Three mindsets you need to make a successful career change

mindset nature 2

These days I often get asked how I find the transition from the world of banking to starting up a business on my own. The honest answer: it’s not easy.

6 months ago, I was travelling around the world helping banks and companies to raise capital; 6 months later, I am splitting my time between diving into a sea of research on positive psychology and building up a business in which I help people reconnect with their inner compass and create a life and career on their own terms.

This change of career (and life) track looks pretty dramatic from an outsider’s perspective. And it can feel bumpy inside too. I need to step out of my comfort zone constantly and do things that scares me everyday.

With any changes in life, there always comes the challenge, the fear of the unknown, uncertainty and rejection . You will feel it at every stage of the change journey – when you decide which career path to choose, launch your first product or pitch your ideas to investors.

What I’ve learnt from my own experience and my work with clients who are going through career changes is that the key distinguishing factor in whether someone can make a successful breakthrough often comes down to his/her mindset.

Mindset is not a new concept but an under appreciated one. In her famous book Mindset”, Standard Psychology Professor Carol Dweck shared what she found from decades of research from students to senior executives – “the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life”. Every day, I experience myself and with my clients how a change of mindset can change the way we think, feel and act.

Today I will share the three most important mindsets you need to make a successful breakthrough in your career and life:

1. A Growth mindset

Dr Carol Dweck first advocated the concept of a growth mindset, as she started to explore what makes children stand out in academic achievements. What she found was that the students who started up as the best didn’t always end up as the best.

People with fixed mindsets believe that one’s qualities are fixed, and success is not about learning but about showing talents. They tend to set performance goals and are eager to get validation from others. They think that potential can be measured (for example, receiving low scores and not getting the ideal job). If they face a setback, they will likely disengage from the problem and give up.

Those with a growth mindset believe that most qualities and intelligence can be cultivated through efforts and dedication. They are resilient and love to learn, despite the presence of challenges. They will view mistakes or failures as opportunities to learn and develop their qualities. A low exam score or a rejection of a job is by no means an indication of their potential. They will look to generate new ways to do things if one route doesn’t work out for them. They see efforts as a necessary part of success, and they try even harder when faced with a setback.

Going through a career change or starting up a new business is by no means an easy ride.What is important about the growth mindset is that it can have a significant impact on how we react to challenges and adversities.

Tip: Next time when you face a setback or challenge, adopt a growth mindset and ask yourself: what can I learn from this experience? What can I do differently? What efforts can I make to improve things that I need to work on?

2. A Beginner’s Mindset

“A beginner’s mind” is a concept that originated from Zen learning. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of preconception when studying a subject, just as a beginner would. The subject may be your career path, the business idea you have, or yourself as a person. Having a beginner’s mindset would enable you to look at things from a fresh perspective and allow the creative and curious side of you to come out naturally.

Steve Job’s “Stay foolish, Stay hungry” is a perfect example of a beginner’s mindset. Without the beginner’s mindset, we will probably not be using the beautifully designed apple devices as we do today.

Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki once said: “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” It is the exact mindset we will need when we go through career transitions. Have you ever had the feeling that your career path gets narrower and narrower as you progress the ladder? It can be very easy to feel “trapped” in an “expert’s mind” as you look at your options.

Let go of the expert in you, the expectations and the “having to know”, as if you are learning or experiencing it for the first time. Be open to learn, experience and fail. You may be surprised at the number of new possibilities that may emerge.

Tip: Next time when you feel stuck, try stepping outside and adopting a “beginner’s mind” and ask yourself: what would be different if you look at it as if it is the first time without any attachment from the past? What would it be if you keep an open and curious mind about yourself?

3. A Positive Mindset

Having a positive mindset is always easier said than done. Our mind is a like a huge computer with the background programmes storing lots of information about our past from the day we were born. It runs in an automatic way that whenever a new stimulus is presented, it looks for how you’ve experienced and reacted to a similar stimulus in the past and tells your brain what you need to do this time. If you have a negative thoughts associated with an event in the past, it is likely to automatically re-appear in your brain again next time the same thing happens.

How one can change the pattern, you may wonder. The starting point is to be observant of your thinking patterns. Become aware of what situations triggers your negative thoughts – is it when you get criticism from colleagues or friends? Is it when you don’t hear back from people? Pay attention to how you speak to yourself in those moments – would you say the same thing if you are talking to a friend? Do you always attribute the cause to yourself or external factors? Can you hear any conflicting voices within you? Where are those voices come from? It is not about suppressing negative thoughts, but to be aware of them, recognise them and work with them.

Once you’ve recognised your thinking patterns, what you can do next is to reframe them in an alternative way. If you find yourself nervously imagining what can go wrong before going to an interview, ask yourself – what alternative positive thoughts can I have about this interview? What good things can happen after the interview? Another useful exercise is to jot down three things that went well and the reason they went well at the end of each day. This can also help you focus on positive experiences in your life.

Research already shows that positive thinking will result in positive emotions, which in turn will help you grow your personal resources to achieve success. In other words, happier people are more likely to success.

Tip: Next time when you find yourself caught up in negative thinking, just pause and observe yourself, and ask yourself – how can I think, feel and react differently and positively?

Now I’d love to hear from you. What mindset you find particularly helpful to get through challenging times? What actions will you be taking to adopt a growth, beginner and positive mindset?

If you like this article, please like it, and share it with people you care about so that you can inspire them to make the changes they want to make and lead a life filled with joy, passion and purpose.

Until next time,



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