“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right”
– Henry Ford
Think back to when you were a kid, and you were learning to ride a bike. Little by little, through persistence and determination, you were able to ride the streets unassisted by Mom and Dad. Or how about that time you committed and applied your newfound knowledge that, in turn, secured that lucrative new client?
Whether you’re learning a new language, pitching a new idea, taking a course in leadership, or trying to lead teams to increase productivity, it has to start somewhere.
From the moment you decide to learn a new skill, you immediately set the wheels in motion on an extraordinary journey of learning and development. Slowly but surely, what once was foreign and unfamiliar begins to feel familiar. You experience a steady learning curve and, whether or not you consciously process your development, each day you’re expanding your knowledge and advancing your skills to a point where only a day earlier you were unable. Then one day, seemingly overnight, you wake up and – What? When? How? – you’re suddenly able to speak that new language, breeze through the new design program, transform teams through your newfound leadership, and play an instrument. We’ve all had these moments. They’re incredible. Best yet, they’re available to you at any time.
When it comes to learning, however, your mindset is absolutely crucial. The messages we tell ourselves about our abilities is vital to our development and our success.
In her book Mindset, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck explains the differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset and demonstrates how teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education, and sports.
Keynote speaker and 30minMBA Founder and CEO Therése Gedda also emphasizes the importance of your mindset in her renowned talks. “Limitations are only in your mind. You can achieve whatever you desire regardless age, where you come from, or whether you have a formal education or not. With the entrepreneurial mindset, you thrive in everything you do,” she says.
The saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” in fact, couldn’t be any further from the truth. There are always opportunities for learning and skill development. Developing new skills has obvious career benefits. However, ongoing learning is also vital to our wellbeing having proven to boost our self-esteem and self-efficacy.
We have certain beliefs about ourselves and our abilities based on our mindset. In fact, our mindset often influences what goals we set and therefore also what we achieve. An individual with a fixed mindset will often prevent him- or herself from trying new things, attempting challenging, but rewarding tasks and even never discover things that he or she may love doing.
Studies have shown, however, that if we can see even a slight improvement in whatever we are attempting to do, we are able to appreciate the progress and momentum moving us forward instead of getting stuck in the belief that something is “impossible.” When we can appreciate our efforts, we are not only more likely to stay with the challenge at hand, but also enjoy the process of learning more.
Take for example a simple sentence like “I’m not fluent in Spanish” versus “I’m not fluent in Spanish yet.” By simply putting the word ‘yet’ at the end of the sentence, you’re able to change your mindset about your own learning abilities and send reinforcing and positive signals to your brain.
When have you achieved what you initially thought was unachievable or exceeded your own learning expectations?