Just between you and me do you ever secretly fear you’re not really good enough for your job? Do you worry that any day now you’ll be found out for the impostor you really are? And everything you’ve worked so hard for will come crumbling down?
You’re not alone. It turns out many of us – myself included – carry a particular set of beliefs that make new challenges particularly stressful, negative feedback painful to hear and failure feel absolutely fatal.
Given none of us are perfect – no matter how much we try to control the world around us – what can you do make failure easier to endure so it doesn’t undermine your wellbeing or your career?
Is Your Mindset Holding You Back?
Professor Carol Dweck has found people who are afraid of failure generally suffer from what she calls a “fixed” mindset.
People with a fixed mindset believe intelligence and talent are hard wired and they were born with almost all the natural abilities they’ll ever have.
As a result, the research suggests they tend to avoid challenges, be unwilling to be seen to be exerting too much effort, and feel threatened by negative feedback for fear that any failure will prove to others they’re not really good enough and there’s nothing they’ll be able to do about it.
Unfortunately, because these people are very outcome focused, both success and failure cause anxiety for them. Failure in particular tends to induce a state of helplessness making it hard for them to learn from what’s happening, causing them to disengage with the problem and eventually to give up.
Now don’t be misled by these descriptions, it’s not that these people aren’t capable of achieving great things.
In fact like most type A personalities, I spent most of my career in a fixed mindset and didn’t do too badly – at one point taking on the role of global brand manager for one of the world’s largest firms. But people in this mindset are constantly stressed out trying to control situations to get their desired outcomes and as a result they tend to plateau and achieve less than they’re really capable of.
So what can you do to get comfortable with failure, hear negative feedback without being wounded and achieve your full potential? In this episode of Chelle McQuaid TV, I’ll show you how to challenge this mindset so you can achieve the things you most want to achieve.
How To Challenge Your Mindset
Luckily Carol also found some people have a “growth” mindset. People with this mindset believe they’re born with the capacity to improve their intelligence and talents through learning and effort, and as a result, they tend to create learning goals around mastery and competence. We now know from neuroscience this is absolutely correct.
When we believe our abilities are like muscles that can be built up with practice, we’re more willing to take on new challenges, to put in our best efforts and to accept criticism, because we understand that learning is the only way to keep improving.
Carol found this mindset influences goal setting, help seeking, achievement and motivation, ultimately determining feelings of self belief, outcomes achieved and wellbeing. In fact, people with this mindset seem to reach higher levels of success in all domains of life.
The secret to challenging your mindset is to start tuning in to the stories you’re telling yourself. You see our brains are sense-making machines. They love it when all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. And one of the ways we try to make sense of things is to tell ourselves stories about what’s happening and what might happen next. Over time, these stories become beliefs that we hold.
The problem is, although sometimes our stories are completely accurate, most of the time they’re not entirely correct.
Rather than just accepting a fixed mindset story, like “I’m not really good enough”, you can challenge that story by asking the simple question “is that the only explanation?”. Is “I’m not good enough” the only explanation of what might happen as I take this challenge on? Or perhaps, might I learn something new? And maybe, even if I don’t pull it all off, could this be a great experience for me to have?
As you begin to challenge your stories, you’ll notice the way you feel and what you’re willing to do starts to shift with each story you create. By challenging our stories, we regain the power to choose beliefs that help us feel and act in ways that allow us to learn and grow and accomplish what we’re truly capable of.
You can test your mindset by taking this survey, or watch Carol talk about how mindsets shape accomplishments here or grab her book “Mindsets”.
So which mindset are you showing up in?