It’s official. The kids have gone back to school — many in person for the first time since March of 2020. A large number of us spent the past 18 months holding down a full-time job at home while overseeing virtual learning for one or more children, making sure the family is fed and taken care of. We were helping our kiddos be good humans and addressing their concerns and worries about the state of the world, all while keeping our homes clean, being a good friend, taking time to connect with our spouses or partners, fighting for social justice, and taking care of our physical bodies.
If you’re anything like me, the silence that is left in the home after our children have headed off to school this fall is both a breath of fresh air and totally discombobulating. Yet again, we’re faced with another period of transition that is fraught with fears of the unknown. Will our organizations ask us to return to the office? If so, how often? Will our children be safe? Are our schools going to have to return to remote learning? How is that going to impact you and your business?
If these worries are keeping you up at night, how can you best cope with all the uncertainty of the coming school year while still performing your job or running your business?
The first thing to do is to recognize what’s within your control. As much as we would like, the decisions other people make are not ever within our control. So whether your boss asks you to return to the office or if the decision is made to return to remote learning, neither is something you will be able to control.
What you can control is your mindset.
In her research and subsequent book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck observed the mindset you choose can have a profound impact on how you live your life. We are all on a continuum with our mindsets — from fixed to growth. A fixed mindset believes their abilities are fixed, unchangeable. Those who have a fixed mindset believe improvement is always possible. Likewise, a person with a fixed mindset sees failure as a reflection of their inabilities, and a person with a growth mindset sees failure as an opportunity for learning.
Mindset shows up in all aspects of our lives — work, parenting, personal fulfillment. Having a fixed mindset means we will be less likely to take risks or face challenges in fear of making a mistake. With a growth mindset, we’re willing to try new things, even if we don’t know what we’re doing at the onset, which allows us to build new skills and resiliencies. Overall, studies have shown that developing and cultivating a growth mindset leads to a fuller, more meaningful life.
So, as we’re faced with another time of uncertainty as the new school year gets underway, we have an opportunity to make the choice to cultivate a growth mindset or potentially stay within a pre-existing fixed mindset.
Changing from a fixed to a growth mindset may seem overwhelming and daunting — one more thing to do while you’re just muddling through. I get it! The following baby steps can help you gently wade into making the shift without an “all or nothing” approach. Heck, even just trying one or two of these will help you cultivate a growth mindset by teaching your brain that you’re willing to try new things.
- Embrace imperfection in yourself and others
I also like to think of this as holding up the humanity mirror to ourselves and others. We tend to walk through this life forgetting we’re all just fallible, vulnerable, clumsy human beings. I would hazard a guess that there is not a single one of us who has this thing called life figured out, unless possibly if you’re a Buddhist monk. We all have our flaws, peculiarities and imperfections. We are all beautiful messes. When we can see and appreciate that in ourselves and others, we are more likely to be able to find grace and courtesy with one another.
- Find opportunities in challenges
If you find yourself scared about challenging situations, see if you can reframe your thoughts by finding the opportunities within the challenges themselves. If you’re suddenly needing to shift directions at work, what opportunities for growth, learning and exploration are available? What new skill or path may now be available to you that would not have been possible otherwise? Tap into your inner adventurer and allow yourself to discover new things about yourself you never knew existed.
- Stop seeking external approval
I don’t remember when or how I got the message, but one day I woke up and realized — this is my life. I’m the only person who I can guarantee will be with me at my end of days and every day between now and then. I am the sum of my experiences and no one else has had the same experiences as I have. Therefore, the opinions of, and approval by, anyone outside myself has become secondary to my own opinions and approval of myself. By learning to trust and appreciate yourself you are giving yourself the gift of no longer second-guessing your thoughts and behaviors. I know it sounds harsh, but in reality you are the only person who will always be there for you in your life so you are the only one you need to impress.
- Celebrate your strengths and weaknesses
We all have them. Those things that we’re really good at and those things we’re not. And the wonderful thing is, we’re all different in where our genius and our incompetence lies. So, while your genius is someone else’s incompetence, and vice versa, you have an opportunity to not only cultivate your genius, but to also elevate someone else’s. Imagine what it would be like to collaborate with someone who can do that thing that drives you nuts, and in return, you get to celebrate your own strengths. It’s pretty stinkin’ phenomenal.
- Become a mistake making machine
Taking risks means making mistakes. As Michael Jordan is quoted as saying: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.” Be willing to make mistakes in front of others. It actually does get easier with practice. And each time you “fail” by making a mistake, you develop your resiliency. As your resilience grows, so does your overall quality of life, as you aren’t as rocked by things that are bound to come up.
Cultivating a growth mindset means you are embracing challenges, persisting in the face of setbacks, and taking responsibility for your words and actions. When things feel out of control because someone else is making decisions that are impacting your life, it is easier to adapt. When coupled with a deep understanding of your own desires and core values, you can make your own decisions on how to respond to any given situation with greater ease and less turmoil.
In what ways will you begin to cultivate a growth mindset as we head into this new season?