What if failure was all in your mindset?
March 2, 2017
Most of us have considered how critical mindset is to our fulfillment and success. After all, what you think, you become. And while my inbox is inundated with daily emails on related topics, much of it leaves my head spinning with multiple how to’s and inspirational suggestions. Then I came across a rather profound, yet simple perspective, that I can’t quit thinking about.
It’s rooted in the core beliefs we hold about ourselves, that have a profound effect on the way we lead our lives. What if you could recognize which mindset is guiding you, determine whether it was hurtful or helpful and make a change? According to bestselling book, Mindset, The new psychology of success, you can.
Two Differing Approaches
Stanford Psychology professor, Carol Dweck, was fascinated with understanding how people coped with failures. Her journey in making sense of this culminated in a surprisingly simple concept based on belief in self and which mindset is driving us. Breaking it down into two basic categories, the fixed mindset and the growth mindset, Dweck identifies how each approach can significantly impact our lives.
Her argument for the growth mindset, one that rewards efforts, development and learning, is played out in countless examples of the greats: athletes, artists, musicians, CEOs and professors. Equally represented are the “would-have-beens”, whose fixed mindset ultimately kept them from becoming great.
This argument is so comprehensive and compelling that it’s difficult not to start filtering almost every challenge you face through this concept – each time evaluating whether it’s propelling or limiting your growth in that endeavor.
What does this really look like? Let’s dive a little deeper into these 2 camps:
The Fixed Mindset
The fixed mindset asserts that human qualities are essentially set in stone – either you’re smart or you’re not. According to Dweck, the fixed mindset says, “If you could arrange successes and avoid failures (at all costs), you could stay smart.” Struggles, mistakes and perseverance are not part of this picture. This mindset shuns effort, fears challenge and feels constantly compelled to prove itself over and over again.
Whether it’s a career, relationship, classroom or sport, every situation calls for a confirmation of intelligence, personality or character. Every situation is evaluated:
Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or loser?
This is an exhausting way to live, yet if we’re honest, many of us think this way. In part by genetic design and also largely due to the influence of key caretakers in our lives: parents, teachers and coaches.
A way out – The Growth Mindset
The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. It asserts that no matter what your initial talents and aptitudes may be, people can shift and grow through application and experience.
The growth mindset rejects labels, which can be limiting. It values learning for learning’s sake and risk-taking for the experience it brings, not whether it ends in success or failure. It believes that no matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.
This is so closely related to the concept of building confidence, a topic in which I frequently speak to groups of women on. According to the authors of The Confidence Code, if you are aiming to be perfect, you will never be confident. In other words, if you are constantly afraid of failure, you will never pull the trigger on the actions critical to building confidence in the first place.
Training for Growth
If a simple shift in belief could have that much impact, how do we train ourselves in the growth mindset? Consider the following steps:
1. Observe your current state of mind.
- Do you view failure as a label or something that simply signals the need for more work? Do new challenges excite you or shut you down?
- Start tracking and building awareness of your perspective. Journal how these show up for you.
2. Learn from it.
- Evaluate whether your mindset is hurting or helping. Write down 3 examples of challenges you’re facing right now and how your belief system is setting you up for growth or gridlock.
- If gridlock, consider how what if would look like if you approached the situation with a mindset of growth and rewrite your story.
Praise the process, not the result. Regardless of the outcome, how would you rate your effort? Consider this as your new benchmark of success, not whether you won or lost.
So, when your inner monologue says – don’t do it! Pause, and tell yourself to go for it, instead. Put yourself out there and see what happens.