“I always did something I was a little not ready to do.
I think that’s how you grow.
When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’
and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.”
~~ Marissa Mayer, co-founder of Sunshine Contact. former CEO of Yahoo, first female engineer at Google
I recall many times in my life when I was “not ready” and took the plunge anyway, and it almost always turned out OK and sometimes great. To me, that is what ‘growth’ mindset is about…taking the risk, giving it my all, viewing it as a learning opportunity, and trusting that somehow, I would figure it out.
I had to contend with my underlying fear of failing. There was a strong emphasis when I was young on being ‘proper.’ Proper penmanship. Proper decorum. Every risk evaluated and mitigated until it was a no-fail bet. If my effort didn’t achieve the Himalayan-high level of expectations that I had set for it, I swam in self-loathing. Such a ‘fixed’ mindset stage I was in! In my mind, every action reflected personally and fully on my character. These conditioned tendencies are not so easily laid to rest.
I can’t recall exactly when the shift to ‘growth’ mindset happened; I’m thinking sometime in college. Suddenly (at least in my memory), I am the woman doing things nobody (including me!) ever dreamed I’d be capable of — joining the Army, competing on rifle squad, jumping out of airplanes. I plunged in without really knowing how I was going to make it work. I wasn’t always the best at it, but I felt powerful for trying which made me determined to keep at it.
Somewhere in there was an “Aha!” moment where the exhilaration of the challenge outweighed my fear of failing. I do know that viewing it through a learning lens opened me up to find ways to make it happen. Through a failure lens I was myopically focused on all the ways it could go wrong, not the ways I could make it go right.