I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have an intellectual crush on Carol Dweck… ’s growth mindset paradigm.
When I first heard her impassioned talk on how early on, children are paralyzed by the need to be right (and be right on the first try), I saw identified aspects of myself, both younger and present day.
Somehow we’ve fooled ourselves into believing we’ve always got to succeed to matter.
We’ve got to succeed to be worth something.
We’ve got to succeed to be valuable.
We’ve got to succeed to be smart.
Damn, that’s a lot of pressure. And it doesn’t go away when we leave school.
In fact, it keeps coming through many stages of life. Especially if you’re the kind of person who comes from a service background, and aspires to achieve goals as amorphous as “make the world a better place”, “make a difference/impact”, and “be the change”.
You may, in fact, realize that your whole life plan has to do with disrupting, transforming, debunking, and otherwise breaking the rules in the name of something much bigger. Man, talk about something that makes your doubt yourself.
You know you’ll have to forge a path that looks different from a lot of other people’s... but that’s much easier to daydream about than do, especially when society's pressures continue to weigh on you.
How do you find the courage and self-assurance you need when you’re not following the path everyone else is taking?
We’ve got a few ideas.
1. Know What You Believe and Follow That Compass
This one might seem like the least tangible, but it is the most important.
If you don’t know your “why”, or why the hell you’re sticking your neck out, you will eventually stop. And that’s a damn shame.
You need to spend some serious soul-searching time not only thinking about, but writing down and sharing what you believe. How come, you ask?
Well, all throughout your journey, people will ask you questions like:
See the pattern? Knowing your why, and knowing it inside and out, strongly, and passionately, will help you nip the doubters and haters in the bud.
2. Only Compare You to You
You know those Kermit the Frog, Me to Me memes? Let’s channel those for a second.
As we age, it’s completely natural and ingrained in us to look left and right. I mean, how do you know how well you’re doing if you can’t see where everyone else is?
Newsflash –– that’s only going to make you feel bad, or give you a false sense of superiority. Neither of those are a good.
Similar to the first tip, you will lose steam very fast if you let the comparison of yourself and your accomplishments to those of others cloud your view of yourself and your work.
So, change your mindset about comparisons, and instead focus on the one person that matters in this situation: you. Make it your goal to become a better version of yourself every single day.
3. Surround Yourself With People Who Think Like You
Are the people in your life supporting your endeavors, or draining your energy reserves? It can be so difficult when you feel as though no one “gets it,” and you’re the only one out there fighting for your beliefs.
But you’re actually not alone. There are others out there like you, but they just might be in unexpected places.
If your family and close friends seem completely puzzled (or worse, judgmental) of your ideas, look for people in your wider community. What organizations, groups, or locations might be good to start reaching out and making contact with? Start sleuthing around online, and attend some events that look intriguing to you.
Should that run dry, look to our friend Google. Join Facebook groups, mastermind groups, Meetups, and other online and IRL connectors that help people with similar mindsets come together.
You’ll find your people. They are out there. Promise.
4. Remember That the Struggle Makes it Worth It
Sometimes, when I get really, really down about what I’m doing, I imagine my future Oscars acceptance speech. (Don’t ask me why it’s the Oscars and not some much more relevant awards ceremony –– it’s my fantasy, let me have it.)
Anyways, in the awards ceremony, in the part where you get to thank people and essentially look back at the road that got you to that point, I tend to imagine myself thanking all the hard stuff and difficult people.
They actually pushed me more toward my dream than anything else.
All the doubts, fears, pressures, criticisms and everything else that made it seem like my dream was impossible to reach and that eventually I would just fail? They were like gas in the car. When people tell me I can't do something, it revs up my motivation like you wouldn't believe. (See: John Locke from Lost)
I imagine that on that stage, holding my Oscar (again, just let me have it), I’ll be able to smile, and relish in the fact that I persisted.
It’s a kind of silly fantasy, but it weirdly does the job. Maybe you picture yourself in the future, cutting the ribbon at your organization’s brand new building, holding a book signing at a NYC bookstore, or making a speech at a commencement ceremony or on the TED stage.
Maybe it make s more sense for you to imagine your impact –– smiling children, clients, neighbors, community members, or friends who have benefitted from what you’ve created.
Visualizing those moments of success, however grand and fantastical, or deep and emotional, can help you remember that the hard work, the tough work, the work that sucks, because you know in the end it will have been worth it.
I don’t claim to have overcome the icy grip of doubt. In fact, it’s something I continue to deal with every day.
We can’t change how the world treats the dreamers, disrupters, and visionaries immediately or for forever. But we can change how we respond to it.
I hear you, Carol Dweck. Not yet.
If you liked this, you might also like: Turn Haters into Motivators –– Great Advice that Rhymes
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.