Pathways to success

It happened almost two decades back, but I vividly remember the emotions as if it happened yesterday: sense of failure and melancholy. I was facilitating a session on Key Account Management for the first time, I had prepared for it for days. But, by lunch time, the participants were walking out of the room! They found the session extremely boring. My manager quickly stepped in and brought a co-facilitator; in reality changed the facilitator. I was merely standing on the side trying to hold back my tears with all the strength I could muster.

Another equally painful experience happened a year later, when I wrote a concept note for a project. The COO found it absolutely useless – with no structure, consistency, lack of clarity, etc. etc. He did not mince his words while throwing the paper back at me. I don’t blame him, it surely could have been written much better. Again, I fell hard. The project was given to someone else; a project that I was eagerly looking forward to lead.

I am sure many of us can recall incidents like this in our lives. Incidents that shook us up! The key to our success depends not on these incidents, but on how we react to them and the actions that we take afterwards. Our success depends on our ‘growth mind-set’, a concept defined by Carol Dweck. She defined two mind-sets: ‘Growth mind-set’ and ‘Fixed mind-set’.

A growth mind-set comes from the belief that one’s basic qualities can be cultivated through effort. People differ greatly – in aptitude, talents, interests, or temperaments – but everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

In contrast to this, a fixed mind-set comes from the belief that one’s qualities are carved in stone. Characteristics such as intelligence, personality, and creativity are fixed traits, rather than something that can be developed.

Needless to say, growth mind-set can act as a pathway to one’s success, both professional and personal. What actions can one take to develop the growth mind-set? Here are few actions that helped me:

  1. Be genuinely open to negative feedback – Some managers are good at giving negative feedback while some are outright bad. Either ways, it’s never easy. Let’s accept it, it hurts! But it’s important not to allow the emotions to reject the feedback, but let it to sink in without any bias.
  2. Have an honest self-reflection – after the initial wave of emotions subside. Reflect on what went wrong, why did it go wrong, what could have been done differently. It’s important not to blame others at this stage, but to analyse in a dispassionate manner.
  3. Ensure you have a confidant, be it your colleague, friend, spouse – someone with whom you can have a heart-to-heart conversation. Someone who will truly guide you to chart out a path and stay on course. My husband has been my confidant over last 25+ years. I have also been lucky to get few managers, colleagues and even team members at various stages who enabled me stay on course. Without their support, I simply couldn’t have navigated such difficult times
  4. Believe in yourself and just go for it – guess this is where the real ‘growth mind-set’ comes into play – Whenever I fail at something, I try to tell myself, “no one has been born doing this, if others can learn to do it, I too can”

My effort has been to outline few actions that have helped me personally. I am confident there are several approaches that have been adopted by others. Look forward to hearing your experiences – how you have lived and developed growth mind-set!  

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