“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you are climbing it”
– Andy Rooney
Most of us will acknowledge that we live in an ‘instant age’. Our access to information, resources and networks be it for personal or professional purposes has never been more easily or readily available. Quick Google searches provide answers in mere seconds often speeding up our abilities to make decisions and take actions; online shopping can see us in a new outfit the next day or deliver us dinner faster than we can cook it; and with the click of a button we can now connect and engage with community forums anywhere in the world on any topic we like.
But is this ‘world of instant’, creating unrealistic expectations that at times impede our growth, limit opportunities and cause us to lose rather than gain perspective? Are we now always looking for and expecting instant results, instant knowledge and skills, or instant rapport in relationships that in reality all still require some good old-fashioned hard work, problem solving, time and investment? Does the lack of instant success prevent us from exploring longer-term benefits by always defaulting to what is only achievable now or is ‘safe’ from failure?
Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, conducted years of research about why people succeed or fail and how what she terms the fixed or growth mindset impacts the outcomes. Her TED talk, The Power Of Believing That You Can Improve provides a powerful insight into this concept and in it explains the ‘power of yet’. She begins her talk by describing her work with 10-year children and how they coped with learning challenges. In giving them problems that were slightly too hard for them, two distinct responses emerged. Some reacted in what she termed a ‘shockingly positive way’ adopting a mindset that saw them embrace the challenge, recognizing in the learning process regardless of whether or not the outcome was successful. The second group (those with a fixed mindset) felt it was a tragic, catastrophic scenario feeling that they had been set up for judgment and failure. Essentially they found that those with a fixed mindset will reject learning if it means not failing – and will often resort to cheating or finding those who have performed worse than they did in order to feel better about themselves. Those with a fixed mindset were ‘gripped in ‘the tyranny of now,’ where as those with a growth mindset were able to recognize and embrace the power of ‘not yet’.
Given that most of us acknowledge that we should never stop learning, how we embrace the growth mindset and apply it to our careers and lives is critical. Whilst it is important to recognize our innate talents and play to our strengths, it will be our abilities to embrace ongoing development; collaborate with and seek out new ideas from others; and invest in the learning process to solve problems with no guarantee of immediate success that will see us well positioned for the future. As Dweck’s studies found, it was these individuals that tended to achieve greater levels of success in both their personal and professional lives because they were less worried about looking smart and more focused on becoming smart.
As we continue to face rapid rates of change to the way we live and work, it will be our ability to embrace opportunities and learning in environments that are rich in volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that will see us succeed. With new industries rapidly emerging and old ones being disrupted; demands for greater flexibility and diversity in the ways that we work; and a requirement to operate in a much more globalized market we actually can’t afford to not adopt a growth mindset. To do so sees us risk relevance, opportunity and future success.
So what are the keys to building growth mindsets in our organisations and the people we lead? I would encourage you to consider the following 6 tips:
- Cultivate purpose: When we truly know why we are doing what we do, we are able to focus on the longer-term gains and develop greater levels of perseverance, commitment and engagement.
- Reward actions not traits: When we acknowledge the action taken we are more likely to see it repeated and develop patterns for success.
- Stop seeking approval: When we constantly prioritise approval over learning we sacrifice potential for growth.
- Separate improvement from failure: All too often we associate ‘room for improvement’ as failure. Rather we need to embrace it as opportunity.
- Embrace the power of reflection: Taking moments to understand what worked or didn’t work allows us to replicate or adjust our actions accordingly.
- Adopt the word ‘yet’: In acknowledging that we may not have mastered a skill or solved a problem just ‘yet’ removes the notion of having failed and reinforces that success still lies ahead.
As leaders need to accept that we don’t build a career or a business in one, two or even three years. It is a long-term game, that requires focus on your own ‘big picture’, a preparedness to make and learn from mistakes, a willingness to acknowledge that you may not be there just yet!
How are you cultivating this growth mindset for yourself and the people you lead?
As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.