had your traits assessed? Have you seen a change in your personal circumstances that might well impact your own growth-mindedness? If you don’t know the answer to these, perhaps it is time for you to do your growth mindset assessment, and look closer at your circumstances and see what you need to change to become an even better version of yourself, to get Greater Growth!