Many an article has been written, or lecture given, that has started with the phrase “there are two types of people in this world…” In fact, it has happened so many times, with wildly divergent endings to the sentence, that it truly is a reflection on how varied a species we are.

However, as we enter a new year, it is a good opportunity to reflect upon a part of our make-up, which does divide people in this way. Fear not, though, as you read on, because if you find yourself thinking “I’m on the wrong side of this divide”, it is possible to switch.

The two types of mindset, “fixed” and “growth” affect not only the way we think and operate in our business lives, it is the same for relationships, parenting and even education.

This division is all about the way our self belief affects that which we achieve. In a nutshell, if we believe we can succeed, we will be more likely to achieve success. In contrast, if we see ourselves as a failure, or a victim, our potential diminishes.

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, explores this power of the mind and how we can change our beliefs to affect our lives.

People with a fixed mindset achieve less than their full potential. They are likely to avoid challenges, are put off by obstacles, see effort as fruitless, ignore useful negative feedback and feel threatened by others. They believe that if they are not born “gifted” in a particular skill, then they cannot achieve excellence.

An individual with a growth mindset, in contrast, is likely to attain ever higher levels of achievement. This is because they embrace challenges, press on despite setbacks, believe mastery comes from effort, learn from criticism, and see the success of others as a source of learning and inspiration.

Dweck argues that the growth mindset creates a passion for learning, rather than a hunger for approval.

Learning to see things differently can open up a whole new world. Instead of fearing failure, change to a growth mindset and learn from it, so that you are stronger and better equipped to succeed the next time. Instead of limiting yourself to doing the things you know you can do without failing, look at the people who succeed doing the things they love. Because of their passion to do better and achieve success, they will undoubtedly have fallen, then picked themselves up and dusted themselves off, a number of times on the road to succeeding.

And, just in case an eminent psychologist, such as Dweck, doesn’t make you think about this mindset in a way which helps, then I will leave an alternative source of inspiration.

In his speech to the Maharishi University of Management, the actor Jim Carrey talked about it in a slightly different way. He said: “So many of us choose our path out of fear, disguised as practicality.

“I learned many great lessons from my father, not least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

Sue Alderson is a director of Azure Consulting, a Yorkshire-based specialist in leadership development. 01924 385600.