Through the Fulfilled Self Program that we launched this year for Chinese women in partnership with UEnjoy Club, we’ve seen the first cohort of women open up, give and receive feedback, and take meaningful action in their lives. One of the six sessions of the peer coaching program focuses on maximizing confidence and self esteem. Drawing from the incredible work on mindsets, from Dr. Carol Dweck (Stanford University) and Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson (Columbia University), we look at how adopting a growth mindset in key areas of our lives can change the way we see ourselves, how we set goals, and how much satisfaction we derive from our activities.
In a growth or “get better” mindset, the focus is to develop ability, to learn, to improve. This is in stark contrast to a fixed or “be good” mindset, where the goal is to indicate an ability to perform and to simply deliver. Of course there are situations that will naturally call for one mindset or the other, but it is incredible how often we get stuck in a fixed mindset when we are better served by adopting a growth mindset.
The Fixed or “Be Good” Mindset
Let’s say you’re being considered for a promotion against three other people on your team. Your performance on an upcoming client pitch will determine whether you’ll get the role. You prepare extensively and are extremely focused on demonstrating your skills, on performing at your best, and at proving to your superiors that you have what it takes. If the client pitch goes well, and you get the role, you’ll feel smart, competent, even elated. But if it doesn’t, and you don’t, you’ll feel worthless, undeserving, even depressed. You’ll feel you don’t have what it takes, that you failed. This is the fixed mindset.
The Growth or “Get Better” Mindset
Let’s consider another scenario where you’re expanding your business in to a new vertical. You’ve got an upcoming client pitch that will be a great chance to better understand the specific needs of this vertical industry. While seeking out as many opportunities to learn throughout the process, you’ll embrace the newfound challenges you face along the way, and you’ll grow your skills. Measuring success will not be solely on whether or not you win the client, but also on how you’ll apply the key learnings to further win over other industry clientele in the future. If the pitch goes well, you’ll look at what worked, and find ways to replicate it. But if it doesn’t, it becomes an opportunity to learn. This is the growth mindset.
Moving Past the Need to Validate Your Worth
China’s economy is one of the fiercest competitive landscapes in the world. High achievers in China are highly adapted to performing and delivering results. Consequently, a fixed mindset is deeply embedded in the goals set and the motivations derived from getting results. It is important to remember that when you’re delivering and performing, you’re not necessarily learning. When we look at how to derive fulfillment and satisfaction in the different aspects of our lives, it’s about finding ways to enjoy the journey, and not just the rewards. Shifting away from being motivated to prove our intelligence, our expertise and our worth and rather shifting toward learning, growing and contributing can be a healthy, life-changing experience.
By adopting a growth mindset, challenges and surprises become exciting opportunities instead of frustrating setbacks. The world “failure” doesn’t exist; it’s just another experience to add value to the next endeavor. In a growth mindset, people are far more willing to take risks, step out of their comfort zone, and embrace change.
The women in the Fulfilled Self program are taking steps to adopt a growth mindset in appropriate areas of their lives by:
Giving up the need to be perfect – Realizing that they already are whole, competent, and bright women just as they are, they no longer need to go through life proving how perfect they are. It’s having this awareness to separate our achievements from our self-worth that is the first step.
Comparing yourself only to yourself - Learning to compare themselves to themselves and not to others, they are paying attention to how they have improved on a skill over a period of time instead of holding themselves to the performance of others.
Focusing on the journey – Finding ways to enjoy the journey and not just the results. This is hands down the most critical shift that will lead to increases in fulfillment and satisfaction in our day to day lives. Learning new things, embracing challenges, and watching as you and the others around you grow, all can confer immense value.