Overcome Failure with a Growth Mindset

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high, and we miss it, but that it is too low, and we reach it.”  — Michelangelo

Many people give up after a significant disappointment. Yet, others are inspired to try again, learn from their mistakes and go on to achieve great things. Consider the following:

  • Oprah Winfrey was publicly fired from her first job as a TV news anchor.
  • Steven Spielberg was rejected by the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film, and Television, TWICE, before becoming a student at California State University.
  • Richard Branson had dyslexia as a child and dropped out of high school.
  • Arianna Huffington ran for Governor of California in 2004 and lost.
  • Michael Jordan didn’t make the varsity basketball team when he tried out for it his sophomore year.
  • Steven King submitted his first novel “Carrie” 30 times before having it accepted on his 31st

The difference between individuals who try and try again and those who give up after failures is related to their willingness to work hard and their desire to improve. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck explains the difference between a growth and fixed mindset. People with a growth mindset have an underlying belief that their learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience; they embrace challenges. Those with a fixed mindset believe that their basic abilities, intelligence, and talents are fixed traits; they work to avoid failure.

As leaders introduce change and seek new ways of doing things, they often experience team members with differing mindsets. To encourage team members to expand their thinking, experiment with new ideas and persevere, leaders can ask open-ended questions such as:

  • What are we missing?
  • How might we improve the solution we agreed to implement?
  • What mistakes have we made in the past that we want to avoid this time?
  • If this doesn’t work, what is our Plan B?
  • What can we learn from our competitors?
  • How will we help others learn how to do this?

Using questions to encourage a growth mindset takes time. Rather than expecting immediate or visible results, leaders need to manage their expectations and take the long view.  Remember, habits developed and reinforced over many years take time to change. Keep the following principles in mind to help manage your expectations. People will:

  • Feel uncomfortable when trying something new and may want to give up.
  • Make mistakes even when they say they want to change.
  • Focus on what they can’t change and/or the obstacles in their path.
  • Eventually, learn more from positive feedback than negative experiences.

Patience is required. Two good signs that things are working are when people begin to ask for help and when they take responsibility for their actions. Ultimately, energy focused on growth will be worth the effort.

To learn more about how to help you and/or your team develop a growth mindset, contact Kittie Watson at [email protected]

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