Lisa Kelliher No Comments

A certain amount of hypocrisy prevails when we try to influence others to think positively about their capacity for growth. There is no doubt that we mean well when we advise and guide people to be open-minded about the feedback they receive, to believe in the opportunity to learn new skills and to approach each day with positivity.

The reality is that while we provide others with this guidance and advice, it is likely that we aren’t fully embodying a growth mindset ourselves.

As a learner, I recall deciding at a young age that I had no aptitude for Maths. That belief fell like a black curtain over all future Maths lessons and explanations of key Maths concepts. Regardless of how hard teachers tried, my lack of self-belief and my fixed mindset in relation to Maths meant that no growth or learning was to be had. Unsurprisingly, I had created a self-fulfilling prophesy and at the end of my schooling I was, indeed, ‘no good at Maths’.

The first time these beliefs were really tested came as a parent. I observed my own children making similar snap judgements about their abilities in different areas. It seemed like a travesty that people who were so young had already pigeon-holed themselves into such rigid categorisations. Again unsurprisingly, and perhaps as a consequence of having unconsciously modelled my own fixed mindset, my son made the statement that he was ‘just no good at Maths’.

Faced with the desire for my children to believe in their capacity to grow, I realised that I needed to do so myself.

In the process, I realised that Maths is like a language – and I have always enjoyed learning languages. I also realised that the study of Maths is about solving puzzles, enjoying the challenge of seeking solutions to problems and the application of logic. Once I realised I could approach the study of Maths in this way, it was astonishing how quickly the black curtain lifted.

This led me to reflect on how many other skills and abilities I may have written-off throughout my life, mistakenly of the belief that if I didn’t have innate aptitude, I was destined to be eternally terrible at them.  Peeling away the layers of belief about aptitude and ability and challenging deeply held notions can act as one of the greatest catalysts for self-development for anyone, regardless of their age.

 So what does this mean for the workplace?

  • Be prepared to examine and reflect upon your own thought processes. Do you apply a fixed-mindset to aspects of your work or your life in general?
  • Choose one area from within your role on which to steadfastly focus the application of a growth mindset. Do you tend to avoid engaging in certain tasks because you believe you are ‘just no good’ at these?
  • Be authentic in your discussions with team-mates about your own internal dialogue. This will help to normalise conversations around the challenging of negativity and perceptions of limitations
  • Actively seek out opportunities that challenge and enable people to see their full capacity. The uplift that is felt in an organisation and culture when people are made aware of their capacity for creativity, for critical thinking and for collaboration is palpable.

At Be Challenged, we work with organisations to challenge teams and individuals to move beyond their fixed mindsets.

Our programs launch participants into different contexts and new ways of interacting with one another.  The result of their involvement is that they see themselves and their colleagues with new eyes, awakened to their own capabilities.

Thanks for reading.

Lisa Kelliher

Head of People and Culture and Educational Consultant, Be Challenged

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