If you find yourself saying ‘I can’t’ more than ‘I can’, getting clammy hands at the thought of a different direction in the workplace, or marvelling at the abilities of others around you while berating your own skills, it might be time to consider adjusting your mindset…
I’m sure I’m not the only person who, when faced with a completely new and seemingly daunting direction at work or in my personal life, feels cold fear flood through my veins. In recent months, I’ve encountered this sensation many times, as I’ve started to produce videos for Happiful – something I have very little previous experience of. As a result, my imposter syndrome, fear of failure, and discomfort, has been at an all-time high as I’ve waded through editing tutorials, tried to understand YouTube algorithms, and repeatedly faced my own image on the screen (not an easy task with a pesky inner critic ever-present on my shoulder).
“What an amazing opportunity to learn another skill!” my friend Becky says, smiling, when I tell her what I’m up to over coffee. Her response is positive, immediate, and in no way trying to mollify me, as I haven’t yet uttered the words: “It’s just so out of my comfort zone.”
I’m pleasantly taken aback and curious about the difference in our viewpoints. While trying to work on my own misgivings, I come to understand that Becky’s response (and her demeanour in general) is indicative of someone with a ‘growth mindset’, and I believe that I’m predisposed to wandering over to the ‘fixed mindset’ side of the street a bit more regularly than I’d like. So what can I do to change that, and is it even possible to?
Transformative coach Ali McNab believes that the transition from fixed to growth is indeed possible, and it all begins with an understanding of what those phrases really mean, and how they play out for us.
“This terminology was derived from the works of American psychologist Carol Dweck, who has written many books on the subject, having studied human development and personality,” Ali explains. “The theory looks at the way we believe in, or perceive, our intelligence and abilities, and the impact this has on our behaviours, and how we respond to challenges and opportunities to learn.”
Ali says that having a fixed mindset, in particular, can hold us back from evolving and expanding our skills. “With a fixed mindset we believe that our intelligence and abilities are static; we have a set amount and that’s it. We think our successes are due to a natural ability, and it can’t be grown or changed. We believe that we can either do something, or we can’t do something, and nothing can change that.”
A fear of failure, and avoidance of challenges that are outside our comfort zone, can come hand in hand with a fixed mindset, due to the fact that we might be scared of making mistakes or looking stupid. People operating from a fixed mindset may also give up more easily, see effort as pointless, and shy away from feedback.