4 Min Read
March 30, 2022
Building a career can be one of the toughest, most sustained challenges we face in our lives.
In a changing world, more of us than ever have the opportunity to pursue a rewarding and fulfilling career.
That's certainly not to forget that there are still barriers people face, whether personal or social. But today I want to talk about a potential barrier we can control -- our own mindset.
We're human. Sometimes, we get in our own way. Our mindset tells us that things are as good as they're going to get. Or that we can never learn to code because we're not good at maths. Or that we won't get into design because it's too competitive.
This isn't to say that our internal monologue can't be helpful. But sometimes it tries so hard to guard us from disappointment or protect us from criticism that it stops us making progress and taking important, bold steps towards our goals.
Fortunately, armed with a modern understanding of psychology, it's possible for us to spot our own thought processes, and begin to tackle them.
Broadly, we have a growth mindset when we believe that intelligence and talent can be improved. This is enforced by a set of behaviours and beliefs, such as being willing to embrace challenge, risk failure, engage in practice, see others' successes as sources of inspiration and applying constructive criticism.
These beliefs and behaviours lead to motivation, effort, acceptance of failure, feeling inspired and self-reflection. Ultimately, these lead to -- you guessed it -- growth!
Conversely, when we have a fixed mindset, we believe our intelligence and talent is fixed. We avoid challenge and failure, see practice as pointless, view others' successes with jealousy or as threats, and feel attacked by constructive criticism.
They ultimately lead to inertia, resistance and stagnation.
Fixed mindset: "If I'm not good at something, then that's it; I can't change that."
Growth mindset: "If I'm not good at something, I can improve myself with the right training and a lot of practice."
Fixed mindset: "I'm already good at UX design; I don't need to improve."
Growth mindset: I'm good at UX design, but I could be better. There's always room for improvement!"
Having a fixed mindset has a number of negative consequences for us. If I have a fixed mindset, and someone tells me that the way I built my code is mediocre, I might take that quite personally. I might refuse to listen to the constructive aspect of the criticism and continue to believe that I'm "as good as I'm going get."
The concepts of a Growth and Fixed mindset come from psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, who first linked a growth mindset as a strong predictor of success. Today, there's evidence everywhere that we can actively change our mindsets to influence our circumstances.
Constant upskilling and lifelong learning are pivotal for developing the careers we want.
When we adopt a growth mindset, we're more likely to embrace lifelong learning, believe our intelligence can be improved, believe failures are temporary setbacks and opportunities to learn, view feedback as sources of valuable information and embrace challenge.
Fortunately, there are a number of things we can do to shift to a growth mindset...
Reflect on your inner thoughts, and try to flip those negative thoughts. For example...
I'm not a "maths person" => Maths isn't my strength yet - if I keep working at it, I'll improve
I'm struggling with this. I'm a failure => Struggling means I'm learning
Seek feedback, and be open to the answer.
When I receive constructive criticism, I try to be aware of my (very human) thought patterns. It's okay to feel the sting - we all do. But by being aware of what's happening, we can experience that feeling, set it aside, and then reflect upon what we can learn.
It's become the norm socially to reward the outcome - like getting a gold medal at the Olympics. but effort deserves to be rewarded too. Allow yourself to value your effort, whatever the outcome.
Weird, right? But failure is part of the learning process. See failure as evidence of your effort, and seek the things you can learn from each of those efforts, whether successful or not.
The world of work is constantly evolving, and you should evolve with it. Adopt a growth mindset in 2022 and maximise your chance of reaching your goals.
You've got this!
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