- The connection between our mindset and our results is strong.
- Look for abundance, not scarcity, when assessing opportunities.
- Pursue lifelong learning—and teach others what you know.
“Change your mindset, change your life” is a phrase that’s become almost a cliché at this point. But while the right attitude won’t guarantee great outcomes, we do see that highly successful people consistently adopt specific mindsets that help drive their impressive results—professionally and personally.
Since we all have goals we want to achieve, it makes sense to examine the mindsets of the highly successful to see exactly how they think differently from the rest of the world—and how they put that worldview into action that delivers results.
The good news: We can learn and hone these mindsets over time—boosting our chances of doing well, regardless of what we’re looking to achieve for ourselves and the people we care about most in life.
Six key mindsets
There are numerous success-oriented mindsets out there to discover and consider. That said, in our experience, we tend to see a few of these mindsets rise to the top and be adopted by a majority of highly successful, financially strong individuals and families.
1. Failure is a beginning, not an end.
Most successful people experienced their share of mistakes and missteps on the path to where they are today, but pressed on in the face of those challenges. Successful people
therefore don’t let failure drag them down or stop them from attempting big things. They don’t approach new ventures with a fear of failing. Instead, they frame failure as one possible—but not final—outcome of their efforts, and as an opportunity to start again. One perfect example of this is Richard Branson, who started a soda business, a car company and a bridal gown business before making it big with Virgin Group. What’s more, successful people draw lessons from their failures that inform their future efforts. In short, failure is valuable when it leads to improvements.
Note: Many entrepreneurs emphasize the importance of “failing fast”—recognizing when it’s time to adjust and retrench using the lessons from your stumbles thus far.
2. You are who you are.
Highly successful people know themselves—who they are, their strengths and weaknesses, their personality quirks—and accept themselves. Take Elon Musk, for example, who was comfortable sharing his autism diagnosis with millions of viewers of Saturday Night Live when he hosted the show. Rather than essentially battle with themselves to tame the part of themselves that makes them different from others, they embrace it and use it to their advantage.
3. Realistic optimism is a must.
This sounds obvious, of course, but it’s a mindset that can be difficult both to adopt and to maintain. So-called realistic optimists, who are positive but also assess situations with an eye toward accuracy, tend to be more successful, according to one study. Essentially, your beliefs help drive your actions—so before you can achieve your goals, you need to believe you can. This belief empowers people to think of obstacles not as problems that pull you under but rather as reasons to think and act in creative, innovative ways. Therefore, developing positivity (through practices like expressing gratitude every day) is a key step.
4. It’s okay to be decisive but wrong.
The willingness to make decisions and stand by them is a hallmark of many successful people. Savvy decision makers gather the information needed—often from a team of trusted people around them—and pretty quickly thereafter go with the option that seems best given what they know. Waffling or hemming and hawing do not enter the picture. If they end up being wrong, well … see #1 above.
5. You’ve never got it all figured out.
Successful people don’t think they know it all. Instead, they make a concerted effort to remain open to learning and development—with a mind that seeks out new information and then watches for biases when evaluating new facts and perspectives. In short, they’re both teachable and eager to be taught.
This is often called a growth mindset. In contrast to a fixed mindset that says a situation is unchangeable, a growth mindset believes change and progress can be created (through consistent hard work, regular exposure to new ideas and efforts to innovate). It probably won’t surprise you that the most successful people we know have a growth mindset and are primed to learn and expand their knowledge on their path toward their goals. Often it’s that growth mindset that enables them to come up with bigger and better goals—and achieve even greater success over time.
6. Opportunities are abundant, not scarce.
Moderately successful people tend to try to get the biggest slice of the pie that’s in front of them. In contrast, highly successful people focus more on making the pie itself larger and larger. Put another way, the most successful people view the world through a lens of abundance, not scarcity. By looking to create more and more opportunities, they create wins for themselves and the people around them—even for competitors, in some cases. The zero-sum game mentality, which posits that others have to lose in order for you to win, is one that holds far too many people back.
Mindset does matter
Mindset isn’t New Age malarkey. The evidence of the connection that exists between mindset and outcomes is impressive and extends into a wide variety of areas. Consider key findings such as:
- A shift in mindset can help older adults do better at motor-skill tasks, such as balance.
- Entrepreneurs possessing a growth mindset boosted their success and managerial effectiveness.
- Changes to mindset can alter how people react and respond to stressful situations.
From mindset to action
All that said, a positive mindset by itself isn’t enough to get you to the finish line—especially if your goals are big and you want to achieve them rapidly. A good attitude and lots of positive thoughts only go so far—and the most successful people we know are motivated by the knowledge that they need to put in the hard work.
Here are some of the key actions that flow from the right mindset:
- Set clear goals and work to make them real. A vision of your successful future that’s supported by positivity and a sense of abundance is crucial. But it’s the goals you set and work toward that determine whether your vision is realized. Try to pursue no more than 12 specific, defined goals that support your broader vision over a 12-month period. Address key pain points first, then emphasize those goals that have a big upside if they work but a small downside if they don’t. Achieving such goals gives you momentum.
- Pursue lifelong learning. In order to learn from failure, grow the size of the “opportunity pie” and operate with a growth mindset, you need to become a lifelong learner—someone who is continually seeking out new ideas while questioning existing assumptions of “what works.” Highly successful people who are known to be voracious readers include Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. In addition, top business leaders and others often are members of mastermind groups—formal collectives of successful professionals who meet regularly to share information, seek advice, challenge each other to strive and create shared opportunities.
- Teach others. Highly successful people don’t build a wall around their knowledge—they share it with the people around them in the spirit of abundance. Helping others learn what you’ve learned has a tangible benefit: It can actually empower you to learn more and apply your new capabilities faster than you might otherwise—leading to faster decision making and quicker results.
- Focus on your strengths. Part of knowing who you are is recognizing what you do extremely well, what you are merely average at doing, and what you’re just not good at. Highly successful people, in our experience, are very clear on those three issues. But rather than do what so many people do—focus on improving areas of weakness—they tend to stay committed to doing those things they’re exceptionally strong at and work to become even stronger at them. The result: They spend the vast majority of their time doing things that add maximum value in the pursuit of their goals. The stuff they don’t do very well? They outsource those tasks to others who are great at doing them.
When you take action steps like these that are informed by the proper mindset, you can close the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it so you move forward.
The attitudes and beliefs with which we approach our lives—both the opportunities and the challenges—can potentially meaningfully impact the outcomes we experience. That’s why it can be so helpful to understand various mindsets adopted by many highly successful people. Just remember: Don’t stop at mindset. Take those worldviews and use them to inform the action steps that may help you achieve great things.