“The question isn’t who is going to let me,
It’s who is going to stop me??”  

     -AYN RAND

Attitude drives everything we do!  It is the most powerful tool in our personal toolbox.  The challenge is how we use it; as a booster rocket that lets us achieve the extraordinary, as a ball and chain that keeps us tethered to mediocrity or as an anchor that weighs us down and prohibits us from ever reaching our dreams.  Like so many other things in life, we have a choice; the question becomes which one will you make. If you’re like me, achieving the extraordinary sounds like the best option, however we all know that nothing good comes easy. Achieving the extraordinary requires a mindset that is not only positive, but open to new ideas and different ways of doing things; something referred to as “Discovery Mindset”.  Ironically one of the methods we can use to enhance our discovery mindset is embracing an attitude of service to others. In doing so, we can ignite those booster rockets that will let us achieve the extraordinary.

According to Carol Dweck, a mindset is nothing more than a self-perception or self-theory that people hold about themselves.  The most basic is a “Fixed Mindset”, wherein people believe their basic qualities, like intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. Likewise, they believe their shortcoming to be the result of uncontrollable outside influences.  Conversely, there are those with a “Growth Mindset”, who believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. Adapting a growth mindset opens the world to us. It let’s us embrace the idea that anything is possible and that tomorrow can and will be better than today; a growth mindset sets the stage for discovery of our potential!

John Sweeney is a contributing writer to Businesses Journal and co-author of The Innovative Mindset: 5 Behaviors for Accelerating Breakthroughs.  In his Business Journals post, “Four Ways to Embrace a Mindset of Discovery”, he proposes that a discovery mindset is the key to fostering innovation or creativity; “A mindset of discovery is a choice to move away from fear – fear of failure, fear of making a mistake, fear of looking silly — and instead living a life of engagement, authenticity and forward-looking action.”  Using Dweck’s idea that mindset is something controlled by each of us, Sweeney proposes four actions we can take to establish a discovery mindset.

  1. Start Believing that Change is Our Fuel – Change is a constant and we have a choice; we can look at it as a negative, or as an opportunity. By viewing it as an as an opportunity to explore new ideas and new solutions, it becomes a propulsion mechanism for those previously mentioned booster rockets. Change becomes the raw material that generates innovation, and once it begins we keep it going by always asking, “what if?” or “how about?”.
  2. Embrace Mistakes – A discovery mindset is a choice to embrace mistakes and move away from fear – fear of failure, fear of making an error, fear of looking silly.  Taking measured risks is an essential element for cultivating innovation. Let mistakes and errors become a source of inspiration and learning
  3. Look at Ideas as Valuable Building Blocks – Have you ever heard the phrase, “There are no bad ideas.”?  Why do you think that saying persists? Because it is true! Ideas serve to generate more ideas.  Rarely do we discover the solution, or reach the big “ah-ha” moment with an initial thought. It occurs down the line, but it is the process that becomes valuable.  Often, the generation of multiple ideas helps us change perspective and subsequently enables the solution to problems deemed, through a previous perspective, to be unsolvable or impossible.  Ideas build on each other!
  4. Don’t Wait To Begin – The journey to discovery is filled with unpredictability.  Too often it is delayed by one of two things; asking for permission and gathering all the data.  These are called “Safe Modes”, and rarely produce innovative results because our perception of risk deters us from the action that will bring unpredictability. Sweeney proposes using the 70% rule; “ If you are 70-percent sure about something, make a decision and adjust later.”  

A positive attitude combined with a discovery mindset will enable you to become more productive, confident, and innovative.  In turn, your innovation can then serve as the basis for service to others by living George Bernard Shaw’s words, “Some men see the world as it is and ask, “Why?”.  I dream of things that never were and ask, “Why not?”

Embrace the Mindset!