Take a minute to think about the last time you were frustrated with yourself. Was it justified? Did your thoughts spiral to the point of doubting your abilities? If you’re like most people, one mistake can easily lead us down the path of self-doubt.
We think our inability to do a simple task correctly or timely is a direct reflection of what we’re capable of. We’re hard on ourselves – and that’s a good thing to a certain point. The trouble arises when we mistakenly accept our flaws as facts.
We make our mistakes our identity and accept ourselves as failures in myriad aspects of our life. For example, the IKEA desk that you put together took hours longer than expected and it fell apart after a week, so you tell yourself you’re awful at assembling things and avoid it going forward. Now you have two choices when these difficulties arise – either accept your inability to do them or accept your inability to do them at that moment. The latter being far more conducive to growth – hence its name: the growth mind set.
Carol Dweck is a Stanford psychologist and has extensively studied what keeps people from achieving their potential. It turns out that some of us have fixed mindsets, and others have growth mindsets. It’s important to realize which you fall into because of the profound effect your mind has on your quality of life and future potential.
Someone with a fixed mindset believes that our intelligence and character are things we can’t change. They believe people are naturally able to do things that others can’t. The believe people can’t adapt and if you’re bad at something that’s just the way it is. You inherently lack that ability. Those with a fixed mindset avoid failure at all costs.
Someone with a growth mindset believes that personality, intelligence and character can be developed and changed. They see challenges as a new opportunity to learn, not a threat to their existing ability or ego. They understand that not knowing something now isn’t an indication of unintelligence, it just means you need to make an effort to learn it.
Growth mindsets are crucial to living a better life. Fortunately mindsets can be changed. Check out some guidelines for embracing the growth mindset.
Remember that failure is an action, not an identity – Make an effort to understand that what’s important isn’t your ability to a task now, but your willingness to learn how to do it in the future. Be confident in your ability to learn.
Value what you’re doing regardless of the outcome. Learn to love the process, not the result- Don’t focus solely on outcomes. If the project that you’re working on doesn’t work out, reflect on what you could have done to prevent it and incorporate those lessons into your work going forward.
Naturals are rare- Some people pick things up quickly with little effort, that doesn’t mean you can’t do what they’re doing with effort. These people are the exceptions, not the rules. Don’t let their natural ability discourage you from working to do what they do.
Praise people’s efforts, not their abilities – Studies show that when children are praised for their effort rather than their natural ability, they are more likely to develop a growth mindset. Value people’s work ethic and encourage them to learn.
Embrace feedback- The decisions that you make aren’t always going to be the best. Seek and listen to what others have to say about the way meetings are run, what policies are in place, how you handle yourself and the actions you take. Be compassionate with yourself and remember that learning better ways of handling yourself just makes you a better person.
Don’t stop growing- Embracing a growth mindset means you’ll never stop growing. This means that even if you’re not good at something at the start, you have a better chance of success in the long run since you’ll stick to learning and overcoming setbacks.