Want Change? Embrace Failure!

You want change.  You want to change your grades.  Your diet. Your relationships. Your health.  Your tendency to procrastinate. But every time you do, you fail and feel miserable.  You beat yourself up for being lazy. Blame yourself for failing – again. If only you had enough…

willpower. determination. ability. strength. stamina. single-mindedness.

This kind of thinking is far more responsible for keeping you trapped in the status quo than all the laziness, weakness, and any other character flaws you imagine.  “Willpower isn’t just a thing you have or don’t have. Willpower needs help,” (Mindset, p 250). It needs strategies. In a way, I actually vote for you to be lazy. To rely on your own strategies.  To automate strategies until they become habitual. Until you don’t have to use precious brain power, or willpower to initiate them.

Before you embrace laziness whole-heartedly, there is an exception.  Change still requires effort. You need extra umpf in your ability to be flexible, experimental and self-aware.  You need to apply energy to cultivate a growth mindset.  What is a growth mindset?  It’s the tendency to look at obstacles as opportunities rather than as character flaws.  

If you blame yourself for failure, think something is genetically wrong with you, or think that you can never succeed at math, writing, organizing your backpack, or managing your time, you’ve gotten hijacked by a “fixed mindset”.  On the other hand, a growth mindset offers resiliency, creative solutions, and new opportunities through a willingness to try new things. So stop using your precious brain space to generate willpower and instead cultivate a growth mindset.

Growth Mindset Peeps KNOW there will be setbacks.  They anticipate them. They ask: what happened that led to this setback?  What can I learn from this? How can I adjust my strategy? They DON’T play the blame game, thinking there is something wrong with them for failing.

A wise friend recently told me:

Perfectionism is mistake prevention.
Learning is mistake recovery.  

You NEED to mess up to learn, to grow, to evolve.  To become who you want and can be. Mistakes are not just unavoidable, they are critical to your success.  The faster you can welcome failure, the faster you will learn, grow, and see the changes you are seeking take root.

So, how do you get a growth mindset?  Take a journey. We’re all a mixture of the two and we can feed the growth mindset alive within each of us.  The following is borrowed from Mindset (pp 259-262).   Consider reading the book for more info or working with a coach or therapist for more tailor-made help.

Understand what triggers our fixed mindset.  When does the fixed mindset persona show up? (who warns us to avoid challenges and criticizes ourselves for failing?)  What happens? How do we feel and act?

EMBRACE your fixed mindset.  Say what? You heard me.  We’ve all got it and we can’t go anywhere without first accepting what we’re starting with.  When we don’t accept, we hide what we don’t want to acknowledge from ourselves. Self-deception precludes change.

Give your fixed mindset persona a name.  Write a story about it and how it impacts you.  Talk about our fixed mindset personas to get more familiar with them, to create a little separation between ourselves and these personas, and to get support – we are not alone!

Educate your fixed mindset.  Greet it when it shows up, thank it for its input and tell it what you want.  Don’t suppress or ban. When it settles, tell it how you plan to learn from the current experience and move forward.  Remember that your fixed mindset was born to keep you safe, but it is also limited and limiting. So educate it so it can learn new ways to support you.  Take it with you on your journey and guide it to evolve alongside you.

Ask yourself each day: “What are the opportunities for learning and growth today?”

Parents, if you are reading this, some questions you can ask at home to draw out a growth mindset in your children are (as borrowed from Mindset: The New Psychology of Success):

What did you learn today?

What mistake did you make that taught you something?

What did you try hard at today?

What skills did you gain today BECAUSE of your failures?

I would love to hear about your efforts to cultivate a growth mindset.  What has worked for you? Do you have any questions about this process? Please ask!  And blessings on your efforts to embrace failure.

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