Do You Have a Fixed or Growth Military Transition Mindset?

A sailor studies.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Lucas Valles, an operations specialist aboard USCGC Stratton (WMSL 752), works on damage control qualifications. (Sarah Muir/U.S. Navy photo)

The notion of a fixed mindset says that you are approaching situations, options and your responses with the belief that certain things are unchangeable and fixed. Things like your personality, abilities and intelligence are seen as not malleable, workable or changeable, and therefore you must accept them to function successfully.

Modern psychology of the growth mindset, on the other hand, promotes the belief that through hard work, commitment and learning, you can develop and pursue new skills, talents, abilities and thereby attract more opportunities.

In 2007, Stanford researcher Carol S. Dweck advanced the concept of a fixed versus growth mindset in her book, "Mindset: The new psychology of success," and has helped shift thinking to what can be possible instead of what we believe to be true.

In a review of Dweck's work, author Maria Popova describes the impact of the growth mindset: "Its hallmark is the conviction that human qualities like intelligence and creativity, and even relational capacities like love and friendship, can be cultivated through effort and deliberate practice. Not only are people with this mindset not discouraged by failure, but they don't actually see themselves as failing in those situations; they see themselves as learning."

How Are You Viewing Your Transition?

As you consider options, limitations, choices and challenges in transitioning from military work, lifestyle and culture into the civilian sector, you might ask yourself if your beliefs are limiting and fixed, or whether you're open to possibilities and change.

Consider ...

Where you don't currently have the skills and insights needed to compete effectively, are you open to find and receive them? Are you reaching out to your network to ask about tools and resources you need to grow and learn?

Are you limiting your choices by focusing only on jobs and opportunities you know how to do, for which you are currently trained? Your future after the military goes well beyond the experiences you've had to date. Are you considering career options that stretch your skills and talents?

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Are you clear on your strengths and weaknesses? How have you assessed them? Strictly relying on your own perception ("I'm good at mechanical work.") and not taking into account other people's views on your strengths can limit you. Consider surveying or asking those around you to help you assess your strengths.

Similarly, are you telling yourself what you believe you're weakest at? Or are you relying on input and data points from performance reviews, peer feedback and your experiences on the job to evaluate your weak areas?

A growth mindset sees opportunities, possibilities and potential. While you should base your perspective on some reality -- and not be naïve -- growth mindset says there's a chance. Fixed mindset says, "It is what it is ... nothing I can do about it."

As you consider options for your next career, push past those limiting beliefs and explore the choices that make you smile, make your heart race a bit faster and cause you to see your future as hopeful and rewarding. If you need to gain some more training, certifications or skills to become successful, then do it even if it requires you to work harder than the person next to you. I've never met a veteran who was afraid of some hard work.

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