Did you think life would be anything but a hustle? Whether you are doing what you love, doing what is meaningful to you in some way, or meeting a bottom line value that you have such as owning your own business because of the freedom it gives, or working a job that offers stability and security for you and your family (this is no less than the others by the way), perhaps you fell into a career after getting good at it for a number of years when you thought you were on your way to something else. Regardless, you have no doubt found that life is a hustle. To be valued you must bring value, you must make the effort, be engaged, always striving for improvement, make good impressions, nourish relationships, accept that other people’s expectations are sometimes part of what you must fulfill, and that you must indeed prove yourself, that nothing will be given to you.
On that note, I would like to talk about a book that I’m reading that explains productivity and potential in a way that is surprising and empowering, because it is put in the context of how human beings learn, motivate, and accomplish. the author is a psychologist and educator and has studied her patients and students through her lifetime. The book is called Mindset written by Carol S. Dweck. She breaks mindsets into two categories: “fixed” and “growth”, reflecting a person’s openness to learning, improvement, and effort in order to be succeed at a task. A person with a “fixed” mindset often passes up opportunities to learn because of what they think it means about their intelligence and abilities. In this mindset talent is valued over learning, and work and effort means “you don’t have it”. Success is validation, not struggle; failure and difficulty are signs of a core faultiness. A”growth” mindset on the other hand, has the opposite definitions of success, failure, effort, and improvement. In this mindset, the only way to succeed is to work hard, improve your skills, and embrace your weaknesses and failures; Dweck explains that the definition of success in this growth mindset IS the work and effort put in, IS the ability not just to rebound from failure, but to take an honest look at it and learn from it, AND IS NOT the talent to make it come easy. A “fixed” mindset is about validation of ego, and as such, it is fairly tortured and fragile. A “growth” mindset is almost a dilution of ego, there is no attachment to being perfect at anything so a person is freed to look at what it’s going to take to succeed, embrace any areas of difficulty, and work through them. This sets anyone up for success. Paralysis
This book really changed my relationship to failure, imperfection, and effort in the best way. I wouldn’t call myself a quitter per say, but had a tendency to become extremely self deprecating when things were difficult, or when I didn’t know how to do something. From there, when things stayed hard or got harder, yes I would lose my inspiration. I might walk a way when they were no longer fulfilling, because the fulfillment in part came from the validation of being good at it. When you avoid failing, you are very limited in what you try and what you stick with. And needing to be perfect at something in order to be successful, is extremely limiting, not just on what you can improve one, but on what you can try, what you can accomplish. There are things that all of us want and it is easier to go for them, when you embrace needing to work at things, and even make that a part of what it takes to succeed and how you start thinking and approaching problems, when you can look at your own shortcomings, then you are free to try, improve, and succeed at anything.
I’d like to compare this to an idea I have talked about which is “making friends with your inner critic”. And first I should clarify what I mean by inner critic. I DO NOT mean the voice that doesn’t think you are good at anything, the one that picks you apart, thinks you are ugly, that no one wants you around, and that everything is wrong with you. I’m talking about the voice says “you can do better”, the one that notices when someone goes the extra mile that you didn’t and responds with a “hey i want to be the one who thinks of that”, the one that looks at you when you are unprepared, under-acheiving, or inconsiderate, and knows you can do better. A lot of times this comes across as a feeling of guilt that we can either brush off and ignore, or take an honest look at and go “yeah, I want to do better! How do I do that? What would have to shift to make me start thinking or behaving that way? I find that even engaging your subconscious in that way takes the pressure off and starts the ball rolling, and lightening up about what that inner critic is saying is crucial to happiness and any kind of improvement. Remember, life is short, play with it, play with the challenges, limits, difficulties, and your own perplexing humanness. One other thing that works for me (probably because of my years playing “pretend” as a kid and then performing arts through college) as crazy as it sounds, there is the ever effective trick in changing habits of “fake it till you make it”. For example “If I was a totally prepared and thoughtful person I would…._____” then act like it! 😉
So the next time that little embarrassment and guilt pops up from your inner critic going “really?” at something you do that doesn’t quite measure up, don’t shy away from it, tell it “omg thank you yes!” and take some pride in that part of you who has a higher standard, and that you can engage with your critic in that way. (Imagine if we could deal with all our critics in that way? With the ability to discern whether what the critic is says holds any water, we very well could develop a healthy relationship to critics). Once that voice becomes your coach and your motivator, and once your mind opens to a growth mindset focusing on improvement, you become unstoppable.