What is a mindset and does it matter?

What is a mindset and why does it matter?

20 October 2023
Smiling man sitting down having coffee and looking at a tablet

“Mindset matters in everything we do,” states Ricky Kalman, a mindset expert, motivational speaker and author of Leverage Your Mindset — Overcome Limiting Beliefs and Amplify Your Life. “Every conclusion, resolution, argument, success, and even our failures were probably predetermined by that space between your ears before you even started.”

Defining mindsets

The dictionary definition of a mindset is simply ‘a person’s way of thinking and their opinions’: a rather all-encompassing definition. But a mindset is better described as a framework and attitude that influences our approach and how we perceive, process and decide in various situations. Our mindset is key to how we approach ourselves and others.

In 2006, psychologist Carol Dweck proposed two predominant types of mindset: growth and fixed. Some 17 years later her concept still holds strong, and the recent boom in mindfulness has placed mindset at the forefront of both business and personal progression. “Now more than ever, I think that mindset has become a pillar of success,” explains Ricky. “Listen to how much mindset comes up in conversation these days, how much it's doubled, tripled and quadrupled in Google searches. But it’s not just a conversation piece or a personality trait — now it's a cultural way of thinking.”


Growth mindsets are all about potential and development. They believe we can change ourselves through learning, experience and training. This means individuals with a growth mindset tend to see opportunity in challenges, and are able to use negative situations as lessons for the future.

Ricky explains the growth outlook simply: “When we do something, do we believe we can do it? Do we have faith in ourselves? Do we have the confidence to do it? Do we have the drive to do it with energy and enthusiasm and purpose and passion?”

In short, he adds, growth mindsets understand that self-discovery never ends, regardless of whether you’re a corporate leader or raising kids at home. However, growth mindsets can lead to perfectionism, unhealthy competitiveness, stress and burnout, which is why mindfulness is so important to managing and creating healthy goals.

Group of colleagues standing, having a conversation

The fixed mindset

‘Fixed’ mindsets tend to believe that we are born with innate abilities and outlooks that do not and cannot change. The result is that people with fixed mindsets tend to limit themselves, often seeing situations with a predisposition towards fear or failure. The irony is this negative mindset essentially guarantees said failure.

“I don’t know if they’re fixed,” Ricky muses, “but I think that they're programmed. Our brain basically works on the last message we send it. If you say, ‘well, it's gonna be a tough day’, or ‘I had a bad night's sleep, so I'm probably going to be a little bit slow’. Well guess what, you're probably right. That’s your old programming based on this fixed understanding. I call it outdated software.”

Fixed mindsets can also trap people within an economical sphere, believing ingenuity, hard work and ideas simply won’t pay off. You’re unlikely to find an entrepreneur with a fixed mindset.


It’s no surprise which mindset is more prized. Fear of failure is an enemy of innovation — fixed mindsets don’t take risks, which is what business and relationships thrive on. Meanwhile growth mindsets embrace change, create positivity, and in turn happiness. But how do you convince an unchangeable mindset to change? “If you’ve programmed yourself based on a belief, you've created an autothought,” explains Ricky. “The autothought is a really simple process, a word I coined that basically says you're going to unconsciously act based on a belief that's already pre-programmed — that was put there by us. And whether it's a lifetime or a short time, I truly believe that everybody can update their programming.”

Updating your mindset

There are plenty of ways to tackle or ‘update’ a negative mindset, but it takes time to achieve: it’s a process. Practicing mindfulness is certainly a good place to start. “I would challenge everyone reading this to put a calendar reminder for five minutes, every day, to just sit and do nothing. Just breathe, slow down,” advises Ricky.

Relaxation allows you to be present in the moment and creates clarity and awareness. From this state, you can see your intentions better and plan a structure of how to make them happen. It’s the kind of care we practice elsewhere, but rarely make time for in ourselves. “If there's a virus on your device, do you just leave it there?” asks Ricky. “No, you clear out the device! You clear out everything: cache it, delete it, burn it. You do it two, three times and make sure it’s gone. I ask you to clear your cache; clear the cache in your head for five minutes and start afresh.”

Yound Asian woman in a corporate setting, holding a laptop and mobile phone looking into the distance


Journalling is a great way to alter your mindset. It slows us down and gives us a place to set goals and hold ourselves accountable. It doesn’t have to be a physical diary — it can be as simple as writing notes on your mobile. But be aware that phones are often part of the problem too. “How much time do people spend on their mobile for pure distraction?” states Ricky. “A corporate executive, a grandmother, uncle, your friend in college? How often do people look at social media or Google something they'll never even purchase? Just fantasy shop? That’s part of that fixed mindset.”

Social media and ‘doom-scrolling’ is the opposite of mindfulness and creates a negative mindset. Recent research has found that we spend an average of 3 hours and 15 minutes on our mobile phones every day1 — soaring up to over five hours in the US. Reducing phone use can help us actively refocus and engage a growth mindset.

Going Forward

As with many large life changes, acknowledging there’s an issue with your outlook is part of the battle. There’s never a bad time to check in with your habits and patterns and see whether they serve you in a positive way. From there, it takes small, simple steps to change your mindset to one of growth and happiness — as Ricky points out, it’s very much within our power to do so. “We all hold the remote control to turn the volume up or down, put it on mute, turn it off, turn it back on. I honestly think that people really do, deep down within themselves, either convince themselves to fail, or convince themselves to win. But if you’re reading this article, then something caught your attention — and you’re already one step closer to creating more success in your life.”



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