Empowering Nonprofit Leaders: Strengthening Organizational Capacity
The First 3 Obstacles to Embracing a Growth Mindset
The Growth Mindset approach is well-named. It simply describes a philosophy that leaves the thinker open to improvement. Embracing this mindset, though, is more difficult than it sounds. To accept room for growth is to accept that you are not yet living up to your full potential - but in a positive, motivating way.
A mentor of mine once explained to me that stress is inevitable, but how you respond to the stress can have a profound effect on your outcomes. Feeling defeated by stress overpowers even the most robust mindset so learning how to navigate that elevated state can be the first Growth Mindset obstacle to overcome. Stress can manifest as distress, the negative, fight-or-flight, upset stomach kind of stress that makes everything feel overwhelming. Or, it can make itself felt as eustress, the motivating buzz that sharpens your senses and catapults you over the finish line. While negative stressors, like loss and toxic interpersonal conflict, are difficult or even unhealthy to reframe as eustress, approaching major life changes aware of the dichotomy can keep your mindset positive and growth-oriented. You can learn more about distress and eustress in order to up your Growth Mindset game here.
The second obstacle to embracing a Growth Mindset is the myth of the Fixed Mindset Superstar. You know them - or maybe you even are them! The Fixed Mindset Superstar is the person who seems to naturally succeed at everything they attempt. They are smart. They are good in social situations. They are this, that, whatever thing they’re excelling at, and you just aren’t. This is a sneaky form of fixed mindset - assuming someone is just naturally excellent and you are not is not compatible with a Growth Mindset.
The Fixed Mindset Superstar reveals one of two realities: either they have a fixed but affirming mindset telling them they are the best no matter what, or they are privately cultivating a Growth Mindset and working their tails off just outside of your line of sight. The former usually struggles deeply when confronted with the inevitable failures of life, and may burn out or even quit the thing that they are “naturally” the best at. Spend more time with a Superstar from the latter group, and you might get a new Growth Mindset mentor!
Finally, living into a Growth Mindset means respecting the most powerful three letter word in the English language: yet. Check out how it functions in the last sentence of the first paragraph:
To accept room for growth is to accept that you are not yet living up to your full potential - but in a positive, motivating way.
Adding yet to your perceived shortcomings can transform distressing circumstances into opportunities that kick your brain into eustress mode. If it seems too presumptuous to do this in conversation with your colleagues, start adding it to your internal self-talk and watch your mindset transform. “Oh no, I missed something important during today’s meeting. I can’t figure out a way to pay attention the whole time.” leads to distress and conclusions that sound like: “What’s wrong with my brain? Maybe this position isn’t a great fit for me.”
Conversely, “Oh no, I missed something important during today’s meeting. I haven’t figured out a way to pay attention the whole time yet.” inspires Growth Mindset thinking like, “I should spend some time this week coming up with strategies to make sure I catch everything - or maybe ask my colleagues for feedback and see if they have any tips!”
Embracing opportunities to improve without falling into distress, ignoring the myth of the Fixed Mindset Superstar, and utilizing the power of a well-placed yet will help you overcome the initial obstacles to embracing a Growth Mindset in work and in life.