“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think!”—Albert Einstein
We all know that being willing to evolve and be adaptable at work is crucial to success. But when difficult times hit, it is natural for many of us to feel overwhelmed. We get stuck, we feel like we have lost control, and a fixed mindset sets in: “I can’t do this, I am not good enough!” Adopting a growth mindset at work (and in life!) can help you take back control.
Over the years, having a growth mindset at work has become a popular topic. And while in theory, it is simple enough to understand the importance of how having the right mindset can influence the outcomes of our actions, it is difficult to put into practice.
We are humans, and we are prone to feelings of fear and doubt. The strong incongruence between knowing that humans are capable of learning new skills, versus feeling inadequate and incapable, is something that takes time and consistent work to overcome.
At the core, the growth mindset is about overcoming those feelings of inadequacy, especially when faced with difficulties such as the pandemic or an economic downturn, by recognizing that these are opportunities to pursue learning and development.
Studies on education have led researchers to the discovery that it isn’t the innate abilities of students that determines success—it is their attitude toward the challenge. Some of us grew up thinking that IQ is something you are born with, and if you have a low IQ, you won’t get far in life or in your career.
But over the years, that belief has been shattered, and we have collectively shifted to embracing a new mindset: That it is possible for humans to grow, learn new things, and improve their “in-competencies” if we work hard enough.
As Carol Dweck put it, “Test scores and measures of achievement tell you where a student is, but they don’t tell you where a student could end up.”
That is where the growth mindset plays a huge part. People who look at problems with a growth mindset see challenges as exciting—they look at them as an opportunity to learn or improve. Even with the risk of failing, as we all face whenever we try something new, they aren’t afraid. Because for them, failing isn’t something personal that they have to beat themselves up about; it just means they need to get better.
The growth mindset empowers us to get comfortable tackling difficult and uncomfortable situations.
On the other hand, a fixed mindset makes us feel powerless in the face of a challenge. If we believe that our abilities are wired in our genes and there is nothing much we can do to change it, we feel stuck, overwhelmed, and helpless. We feel scared to try because we equate failing to “I’m a failure.”
People have a natural tendency for one or the other, but individuals also look at different problems with either a growth or fixed mindset. One might think that taking on the challenge of learning how to code is fun and possible, but feel like they are forever stuck at being bad at math.
That means it is possible for us to change how we look at the areas in our life that we keep a fixed mindset on.
It starts with self-awareness. Knowing what areas in your life you are looking at with a fixed mindset is the best place to start.
Recognizing and accepting these are important. Then make the conscious decision to take a different approach—mindfully create action steps you could take if you believed you could change or improve this specific aspect/ability.
It also helps to break down overwhelming tasks to pinpoint what about this task makes them difficult or overwhelming. If you are afraid of public speaking, for example, what are the things that you can and can’t do? Can you speak? Have you ever spoken in front of two or more people before? What is it about public speaking that makes it more difficult than, say, delivering a presentation in a meeting room of five or six people?
When you pinpoint what is difficult, you can focus on working on that specific area. Sometimes you have to face the challenge alone. But there are also times when asking others for help is more beneficial to your progress.
Personally, as I got older, I realized that exercise works. Motion creates emotion, and it also enhances it.
So, if I ever want to look at something completely differently with a fresh set of eyes and mindset, I go for a run, or I work out. Then I come back and I look at it more objectively.
I also find that when you work on making yourself better by reading, journaling, reflecting, and thinking, it is always done at a different level after exercising.
If you want to change your mindset, you have to do those things repeatedly, but you also have to optimize yourself to make sure that you get the most out of all of your activities. A simple routine can change your life.
Having a growth mindset helps you build confidence, not because you are already good, but because you believe in the hard work you put in to prepare and get better at it. It helps you become adaptable, willing to evolve, and willing to face challenges that others normally avoid because they don’t want to risk failing.
Thus, it improves your resilience and your ability to weather out uncertainty and turbulence.
When faced with difficulty, we have a tendency to have a fixed mindset and concentrate on factors beyond our control rather than those we can influence. An approach that is practical can assist in reducing some of the overwhelm. You can be better prepared to face challenges by being aware of your strengths and taking steps to strengthen your weaknesses.
It also helps you know your boundaries and know when it is time to raise your hand and say, “I need help with this.” When we don’t feel like our weaknesses are a sign of our personal failures, we are able to focus on learning, growing, and collaborating.
At an organizational level, promoting a culture of growth mindset lessens toxic competition and promotes a culture of learning, collaboration, and a focus on feedback over failures. It encourages your employees to take on challenges and gives them the freedom to reach their full potential.
Thanks for reading “A Brilliant Tribe."