Did I fail or just learn something new? Developing a growth mindset

After I graduated from university, I landed my dream job which took me from Texas to sunny Southern California. I lived just 2 hours from my fiancé and had the income to start my independent life. Heck, I could even go surfing on big pacific waves during my time off from work. It was great! I worked as a manager trainee for a beautiful retail import store, and one of my coworkers was my roommate. Six months into this new life, my roommate told me she was moving out to marry her boyfriend (a shotgun wedding), and my employer told me he wanted me to open a store in Victorville, several hours away from the beach. When I turned down the relocation, I was let go. Unbeknownst to me (I didn’t read the fine print), I was required to take any promotion offered to me. It seemed like my new life was falling to pieces. I had to come up with solutions fast.

There are countless quotes, books, videos, and motivational speeches on the topic of coping with failure and forging ahead despite the disappointment and loss that usually accompanies a misstep in your plans.

However, even with all the help available, failure still stings. One of the best ways to overcome loss that some people call failure and take the edge of the blow you’ve experienced will be to create a positive growth mindset.

Importance of growth mindset

A growth mindset is crucial when it comes to easing your fears. Usually, when you experience failure, three negative consequences may occur – the fear of trying again, the lack of motivation to keep going, and the unwillingness to take on new challenges.

Very often, this will lead to quitting. I could have packed up the Uhaul and moved back to Texas that weekend.

A growth mindset will encourage you to treat failure as a learning experience. You’ll encourage yourself and know that the kite rises against the wind, not with it.

How to develop a growth mindset

For starters, you’ll need to lift yourself out of the doldrums. You can do this by watching motivational videos, reading biographies of people who failed severely and went on to succeed, or you can tap into the power of prayer.

What’s important here is that you don’t take failure personally. A loss is an event, not a person – and once you understand this, you won’t be so hard on yourself.

In my case, I realized that if I had taken that job in Victorville, I wouldn’t have been true to my values. I wouldn’t have been moving in the direction that I wanted for my future.

The next step is to analyze the failure as if you are on the outside, looking in from a spectator’s point of view. If you take yourself out of the equation, it is easier to keep from getting emotional and anxious about the situation. This approach will allow you to see what went wrong. Maybe it was your fault, but you can see subtle nuances that show that the result could be out of your control by looking from the outside.

Whatever the reason may be, it’s essential to understand what went wrong and what caused the failure clearly. Only with hindsight and the discovery of flaws in the initial approach can you make a better and more intelligent plan.

Rather than looking at the situation emotionally, I put myself in my employer’s shoes. The company had invested six months in the management training program, and they had a store opening. While they didn’t tell me directly that they were going to move me to the middle of the desert, it was their right to do so. Otherwise, they would need to continue paying me inflated wages until I decided to accept a new role. When looking at it this way, the decision made perfect sense.

The only logical step after that is to try again. As difficult and scary as this may be, a growth mindset is about carrying on in the face of fear. Could your new approach fail again?

Yes, it could. That’s a risk you’ll have to take, but it can also result in victory, which will taste that much sweeter.

In a nutshell, having a growth mindset is about not letting failure define you while you recover from the blow and keep pushing forward in the face of defeat. Very often, success is just around the corner, and you’ll see it if you persist.

Interestingly, this same challenge and offer of relocation happened to me twice since then, and the timing wasn’t right for me to move. Thankfully, after that first experience, I was prepared emotionally to leave the roles and move on to something bigger and better within the communities where I’ve built my life.

Growth mindset tips

To develop a growth mindset, you can start with visualization. Even when you’re down because of failure, it’s essential to visualize the successful result. You must know why you are fighting and what you want to happen. Then you’ll be motivated to keep going.

Our minds seem to be hardwired to catastrophize future situations. Who is that going to help? This likely has come from our primitive brain that kept cavemen from being eaten by saber tooth tigers, but does it really apply to today’s situation? A better direction is to envision the desired result as an accomplished fact. Act as if you are who you want to be. Only then will you become your positive future self.

In my earlier example, I imagined myself living in Santa Barbara with my fiancée and then walking down the aisle with him to focus on our future lives. I saw myself in a new management training program and then managing multiple stores. Guess what? It took six months before I was a store manager and then another year before I was a site manager for multiple stores. Visualization works!

Saying affirmations can help too. Saying them aloud is helpful because the only way to break a negative train of thought will be to say the affirmation out loud. When you speak, you immediately disrupt your harmful brain activity. That’s one way to arrest a negative mindset.

First, write down your affirmation on a piece of paper. Then put it in your wallet. When you are at a stoplight or in your car about to head into a big meeting, pull out the piece of paper and read it out loud. You are setting your future events in motion and going into the situation with a positive mind frame. Next, in your mind’s eye, visualize your desired result. If successful elite athletes do this, why not you?

Will this always work? Of course not. If you are alive, you will fail over and over again. Is it really failure though, or is it really a learning experience? Get feedback, look at the loss as a learning opportunity and get back on track as soon as you can. Doing these will aid in your growth mindset.

In conclusion, most failures only seem wrong at the moment. In years to come, you’ll realize that it’s these failures that strengthened you and enabled you to scale the precipices of success and reach heights you never thought possible.

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