by Jen Murphy
So in my last entry Growth Mindset: The Importance of Praising Effort over Intelligence, I explored ‘Growth Mindset’ and its benefits for children’s resilience and appetite for growth and learning. Well it’s equally beneficial for us working women. Mindset helps us understand the internal beliefs we hold about our intelligence, talents and abilities. There are two types of mindset: 1. Fixed Mindset and 2. Growth Mindset.
In a fixed mindset, you believe your intelligence is finite. You’re born with a certain amount of innate intelligence, which you can’t grow. You’re naturally good at some things but not others. Any endeavour that requires effort is a sign that you don’t possess the natural ability to do this well. You take constructive criticism personally.
A growth mindset on the other hand, has grit. You believe that your intelligence and talents can grow and evolve through hard work and perseverance. Your destiny isn’t predetermined by your IQ. Effort is what activates your ability to do something well not natural talent (although it can help of course). This fosters a love of learning and an appreciation of criticism as guidance to do better. Failures are learning.
We all have a mix of fixed and growth mindset traits. But those of us who have a greater tendency towards a growth mindset are often more successful in our lives and careers. Even more so than fixed mindset colleagues with higher IQ’s. I first came across the concept of mindset in 2016 when I was studying in the Innovation Academy in UCD. I learned how it has the potential to revolutionise the Irish education system for our children. I also learned how to monitor my own mindset and to re-orientate my fixed mindset thoughts and behaviours towards personal growth. Here’s two tactics that help me challenge myself when fixed thoughts start to creep in, which they do regularly…
I love this quote from Sheryl Sandberg, ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’. Take a moment and ask yourself, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” No really stop reading this right now and ask yourself what would you do... Ask for a promotion? For flexible working? Change your career? Run for election? Take a leave of absence? Start your own dream business? Fear is such a paralyser, it keeps us stuck when we want to grow. Research shows that people with a fixed mindset are often afraid to challenge themselves beyond their comfort zone for fear of looking foolish. The fixed mindset is where your inner-critic lives. The voice inside you that says things like:
People will judge you. You’re opening yourself up to criticism. Don’t put yourself out there. Stay in here where it’s nice and safe.
As mine did when I started the Working Mammy blog. As I outline in Why my inner-critic tried to sabotage this website and how I stopped her, developing a counter-narrative that acknowledges your fear but pushes for growth can help you re-frame the fear-based stories you tell yourself. Yes, OK you may be faced with practical limitations like the finance needed to quit your job and start a business. Yet, people achieve greatness all the time with nada in their personal bank account except self-belief, perseverance and courage. And so can you 🙂
I was afraid to launch Working Mammy back in May of this year. To put myself ‘out there’. And all that has happened since has been an out pour of cheer-leading and encouragement from fellow working mammies, daddies, family and my buds. This site is now a finalist in The Blog Awards Ireland 2018. A nice reward (and note-to-self for the future!) for facing my fear.
F.A.I.L. First Attempt In Learning. I could type an extensive list of quotes from incredibly successful people who failed more times than they succeeded. Humour me one example – J.K. Rowling was barely surviving as a single mother on benefits following a failed marriage when she wrote her first Harry Potter novel. This was rejected by 12 publishers before being considered by Bloomsbury.
Earlier this year, I went for a promotion in work. I was on the fence about my desire for the role but I told myself to ‘lean in’. I got down to the final two candidates but was unsuccessful. When I was told the news, my initial response was dismay. Despite my gut’s reservedness about my growth potential in this job, my ego went into self-protection mode and so began an internal tirade about not being valued and dissecting the process. A recipe for misery. I was heading to Iceland on my family holiday the morning after I received this news. Faced with the prospect of my inner-dialogue ruining this once-in-a-lifetime adventure, I gave myself 48 hours to feel the pain of rejection and after this, I got proactive.
I sought as much critical feedback as I could garner, reached out to contacts for career advice and designed other opportunities to progress my career. I quickly realised that I don’t fail enough. Also, that if I let my ego hijack my failure, it would disguise any opportunity I had for learning. If you find yourself in a similar scenario, give yourself a window. Wallow, then move on. I look upon this experience now with gratitude. It has built my resilience and ironically, I feel more powerful than I did before and probably if I had got the job because I wouldn’t have this experience. With the luxury of hindsight, I can vividly see how this role was not for me. I’m on a different path now and man, am I growing!
You can use these tactics to lead by example and inspire your colleagues. Preliminary research shows a correlation between mindset and an organisation’s performance. According to Harvard Business Review, if you work in a growth mindset environment, you and your colleagues are:
47% likelier to say that your colleagues are trustworthy
34% likelier to feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to your company
65% likelier to say that your company supports risk taking
49% likelier to say that your company fosters innovation
So, if this week in work, you catch yourself saying things like, “I’m no good at this”, “I’m a failure” or looking at envy towards a colleague who seems to have it sussed. Make a choice and take the growth road. It’s the tougher path initially but it will do wonders for your confidence, your happiness and for your spirit.