Resolutions. Many of us make them in an effort to better ourselves and others. We resolve to diet or eat and drink healthier, exercise more, or lose weight. And according to recent research, over 25% of people have set an intention to learn a new skill in 2019. That’s wonderful!
In the age of digital transformation, learning new skills isn’t a luxury – it’s a business imperative. We need to continuously reinvent ourselves over the decades as our workplace changes. In fact, KPMG declared that the most critical skill of the 21st century is learning new skills. Personally, I couldn’t agree more.
Sadly, history has demonstrated that only one-third of New Year’s resolutions make it past January 31st. The reason? Our mindsets – our beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world around us – play a crucial role in determining our success.
Over decades, Carol Dweck, Stanford professor and author of the book “Mindset,” has studied why some people succeed, while others, who are equally talented, do not. She has discovered that people’s mindsets play a crucial role in driving actions and behaviors, which result in our success, our growth, and our development.
Based on Dweck’s research, I think New Year’s resolutions fail because many incorrectly focus on the behavior they want to change or the action they want to take while ignoring their beliefs and the mindset needed to support success. Perhaps even worse, many don’t commit to learning new things because their mindset about learning holds them back.
So what mindset do we need to embrace for success? Dweck differentiates between a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset”.
• Fixed mindset: At times, we operate from a fixed mindset. We believe talents are something you are born with – you either have them or you don’t. We tell ourselves stories such as “I have never been good at math,” “I’m just not gifted at writing,” or “I don’t have the talent to play tennis.” We believe that no amount of learning and development will change our innate traits – and it is in these moments that we feel no control over our own abilities.
• Growth mindset: Other times, we operate with a growth mindset convinced that our skills and intelligence can be grown and developed. We believe that people who have overcome challenges and are successful at something worked hard to reach that level of excellence. Essentially, we acknowledge that we are in control of our talents and abilities because the brain’s capacity to learn and solve problems is infinite.
To succeed with our resolutions, or more importantly, to succeed in the ever-changing age of digital transformation, we need a growth mindset – one that values challenges and change as an opportunity to learn, not as an obstacle or threat. The great news is that we can nurture a growth mindset and tame a fixed mindset.
Dweck confirms that when we learn something new, the neurons in our brain create new connections that strengthen with continued learning. To help our brains get stronger, we need to embrace five fundamental habits.
The Habits of a Growth Mindset
1. Become self-aware of the stories you tell yourself
• Are you lying to yourself about your ability (or inability) to learn?
• Do you worry about your traits and how adequate they are?
• When faced with a challenge do you think about retreating so that others won’t see your limitations?
• Do you convince yourself to engage in initiatives where your talents will shine better than others so that others can admire you for your abilities?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are likely in a fixed mindset state. You may want to consider working on one or more of the growth mindset habits below.
2. Experiment by learning new things
Our brains crave certainty and feel more comfortable sticking with the status quo, rather than exploring something new. However, in our ever-changing world, we need to continually learn new and different things.
This reality requires us to be curious and experiment and explore continuously. Don’t be afraid of trying something new. If you encounter a setback, make it a learning opportunity instead of regarding it as a failure.
3. Focus on progress, not perfection
Mastery of a skill can take months or years. Rather than seeking perfection, acknowledge your progress and that “you are not there yet.” This acknowledgment puts you on the learning curve and gives hope for the future.
4. Learn from others
In a world where data is doubling almost every year, it is impossible to know everything. Increasing levels of teamwork and cooperation in human teams, as well as the trends towards more collaboration between humans and machines, highlight the importance of learning from others.
Work to overcome your conscious and unconscious biases and acknowledge the strengths and attributes of those around you. One of the best ways to learn from others is to develop the practice of regularly asking for feedback.
5. Teach others
Learning new things can be difficult. One way to ensure that you have an adequate grasp of new concepts is to share your insights by teaching others. The process of structuring information in a clear and concise manner for others to learn will help you develop and solidify your knowledge.
Are You Ready to Commit to the Learning Process?
Success and personal growth will only happen if you live with the right mindset and behaviors. Learning something new can be uncomfortable but it is also a commitment to your own improvement, well-being, and happiness.
It is important to embrace mistakes as learning opportunities and work through the discomfort of experiences that may not be successful right away. If you remain committed and continue to expand your boundaries, you will get better.
If you set a learning goal for 2019, I wish you continued growth and development. If a fixed mindset has prevented you from prioritizing learning in 2019, it’s not too late! I hope 2019 is the year you resolve to develop a growth mindset and embrace lifelong learning.