On my desk I keep a small statue. It’s a beauty pageant participation trophy I got off the internet for $4.99 plus $19.99 in shipping and handling. I even had my name engraved on it. She sits proudly on my desk looking at me, all smug with her right hand coyly resting on her hip, standing up perfectly straight in her big poofy skirt with her sash draped proudly over her chest.
She sits on my desk not to remind me of the beauty pageant I never won (or even entered for that matter). She sits there to remind me of the evils of striving for perfection. And when you think about it, many of us get caught in this trap. We get caught in the trap, and we don’t follow through. We get caught in the trap and we give up before we’ve even started, because whatever we produce just won’t be good enough. We won’t be good enough. So why even bother?
Or maybe we try and we don’t exactly meet the goal, or the target. And then we beat ourselves up about it. Here’s an example. I set myself the goal of writing this blog once a week on January 1st of this year. I’ve dutifully done it every week, except one in September when I was on vacation. And then the end of the year rolled around and I’ve missed a week or two. And then my thoughts the other day turned to – “See! You didn’t do it. You never follow through! What kind of coach are you, you can’t even finish strong when you made a big deal about starting something. You might as well give up, you hack!”
I could really listen to that voice. Tune into and wallow in my misery of failure. Revel in the fact that I’m an impostor that doesn’t deserve to use the word coach. I could do all that, and don’t think I didn’t think about it.
And then I took my own advice, and remembered sometimes it’s actually helpful to practice what you preach. One of my favorite books which I often have clients read is one called Mindset, the new neuroscience of success. In it, the author Dweck talks about the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
Fixed Mindset = Proving
The fixed mindset is all about proving. Proving one is good enough, smart enough and gosh darn it, that people like you. (I’m hoping someone will catch the Stuart Smalley reference here…) Many of us go through life locked into a fixed mindset a lot of the time. As a result of it, we often have difficulty accepting criticism, rising to the challenge of something new or unexpected because we might fail or collaborating effectively with others because we view them as competition. We have difficulty because the emphasis is on proving. I have to prove I can finish what I start, and if I don’t, I’m an impostor.
Growth Mindset = Learning
But if I put on the lens of the growth mindset, I realize I don’t have anything to prove. I know what I’m worth, and it’s more than the sum of all the friends I have, knowledge I’ve acquired or accomplishments I’ve made. I’m inspired by the success of others. I’m eager to ask for and receive feedback. I take on new challenges and get excited about the prospect of what I can learn because it doesn’t have to be perfect.
So I put on my growth mindset hat the other day, and here’s what I realized:
- I set a goal to write a blog every week.
- I accomplished that goal 48 out of 50 weeks.
- I wrote about things I wanted to say, rather than carefully curated topics that would draw the most readership.
- I received a number of comments from folks who were appreciative about what I was putting out into the world.
- I let go of perfection and hit publish even when I realized the words could have been cleverer or finessed more.
- I enjoyed writing this blog, and it didn’t feel like work.
Not a bad way to spend a year, don’t you think?
Coaching questions for thought:
- How might you be subjecting yourself to a perfect standard?
- What would happen if you focused on what you’ve learned, rather than what wasn’t perfectly right?
- What are the opportunities in your life to trade the fixed mindset for the growth mindset?
- How might a fixed mindset be creating you stress?
Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them. Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!
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