Jonny Kowal / 28 July 2022

Making time for mindset

When it comes to employability, cultivating the right mindset is the catalyst to enable the development and continuation of any other skill.


We recently developed a programme for students eager to work on employability skills and invited business leaders, recruiters and graduates to share their insights and experiences. Many of those contributors emphasized the importance of mindset, and one encapsulated its significance within their organization’s interview process when he said,

"You're going to have a job that you don’t know yet; using technology that we don't have yet; solving a problem that we don’t know exists yet. So what’s the point of hiring you just for your skillset?"

We make the bold claim in the same programme that cultivating the right mindset is the bedrock that will enable you to develop any other skill. In other words, your mindset determines the efficacy of your learning – what you learn, when you learn and how you learn. And if that is the case, and you agree, then here's a question for you…

When was the last time you reflected on your own mindset? 

Your mindset is how you perceive the world around you – your beliefs and ways of thinking that determine your behaviour and outlook, and therefore how you interpret and respond to situations.

"Mindset" is trending and has been for some time now. Some attribute that to Dr Carol Dweck, who popularized the term in her best-selling book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Random House, 2006). Dr Dweck's aspirational theory pushes us to consider ways we can cultivate a Growth Mindset, in turn ridding us of our fixed notions of ourselves – those self-limiting beliefs that stifle us, impacting behaviour, decisions and actions, and therefore our self-improvement and trajectories in life. Dweck neatly addresses the fundamental difference between the fixed and growth mindset with the word 'yet': I'm not that good at this (fixed) versus I'm not that good at this yet (growth). 

Our mindset is powerful. And of course, there are many others beside the growth mindset – courageous mindset, intentional mindset, agile mindset, problem-solving mindset, innovator’s mindset, entrepreneurial mindset, and the beginner’s mindset (which is where it gets really zen). The list goes on. You’ll find many articles on some/various of the above by EY, McKinsey, Forbes, Harvard Business Review and others. And they continue to evolve and gather pace.  

Here are a few of my recent favourites: 

It's certainly a topic of conversation that resonates with most, as it is inherently relatable – we all have inner worlds that interact with each other’s; 'cores' and 'flexes' that sometimes collide, at other times conform, but hopefully always co-act. The thing is, does that intrinsic interest in mindsets translate into decisive and explicit action when it comes to our own learning and development?

Have you tried bringing mindset into your practice recently?  

Has your mindset, whether it be your positivity, courage, or perhaps resilience ever made it onto your list of development goals at work?

Perhaps your answer is ‘yes’, but for many it’s either ‘no’ or ‘kinda’ (the veiled ‘no’). This article’s intention is not to make you feel bad if you haven’t – I promise. And if it was, it’d make me feel just as guilty!  

But in my role here at Common Purpose as digital learning experience designer, I spend a fair amount of time researching and talking about various mindsets; on curating and creating content on the qualities of and ingredients that make up differing mindsets; on devising activities, tips and resources to help cultivate certain mindsets. And yet, making time for my own mindset work has only recently permeated my Outlook calendar. 

Our new podcast series, The Big Spark Cast, has been one recent source of mindset work for me. The series aims to spark curiosity through conversations needed in the world today - conversations with inspiring leaders, hosted by our Group CEO Adi Sengupta, that often radiate the importance of nurturing certain mindsets. I'd recommend Adi’s conversation with Paul Polman as they touch on key ingredients throughout, especially if making social impact is or might become part of your purpose. 

Mindset work is almost an entirely different dimension to our learning, as it’s a very different dimension of us. It’s neither our soft or hard skills (though they intrinsically link), but something deeper. Remembering to take care of that dimension, or looking at your development through that lens, is half the battle. Raising our self-awareness is half the battle. 

So rather than espousing a pathway of development involving the usual suspects like reflection, practice, experimentation and so on, or actionable reflective practice models like the ‘Now What?’ model (which is a great tool to use for mindset work by the way – I may write about this in future), I’d suggest this… 

Work it into your development plan. Block out time in your Outlook calendar and call it ‘Mindset work’. It starts with intention. Making the time for that dimension of development is a useful trigger. I would go as far as to say that thinking about mindset more than you did yesterday is enough.You just need to have your ‘why’ firmly in place, then let your curiosity drive the rest. 

Because the real trigger for mindset work is actually in perceiving a genuine need, the prevailing theory of curiosity putting its genesis down to identifying gaps in your knowledge, skills or abilities. However, all too often we wait for things to go wrong before taking a deeper look at ourselves. Not until we’re experiencing imposter syndrome at work, or stifling levels of anxiety in general, do we take a moment to really consider deeper parts of ourselves.Let’s not wait until things get to that. Our mindset is at the root of almost everything we do and don’t do, yet it’s elusive. So acknowledge and overcome the subtle nature of mindsets by asking yourself two questions to rekindle or begin your mindset work today: 

How can I work on my mindset? 

Where should I block out time in my calendar for it?  

A challenge: Find one block in your calendar now. 

Let your curiosity do the rest. Let your working context be your playground. Let your self-awareness permeate your consciousness more than it did yesterday. 

Jonny Kowal

Jonny Kowal is a Digital Learning Experience Designer at Common Purpose. His expertise in learning design and psychology led him here, where he designs and develops a range of online and blended learning journeys.


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