Is your mindset holding you back?

10 April 2017

Michelle Gibbings

Michelle is a workplace expert and author of three books. Her latest book is 'Bad Boss: What to do if you work for one, manage one or are one’. For more information, click here.

Career progress doesnt arise purely because of a financial planners technical skills. Much of it is influenced by the mindset they adopt each day.

Everyone’s mindset is unique. This is because our mindset is shaped by our experiences, creating assumptions and expectations about how things are and should be. It is through this lens of our past experience that we interpret the world we live in and what is happening around us.

It is this interpretation that drives our internal state, and ultimately our thoughts, emotions and behaviour.

As author and philosopher, Aldous Huxley said: “Our experience is not what happens to us, but what we make of what happens to us.”

Consequently, our mindset is an important part of who we are – impacting our beliefs, thoughts and behaviour.

The danger is that our mindset can limit us, and in ways we may not be consciously aware of. It can put in place roadblocks and obstacles that make it much harder to achieve our career objectives. Or worse, lead us down a path where our ‘faulty thinking’ creates ‘faulty choice’ and ultimately, delivering a ‘faulty outcome’.

Common pitfalls include: ignoring information that doesn’t fit with our established view of the world (commonly known as ‘filtering’), and applying an opinion on ‘something’ to ‘everything’, even though that opinion may be based on a single incident (commonly known as ‘overgeneralising’).

It’s therefore important to be critically aware of the mindset you are taking into situations, particularly when dealing with complex situations and challenging clients.

If you don’t, you may find your mindset prevents you from securing your desired outcome.

Know your mindset

A quick way to check your mindset is to ask yourself the following question: Do I believe I know everything I need to know already, or do I believe there is still so much to learn?

How you answer those questions will help you determine if you have a fixed or growth mindset. These terms were coined by the world renowned Stanford academic, Carol Dweck.

She found that people who have a fixed mindset see intelligence as static – a fixed trait. As a result, they want to always look smart and appear as though they have all the answers. They believe that success is based on talent alone – not work. This means they can avoid challenges and give up more easily. They also ignore feedback, which they see as criticism, and feel threatened by the success of others.

In contrast, people with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be developed through hard work and effort. Consequently, they are more eager to embrace learning, take on challenges and persist, despite setbacks. They love learning and usually display higher resilience. They are also more willing to learn from others and receive feedback.

Constant learning is the new normal

Running a successful financial planning practice and servicing the varying needs of clients isn’t easy. Particularly in a sector that has undergone, and is continuing to experience, unprecedented levels of change.

Success requires the financial planner to adopt a growth mindset, and be willing to constantly learn new ways of doing things, and to not get fixated on the past. It demands new skills, so that they continuously stay relevant in the profession.

Of course, many financial planners will already feel as though they’ve gone through many, many years of new professional development requirements and new ways of working.

Unfortunately, this need to learn isn’t coming to an end, and it’s not something that can be ignored. Continuously developing at both a technical and leadership/behavioural level is critical.

This development can come from a range of sources and cover a range of topics. The most significant thing is to make the learning relevant for your needs. Research shows that people learn most rapidly when the learning is relevant to them, and when they take responsibility for their own learning.

And yet, as we get older, we can become more reluctant to try new things and do things differently. We can become more stuck in our ways, reluctant to change and to adopt new ideas or new ways of working. We can also become more cynical, thinking: “I’ve seen this all before.”

However, this mindset isn’t going to help you thrive in today’s complex, ever changing world.

If you want to be at the top of your game, you need to be abreast of the latest thinking and ideas from your profession, and also from complementary professions.

Additionally, you need to be willing to take yourself outside your comfort zone. When you feel uncomfortable doing something, it is your brain’s way of telling you that you are learning something new. So, it’s a good sign – not a bad one!

Get deliberate

Research from a team of psychologists in Germany in the 1990s showed that deliberate practise – not talent alone – was a factor in becoming an elite performer.

They looked at the practise habits of violin students from childhood through to adulthood.

What they found was that whilst the students all started studying at the same time – age five – by the time they were 20, the elite performers had averaged more than 10,000 hours of practise, while the less able performers had only 4,000 hours of practise.

Of course, this is not to say that it’s practise alone that will make you a successful financial planner, but what it does reveal is that practise and deliberate learning are crucial elements in determining your success.

When you are deliberate about learning, you are proactive, rather than sitting back and waiting for someone to tell you what you need to learn to progress your career.

A key step in this is to undertake a career audit and work out what gaps currently exist in your knowledge base and skill set. Once you know the gaps, the logical next step is to work out how to close the gap.

Here are six ideas to get you started:

1. Buy a book on a topic that you have always wanted to know about, and is different to your day job.

2. Check out the range of free learning that is available from providers, such as Edx and Coursera. These mass online open courses (or MOOCs) provide access to a vast array of fantastic learning.

3. Go to a lecture on a subject that will broaden your field of view.

4. Subscribe to online news, so you can get up-to-date information and knowledge from around the world.

5. Meet new people and continue to broaden your network. Meeting new people, who have different ideas and views, can spark creative ideas and challenge how you think about concepts.

6. Find a mentor in the profession who you can learn from.

Adopting a growth mindset and getting deliberate about your learning may be the next building block to help your career prosper in the year ahead.

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