Adaptability: The Attitude You Need for Success

March 25th, 2020 · 3 min read

The Psychology of Success

Social scientists have found certain attitudes — or “mindsets” — more in keeping with success and resilience than others. To this extent, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck posits a “new psychology of success” in which our attitudes color our success.

Dweck says the fruits of her findings, gleaned over decades, apply whether the individual is focused on sports, the arts, business, or family life.

In the face of competition and other challenges, financial-advice firm owners are under pressure to set positive examples to clients, colleagues and the business community at large — while working to keep business operating as usual, growth targets and all.

So to help members of Chalice Network take stock, we’ll summarize Dweck’s thinking around two mindsets: one closed and guarded (the fixed mindset) the other open and receptive to change (the growth mindset).

A picture that says adaptability in front of potted plants

Fixed vs. Growth Mindsets

The fixed mindset is ruled less by doubt than by a sort of negative certainty. With this mindset ruling your world, obstacles — including frustration — seem like insurmountable barriers, feedback is an affront, and failure demarks the immovable limits of one’s abilities.

The growth mindset takes the opposite view of things. For entrepreneurs with growth-oriented minds, challenges are always opportunities, feedback is inherently constructive, and the success of other people is purely inspirational.

Equal to All Challenges

Most people aren’t all one mindset or the other, but a blend, making us rigid about some things, open about others — and many of our responses are bound to be situational. The important thing is to know what your dominant mindset is, and work toward a temperamental stance that skews positive and doesn’t vanish at the first hint of trouble.

This is vital for independent wealth advisors and other own-shingle financial-service providers, whose fortunes are at least ostensibly linked to market conditions. For them it makes sense to make attitude adjustments to confront problems rather than hide from them.

A photo of hanging vines

In short, some challenges require change, and the easiest changes to make — though still no cakewalk — are changes from within.

Few of us make it to middle age without a little attitudinal calcification. That is, we get stuck in our ways. We want things done the way we want them done, we’ve long since decided what we’re good and bad at, and our tolerance for frustration is, well, just about zero.

Whether attitudes like these are signs of a narrowly fixed mindset or a prudent appraisal of one’s own limitations doesn’t matter. What matters is that such insights are unhelpful in times of trouble.

Staying competitive calls for a growth mindset. In this worldview, challenges are opportunities to learn and grow, one’s abilities are determined by one’s efforts and overall attitude, and adapting to changing circumstances is a given.

Change Is Constant

A Growth Mindset is no guarantor of success. Rather, it’s a way to make success more likely and more enduring. It’s the difference between getting fit to meet a particular short-term goal (weight loss, say, or an impending 10-K) or to facilitate a permanent move to a healthy lifestyle.

In normal times a Growth Mindset can be the difference between staying competitive or not. In hard times, it can be the difference between staying in business or not.

In her book “Mindset,” Dweck examines the consequences “of thinking that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop, as opposed to something that is a fixed, deep-seated trait.”

A picture of a weeping willow in front of a lake

If you think your attitude or mindset is a fixed trait, and experience has instilled you with the view that change is always bad, then you’re going to resist strategies for overcoming negative changes.

For Dweck, shying away from trouble is not a workable strategy. “Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them?” she writes. “Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset.”

When the Going Gets Tough

In other words, our ideas about risk and effort are shaped by our mindsets. Our mindsets influence how willingly we learn, how generous we are with praise, how easy we are to work with, and how willingly we buckle down to confront challenges — even when the timeframe and the rewards are uncertain.

In the best of times, the most successful financial advisors are eager change agents. This helps them survive demographic shifts, disruptive technologies, regulatory dictates, economic downturns, and heightened competition.

Dweck holds they’re able to handle all this because they have growth mindsets, which makes them equal to challenges small and large.

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