I know what you’re thinking.
What on earth could possibly possess me to leave the comfort of my familiar, day-to-day routine and processes to actively pursue something in which I’m LIKELY to fail?
Well, dear reader. Contrary to popular belief I haven’t lost the plot (yet), so hear me out.
As you may know, I used to be a teacher. Teaching, as with many other industries, is subjected to endless fads and buzz-words that someone completely detached from teaching, sat in their ivory tower (ahem, sorry – office), has dreamt up at some board meeting to make themselves sound important and justify their ridiculous salary.
Independent learning. STEM. Differentiation. Student led learning. Flipped classroom.
I’ve seen a fair few over the years. Some, I see value in, others not. Invariably they come and go.
But there’s one that still sticks with me today. One that I embrace in my Virtual Assistant business and one that I think many a business owner could actually learn something from.
Friends, I bring you: The Growth Mindset.
The Growth Mindset (and it’s less favourable counterpart)
For those who don’t know, the growth mindset, and it’s less favourable opposite, the fixed mindset, are terms coined by psychologist Carol Dweck in the 70s, after observing the attitudes and actions of children after they experienced failure.
She found that children with a fixed mindset were more likely to give up on a task after failure, whilst those with a fixed mindset persevered.
And that’s just scratching the surface.
People with a fixed mindset see intelligence and talent as inherent – you’re either born with it or you’re not. Those with a growth mindset believe that they can be learnt and developed. They seek challenges, relish opportunities to develop their skills and embrace a learning environment.
It’s a tricky one to master though. For some reason, we’re better at approaching physical activity and hard skills with a growth mindset than other tasks. The gym. Dancing. Pole fitness (you knew I’d get it in there). Cooking . Everyone knows you can get better at these if you try, but that you’re likely to fail a lot in the early days (and in my case, when it comes to cooking, many, many days more).
So why can’t we apply this to everything we do?
Where does failure come into this?
Ah yes, the title of this blog. Why should we be seeking opportunities to fail?
Those with a growth mindset embrace failure as an opportunity to learn. They seek challenges as an opportunity to get out of their comfort zones and develop their skills.
And as I’m always telling my daughter – if you aren’t failing, you aren’t learning.
Sorry to break it to you, but if you breeze through life, getting everything right first time and smashing all your goals…then your goals aren’t aspirational enough. You’re sticking within your comfort zone, playing it safe well within the parameters of your current skills, and kidding yourself into believing that you’re developing.
The power of the YET
I remember, as clear as day, the staff meeting that introduced the growth mindset concept. We were told about the power of the YET. We were directed, every time a child uttered the predictable words “I can’t do it!”, to interject with enthusiasm – “YET. You can’t do it YET”.
Perhaps predictably, this became incredibly annoying and you couldn’t wonder through school in some well-earned PPA time without hearing the three-letter word echoing in every corridor and corner of the school.
But the concept is a strong one. You have to train your brain to recognise that this failure is just a stepping stone on your path to ultimate success – a key belief of the growth mindset crew.
Having a growth mindset helps you roll with the punches and see setbacks as part of the journey. They don’t deter you, because you know that ultimately, you will succeed.
Not only that, but people with a growth mindset often have more innovative approaches and aren’t afraid of taking risks – because they aren’t afraid of the failure often associated with risk-taking.
The growth mindset in business
Although rooted in education, before long people began to recognise the benefits this could bring to the business world, and Dweck herself, with others, started undertaking studies to examine this, too.
She found that in businesses where employees perceived the company to have a growth mindset, moral was higher, managers view colleagues’ skills more positively and there is a greater shift towards a culture of learning and development. Furthermore, leaders with a growth mindset see more potential in others, leading to significantly different hiring processes and decisions.
How do I DO it?!
So, we’ve established that a growth mindset is the camp we all want to be in. Happy days. But how do we join this camp? Are there bouncers on the door? How to do we undo years of ‘I can’t…’ and become the annoyingly positive person who approaches every task with all the self-belief of a toddler about to leap from the sideboard hoping to fly?
1. Identify the areas where your mindset is fixed. The key here is to look for avoidance. Anything you’re avoiding that you know deep down you should be doing, (e.g. building your Virtual Assistant business 😉) – is probably connected to a fixed mindset.
2. Recognise that talents and skills can be acquired and developed over time. If you genuinely believe that you lack a certain skill needed for your business, or another VA service you want to offer, set about upskilling, and believe that you can do so.
3. Challenge yourself. Do the think you’ve been putting off for ages. Do the Instagram live. Tell your friends and family about your new VA business. DO IT! Then, crucially, recognise your achievement in doing so. You won’t start to recognise that you CAN break down barriers if you don’t actually register when you’ve actually bloody done it.
4. See failure as a stepping stone to success. So what if that discovery call didn’t lead to a signed client? See what you can learn from the experience and move on to the next one. The person who gives up after the first failed discovery call is the person who ends up with no business. Similarly, the person who talks themselves out of setting up their business before they’ve even started…also ends up with no business…obvs!
6. Start viewing success as secondary to progress. What does success mean, anyway? It’s so ambiguous and dynamic. Far better to recognise and reflect on the progress made on the journey than the destination itself.
7. Embrace the YET. (Soz…I had to put it in there!).
So, next time you find yourself holding back from building your Virtual Assistant business because you ‘have nothing to offer’, or throwing in the virtual towel because you didn’t sign the client and complaining that you just can’t do it, remember that annoying little voice (me), uttering that crucial three letter word….
Then, after you’ve silently cursed me and supressed your desire to tell me where to shove my yet, take a deep breath…
…and try again.
If you’re desperate to step into the Virtual Assistant world but need some support and accountability along the way, check out how you can work with me here. (I promise I won’t shout YET at you 😉)