I had such good intentions! 2018 would start with time to reflect, and write joyfully and positively here each week!
So, ahem, here we are at 23 January, already, and I’m writing here for the first time. (Happy new year! I hope you had a joyous season, but if you didn’t, that the first weeks have allowed you to regain your equanimity and focus).
A fail? Maybe. But I wanted to share something that’s both about failing, and why there’s no such thing.
On my reading list this month has been Mindset, the bestselling book by Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck. At the heart of it is the idea that we approach challenging situations with one of two frames of mind: a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.
Growth mindset and fixed mindset
Someone with a growth mindset sees problems as a challenge to be tackled, positively and proactively.
(Oh yes! We all want to have this!)
Someone with a fixed mindset sees themselves as much more at the mercy of their own current situation, identity, skills or circumstances. That might be positive: ‘I’m a great storyteller’, or negative, ‘I can’t do maths’.
(We all have this, though we hate to admit it).
In fact, we all have both, in different places, and in different situations. It’s hugely relevant to us as we try to work creatively and positively. Here are some ways it shows up:
A fixed mindset obsesses: ‘My success has been based on my talent, so if this manuscript isn’t accepted, I will mean I’m a failure. (Can I even risk submitting it?)’
A growth mindset calms: ‘If this manuscript isn’t accepted at first, I’ll keep submitting, asking for any feedback, and rework it, since I can only get better.’
Fixed declares: ‘I don’t have the experience that those others have, so there’s no point in putting in my application.’
Growth whispers, ‘I don’t know if I currently have the skills, but I’m going to do my best to learn from the challenge of applying.’
The situation we’re in
Fixed complains: ‘This situation is terrible. The system just doesn’t believe in what I stand for’.
Growth muses: ‘This situation is frustrating, but I can use it for creative inspiration’. (If you haven’t heard my interview with filmmaker Elena Rossini from last year, come and listen now for the best ever story of doing this)
My own fixed mindset
I realised a fixed mindset was kicking in for myself. I was thinking: ‘I haven’t written to you for weeks! What does that say about my abilities as a writer? What will people think of me?’
Rather than: ‘I haven’t written when I intended to, but never mind! I can sit down right down and do it now’
On one level, this is obvious. Positive thinking, Joanna, you say, I know all about that! But wait! It’s very easy to use that as an excuse to ignore what beliefs are really holding you back.
Let me challenge you
What have you accepted about your level of talent, determination or the way you work?
What if that wasn’t true, or relevant?
If we were to have a private coaching session together, what would I ask you about you most fixed beliefs? What question might even make you uncomfortable, because it would start to reach the heart of what you believe about yourself? (That’s why coaching is so powerful, because we create a safe, secret space to uncover and work with things that are deep within you).
…you didn’t believe in the idea of talent?
…you didn’t believe you will do your best work at night/alone/when you’ve done more research?
…you didn’t believe that failure is painful?
What would you tell me?
Whatever it is, my challenge to you is this: spent two minutes asking yourself this:
What would you do, right now, if you didn’t believe it?