What if you could work smarter not harder and still succeed? New research from psychologists at Singapore University reveals that a strategic mindset can help direct your efforts more effectively and increase success in multiple areas of life.
Your last challenge
Think about the last time you took on a challenge or set yourself an important goal. How did you tackle it? Did you dive in enthusiastically, excited to get started but without much of a plan? Maybe you spent time planning and monitoring, using review points along the way to help you work more efficiently? If you routinely plan and review, it’s likely you’re already reaping the successes of a strategic mindset. If you’re not one to spend time refining strategy, the good news is you can increase your success by learning to cultivate a strategic mindset and here’s how.
Three questions you need to ask
Lead researcher, Patricia Chen, and her team assessed strategic mindset by asking how often 860 participants utilised these strategy-eliciting questions when faced with a challenge:
- “What can I do to help myself?”
- “How else can I do this?”
- “Is there a way to do this even better?”
Growth Mindset at Work regulars won’t be surprised to learn that Patricia Chen is a former student of Carol Dweck. The research was done in collaboration with psychologists at Stanford University. Although growth mindset theory has already demonstrated the importance of analysing and learning from failures to achieve success, Chen’s research is exciting because it throws a spotlight on why some people use their strategies more than others at the right time. The research showed that participants with a highly strategic mindset utilised the three questions most of the time. Higher performance was linked to the use of these questions for educational and professional goals.
Successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople routinely use a strategic mindset. Think Elon Musk’s commencement speech at the USC where he advised, “focus on signal over noise, don’t waste time on something that doesn’t make things better.” They’re experts when it comes to analysing performance, pivoting in new directions and refining ways of working to achieve progress quickly and efficiently. In other blogs, we’ve also examined how companies successfully utilise a strategic mindset approach when managing failures. Carol Dweck explains,
“There are key points in any challenging pursuit that require people to step back and come up with new strategies. A strategic mindset helps them do just that.”
Can you learn a strategic mindset?
Chen’s research found that this mindset can be taught. Chen’s team randomly assigned participants to learn about strategic mindset in a training session. They were then assigned a challenge and asked to complete it as quickly as possible. Compared to other people in the study who didn’t receive the mindset training session, the strategic mindsets learners were quicker at completing the task, practised the task more before performing it (whilst being timed) and applied more effective strategies.
Assessing your strategic mindset
You can assess your own level of strategic mindset by answering the following questions that Chen and her team used, rating your responses on a scale from 1 (never) to 5 (all the time). The higher your score, the more strategic your mindset:
- When you are stuck on something, how often do you ask yourself: “What are things I can do to help myself?”
- Whenever you feel like you are not making progress, how often do you ask yourself: “Is there a better way of doing this?”
- Whenever you feel frustrated with something, how often do you ask yourself: “How can I do this better?”
- In moments when you feel challenged, how often do you ask yourself: “What are things I can do to make myself better at this?”
- When you are struggling with something, how often do you ask yourself: “What can I do to help myself?”
- Whenever something feels difficult, how often do you ask yourself: “What can I do to get better at this?”
Chen and Dweck continue to research the best ways for young people and adults to adopt this strategic way of thinking. In the meantime, routinely using the above questions to analyse your performance is a great place to start.
Want to discover more about growth mindset? Try our free Introduction to Growth Mindset Course.
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