By Angie Joens
I just returned from Europe—it was a summer trip with some of my favorite people in the world. It was also the first time I had traveled out of the country in nearly 8 years. I was excited, anxious, and nervous all at the same time. I love to try new things and am unafraid of looking like a dork by asking too many questions. I love to meet new people and discover how we are alike and different. I like to look at a map, get lost, and stop and ask for directions. I will attempt to speak in a language I have little mastery of so those I meet know I am trying. I like to drive and will take a roundabout three times until I figure out which exit to take. I love to travel because it challenges me to get out of my comfort zone. It allows me to learn, grow, and push myself.
And as much as I love to travel, I know many people who have no desire to leave home. They like the familiar and predictable. I thought about that while flying back home (11-hour flights provide lots of time for reflection) and remembered a great book I read by Carol Dweck called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She studies human motivation, and her theory is that we have two mindsets – a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. Someone with a growth mindset believes intelligence, our abilities, and talents can be grown with practice, learning, and effort. On the converse, someone with a fixed mindset believes their abilities and talents are inborn, static, and unchangeable over time. And Dweck believes that these two mindsets can determine if you will succeed or not.
And while some are born with a specific mindset, Dweck believes with practice, we all can develop a growth mindset. Here are a few steps you can take to cultivate a mindset of growth:
Your challenges are also your opportunities. These challenges can be obstacles or lessons. You get to choose. For me, the most challenging times of my life helped me learn the most.
Don't Quit. Part of the growth mindset is to preserve. Get back up after you get knocked down. Push through. Make the mistakes and keep going anyway. Elbert Hubbard once said, "The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make a mistake." I love that!
Reflect. Take time to acknowledge and embrace your failures or errors. What did you learn? How will you take what you learn and not repeat it the next time? That is a growth mentality—not perfection—progress.
Be OK being uncomfortable. There is no way we can all know everything. Whether we are new to our roles or organization or traveling to a new location—ask questions, make mistakes, and get lost. While it may be frustrating or uncomfortable now, you are learning and growing.
Celebrate the success of others. Find out what made them successful. Ask them, learn from them, and see how they managed their own challenges.
Start using the word "yet" more often. Integrating the word yet into your vocabulary signals that despite any struggles, you can overcome anything. It's a matter of time and little effort. Just because you do not know how to do something now does not mean you cannot learn. So, add the word yet to those challenges. I am not very good at writing acknowledgments for the President of our organization—yet. See what I did there?
Write down your goals. Growth mindset people are goal oriented. They have clear and realistic goals to help them achieve whatever they are pursuing. And they don't just have one or two goals—they have a list of goals they are pursuing.
Alter your attitude. When we have a fixed mindset, we can be negative and pessimistic. And this negativity can be contagious. Instead, focus on positive and optimistic thinking. It can help you with your mood when you believe all things are possible—and believe me—it will also inspire others around you.
Ask for constructive feedback. A growth mindset always seeks feedback from peers, friends, and leadership. It's a chance to find lessons, learn from mistakes, and place efforts into skills that will help in the long run.
Appreciate the journey. Finally, when building a growth mindset, take time to see the value in your journey. When you fixate on the outcome, you miss valuable learning moments that can improve your growth.
I have been on my journey for many, many years, and I am going to keep going. I will keep making mistakes. I will continue to challenge myself. I will learn new things, visit new places, and meet amazing people. I will look like a fool—often. I will get back up when I am knocked down. I will ask for feedback even if it stings. I know it will not be pretty or easy, but it will allow me to keep making progress—and that is what I care about each day. What about you? Forward!