Instilling a Growth Mindset: The Art of “First Times”

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Being recognized at work is not only about working hard and smart but also about having the right mindset and right attitude. It’s how we as women present ourselves in the workplace, how we perceive ourselves, and how we let others perceive us.

It’s the confidence we demonstrate to coworkers and senior management that we deserve the appraisal, the opportunity to grow, and that we are totally up for it. Most importantly, it’s how quickly we plunge in and how tall we stand.

Having a growth mindset will make it easier to experiment with taking risks and deciding to take the necessary leap. Indeed, when you take a risk, you are trying something for the first time. Part of the growth mindset involves getting comfortable being uncomfortable.

Here are five ways for women to build the muscle of a growth mindset by starting with effective personal habits:

1. Overcome thoughts of being an “impostor” — Feeling like a fraud seems to be universal among women. The definition of The Impostor Syndrome, the belief that you succeed only due to luck and not because of your efforts, talent, or qualifications was recently covered in detail. And even though this phenomenon could well be experienced by either gender, it is women and underrepresented groups that are more vulnerable to it: the continuous fear of failure, the feeling of insecurity, “fraud”, and that we are not good enough!

To overcome this phenomenon, Rania Tadros, Managing Partner at Ince, advises that she does not think it will ever fully go away. “I have just become more comfortable with the fact that I do not need to know everything to do this job well and that the best of my ability is good enough,” Tadros says.

Moreover, she sees asking for help as the key ingredient for maintaining her authenticity and eliminating the thoughts of feeling like a fraud. “I have help from my colleagues and I am not afraid to ask for it. I am not pretending to be anyone else,” she adds.

2. Reframe perceptions of failure when you make a mistake — Failures are only perceptions, and when women fail, we are inclined to hold ourselves accountable for the failure by blaming it on the lack of preparation or claiming that we are not good enough or not ready enough to handle such an assignment.

To change your thinking, look for the opportunity to learn. For example, Tadros says that when she finds herself reflecting on circumstances in which she wishes she had done something differently, she shifts her focus instead to what she learned from the situation. “The past can never be changed and I do not cry over spilt milk,” she explains. “I just do my best and surround myself with the right tools and the right people, so I never spill it again. But I do spill it again and again, and I keep learning and trying. And so it continues… .”

3. Change your language — Women have a tendency to use phrases such as “I just wanted to say…” or “I have just one point to make…”, “I never thought of this before”, or “I believe…” …and the list goes on. We always tend to underestimate ourselves and attribute our success to external factors such as luck or outside help. It is important for women to eliminate these words from our vocabulary. It comes across as underestimating your achievements or rejecting praise when you need to justify an accomplishment.

4. Take risks to grow — Employing these habits is something new. It is going to feel awkward at first, and that is only natural. Taking risks is like training for a marathon — you must train, but eventually you just have to go for it. “Growth — both personal and professional — comes only when you step outside your comfort zone,” says Zoe Tite, VP & Senior Legal Counsel at Dubai Aerospace. “Be brave, because there are no shortcuts. You need to embrace vulnerability and the idea that you will make mistakes in order to reach your goals.”

5. Advocate for yourself — Confidence and self-promotion can get you far in life. Yes, it feels weird and awkward to do, but risk the discomfort. Promote yourself using these five guilt free tools to help you communicate your value and find the right balance to remain authentically you. Effective self-advocacy is an art. It enables you to have humility while thinking less of yourself, take credit when appropriate, and recognize the contributions of others. C.S. Lewis said it best: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

In closing, women — whether consciously or unconsciously — are inclined to undermine their own efforts and achievements, or often simply choose not to try. However, by building a growth mindset through establishing effective personal habits, they can overcome these negative feelings and thrive.