When we’re struggling in our job or career it’s easy to find the people around us who are seemingly flourishing and everything is going their way. By simply observing the outcome of others situation, not the journey, we can fall into the trap of assuming that they encountered no challenges on their way there. The key difference between those who think they can do it (and do) and those you think they cannot (so stop), is mindset. Mindset refers to an established set of attitudes set by an individual. Those with a learning or growth mindset know that with persistence and openness to learning they can tackle any challenges that befall them, those with a fixed mindset see that there’s a stop to their ability no matter how talented they are and are more likely to give up.
According to Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck, the fixed mindset is focussed on proving it’s smart, while the growth mindset wants to get even smarter. Where a fixed mindset is concerned with protecting their image of competence and promoting themselves, a growth or learning mindset is eager to pursue additional learning and happy to be seen growing their skills. These outlooks typecast different people in a workplace very quickly, and while it seems a wise to always know what you’re doing, perhaps conveying you’re always willing to improve is more powerful.
When speaking at the launch of Inspiring the Future Australia, NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes gave the young people attending the advice to “always keep moving”. While this might seem circumstantial advice, there seems to be a theme among well-respected people that lifelong learning is the key to overcoming challenges and barriers. So should we be focusing on a learning and growth mindset? And how can we develop this and embrace each new challenge as a learning experience?
Chuck out weaknesses – embrace opportunities to learn
One of the easiest ways to fall into a fixed mindset when it comes to our job or career planning is when we come across an area we’re weak where we assumed we’d be strong. Finding out a point of struggle or a skill you need to learn in the middle of a task or situation is frustrating and often debilitating. This can spiral us quite quickly into procrastination or even make us give up entirely in favour of something we think we can do easily. In order to start developing a growth mindset, seek contentment in your weaknesses and consciously reframe them as opportunities to learn. When you encounter an opportunity to learn, rather than shying away and feeling unable, you can approach it as a new challenge and develop steps to gain the skills or experience needed to move through.
Just take a baby step
When we come up against a challenge, often the hardest thing is seeing the other side of the giant block we perceive in our way. Instead of getting overwhelmed by everything you need to know or how far you have to go, take one step towards the goal and slowly but surely you’ll get over the hump. Say you want to work in an office in administration or accounting, but your first-day doing work experience or placement you realise you can’t use Excel and its essential! Instead of seeing what your supervisor can do and getting overwhelmed you’ll never have those skills, start small and get used to basic sums before you worry about creating charts or graphs.
Free yourself from ‘limits’, become a lifelong – learner
Within a growth and learning mindset, there is no barrier to success. No matter how long it takes to get somewhere, there is always a path paved by learning that will get you where you want to go. If you’re trying to develop a growth mindset, don’t let others expectations or perceptions box you into what seems doable for them. Work on being happy with the journey and embracing it as a part of the goal. It’s often more valuable than you even thought it could be, and as you learn, may take you in different directions you never thought possible.
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