My baby took his first steps yesterday.
In the moment, I was so excited for him, I hugged and cuddled him and laughed as he laughed. But when he finally fell asleep and I laid my head on my pillow, I cried.
I cried because it’s awesome.
I cried because I’m 6 months pregnant and hormonal.
I cried because I worked my butt off the last 6 years to build a business where I can be present for milestones like this.
And I got to be there.
He walked to me.
**Cue all the tears.**
Of course, my baby didn’t figure this all out on his first try. One day in and he’s still wobbly and falling every other successful step he takes. Give him another month and he’ll be running, but not without practicing taking more steps all day every day. And you know where my husband and I will be? Cheering him on. Praising his persistence. Picking him up when he falls. Standing him back up again. Encouraging him to keep trying.
Can you see the metaphor?
You may or may not be familiar with the work of Dr. Carol Dweck on Mindset. If not, here's the gist:
Based on her research, this Stanford psychologist says that learners fall into two different categories-- those with a fixed mindset and those with a growth mindset.
Those with a fixed mindset believe that their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits-- God-given, the cards they were dealt, the luck of the draw. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success. In other words, if you know how to do something and you know how to do it well, you'll be successful at that thing. So people in this mindset worry about their traits and how adequate they are. They have something to prove to themselves and others, often, striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs.
Those with a growth mindset thrive on challenge and see failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience. There's a stronger passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval, because of the belief that all success can be cultivated through effort and deliberate practice. Not only are people with this mindset not discouraged by failure, but they don’t actually see themselves as failing in those situations — they see themselves as learning.
As babies, we are all of growth mindset. Just because my baby didn't perfect his gait yesterday is not discouraging him from taking more steps today. Quite the opposite! He woke up this morning at 5 am and practically jumped out of his crib to start walking again.
NOW... The big question... Which mindset do you have?
Loaded question, right?
I think that we can fit into either category circumstantially at any given time, but our baseline in new situations, especially ones where we are asked to stretch and grow, can kick up old belief patterns that have been reinforced as we grew up, based on all kinds of experiences.
This is huge right now in the world of education.
One of the ways educators are helping students cultivate a growth mindset is through the language they train their students to use when facing a new learning challenge.
Instead of “I can’t…” They encourage “I haven’t figured that out yet, but I’m looking for a solution.”
Instead of “That can never work for me.” They encourage, “How might this work if I looked at it from a different angle or modified it in some way?”
Additionally, teachers who are getting trained in Dr. Dweck’s Mindset work are learning that their language matters too.
Instead of “YES! YOU GOT AN A! YOU'RE SO SMART!” They are learning to say, “You worked so hard on that project. No wonder you succeeded. Your persistence is showing.”
There is no shame if you find yourself slipping into fixed mindset habits.
Because the truth is that we are all able to grow and expand and change… even with this!
So, here’s the deal… if you’re struggling with something right now, or you’re worried you’re not getting stuff exactly right on your first stab at things, know this:
OVERNIGHT SUCCESS IS A MYTH.
BUILDING SOMETHING FROM NOTHING TAKES A TON OF EFFORT.
ANY SUCCESS YOU SEE OTHERS HAVING IS YEARS AND YEARS IN THE MAKING.
THERE IS NO ONE RIGHT ANSWER THAT ELUDES YOU. THE ANSWERS ARE ALL INSIDE YOU AND THEY WILL COME TO LIGHT WHEN THEY DO.
YOU, TOO, LIKE EVERYONE YOU ADMIRE, HAVE YOUR OWN SET OF UNIQUE GIFTS AND TALENTS THAT CAN SERVE YOU.
What you’re doing is hard, hard work.
And you’re showing up.
And you’re doing it.
And you keep pushing forward, even when you’re unsure.
That, my friends, is the most badass thing you can do for yourself. Mistakes are proof you're trying.
Keep on keeping on.
And I'll be over here...to cheer you on, to praise your for your persistence, and encourage you to keep going.
YOU’VE SO GOT THIS.
Want to learn more? Take the Mindset Quiz, linked below!