What do you say to yourself when you encounter an obstacle?
Does it sound something like this? "Crap. Now I can't move forward. What am I gonna do?" Or does your inner voice say, "That's a bummer....but I can work through this"?
Believe it or not, your beliefs and inner dialogue predict how well you overcome adversity. Stanford professor Carol Dweck's fascinating research on mindset finds that people who believe they have a fixed amount of intelligence or talent tend to give up easily when faced with a challenge, believing they've reached their limit. Those who believe their abilities can increase with knowledge and experience tend to display more tenacity in the face of a challenge, believing they can work at it until they find a solution.
What does this mean for how you handle tough moments?
The limit does not exist.
There is mounting evidence that intelligence can change and improve throughout a person's life as they encounter opportunities to learn.
New experiences create new neural pathways, which are reinforced by more experience. This process doesn't stop at any given point, meaning you can continue learning (and changing your brain) throughout your life.
Your self-talk sets you up to succeed or fail when faced with a challenge.
So if you've ever said, "I'm stupid," or, "I'm not smart enough to do X," stop it right now. Replace "I can't" with, "I haven't figured this out ...yet." "Yet" leaves the door open for growth. If you just haven't figured something out yet, you can try new approaches, gather more information, and keep chipping away at the problem.
There is so much opportunity in failure.
It's important to seek knowledge in every experience, especially failure. I know failure doesn't feel good and may not be well received from others. But you can't learn when you stay safe and only do what's easy. Think about an Olympic gymnast. Do you think she's doing the same skills and routines she learned at age five? Hardly. There were plenty of falls, injuries, and embarrassments she endured and overcame to get to the Big Stage.
When you fail, you learn what doesn't work. You learn about yourself, about the process you tried, about the people around you.
Now, you can try again with far more knowledge and insight than when you began.
There's no end date on when you can learn something new or push your intellect a bit farther. Try something you've always wanted to try and never tackled. What do you need to learn to be stronger in your professional life?
Take a class, attend a conference, or read about it. You have more options available than any previous generation when it comes to education. Whether you want to take an in-person classes or try something new online, there are plenty of on-demand ways to learn something new.
You are capable of constant growth and development, and there are almost limitless possibilities to feed your curiosity. Pick a starting point today. It's okay if it's a small step, the thing that matters most is that you're moving in the right direction.