This post is authored by Dr. Nicole Lipkin, CEO of Equilibria Leadership Consulting
You just thought of a great idea. You’re jazzed about it. You mull it over in your mind. The idea starts to grow and as it does you begin to see the scope of bringing it to fruition. You get more excited. This could really be something. So you start to think about how to make it into a reality. You realize the amount of work it will take to bring this idea to life and that begins to weigh you down.
You don’t like this idea anymore. This idea is now a daunting one, given what it will take to go from idea to reality. The excitement starts to dwindle and overwhelm creeps in. Maybe you realize you’re not the first person with this type of idea. Now that you think of it, maybe it’s not such a great idea after all. Maybe you need to throw out this idea and think of another one because this idea has too many parts, too many steps, will involve too much work, too many resources, too many people.
You were a fool to think you could pull this off. You call this an idea? Please. It’s not even a thing, never mind an idea. Maybe you should get something to eat and watch something on TV. This idea’s not for you.
Welcome to the world of “fixed mindsets,” a term coined by psychologist Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset. It’s something we all fall into, some more than others. It is where creativity goes to die and innovation suffocates. It makes obstacles look insurmountable, effort as futile, and it loves the word “can’t.” It’s hard to get anywhere in life with a fixed mindset.
Dweck termed the flip side of a fixed mindset as a “growth mindset.” A growth mindset loves the word “can” and it is always on the lookout for ways to transcend a problem. Without a growth mindset we wouldn’t have plumbing, or the telephone, or airplanes, or clean water — the list is exhaustive. These all came about because regular people pushed boundaries and didn’t stop when an obstacle presented itself.
We all have times when we fall into the zone of the fixed mindset and we all have times when we are willing to push ourselves. If you know you err on the side of a fixed mindset more often than not the good news is you can train your mind to open up. You can stop yourself in your own tracks when you see yourself falling down the rabbit hole and use the following techniques to unlock your potential:
Know Your Weaknesses: Only when you acknowledge and embrace your weaknesses can you start working on them.
Redefine Failure: Failing at something only means that “you’re not there yet.” It does not mean that you won’t get there with continued effort and hard work.
Be Willing to Do It A Different Way: Try different ways of doing something until you land on the way that works best for you. Keep in mind that what works best for you may not resemble what works for everyone else.
Learn from other people’s mistakes: Pay attention to what others have learned and passed on when they tried the same thing. Figure out what lessons you should heed (and which you may be able to move past).
Reframe: Look at challenges and problems as opportunities rather than threats. When we perceive something as a problem it can trigger emotions and cognitions that can hinder rather than help. Reframing these problems as opportunities can serve as a motivating force.
Get pumped about self-growth: Folks who are excited when faced with an opportunity to grow and develop are more likely to take on perceived challenges. Being open to growth means you are evolving and alive and kicking — versus stagnating.
Reshape your relationship with time: Learning and growing takes time. Be patient; afford yourself the space and time to learn new skills just as you would for a seed to grow.
Reflect: Carve out time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not with your learning. Integrate this information and use it to help you figure out next steps.
Set Goals: Goals help set the course and structure, as well as help to motivate. Set small, accomplishable goals and keep revisiting and resetting throughout the process.
Reward: Reward your progress by focusing on the effort you have put in and the lessons you have learned to date, even if you are not there yet.
Be Realistic: You’re going to be less than perfect with any new skill you attempt. Be realistic about your progress and remember, you once didn’t know how to talk, walk, write, and eat. These too were all learned skills and they took time and a lot of effort, even if you don’t remember.
Perhaps most importantly is a commitment to keeping your mind open to possibility. When obstacles are thrown in our path the mind has a proclivity to close and react negatively, but it can be trained and harnessed to see possibility rather than doom.
Maybe that idea you had wasn’t so bad after all.
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