If I told you that I have been downhill skiing for more than forty years, you might assume that, by now, I must be really good. You would be wrong. I am what I like to call a “cautious skier”. I seek out the green runs and my goal is always the same – to stay
￼upright. I would like to ski better, or at least enjoy it more, but my anxiety about the possibility of falling down and hurting myself causes me to tense up unless I am well inside my comfort zone, skiing along trails that barely qualify as hills.
Recently, I asked a friend, who is a ski instructor, for some advice on how I might improve. She told me that if I genuinely want to become a better skier, I will have to get out of my comfort zone, take on more challenging hills, build up some speed, and risk a wipe-out. Sage advice, and also an excellent prescription for career success.
We all enjoy feeling competent at work and school and many of us gravitate to tasks we find easy with the goal of pats on the back at work or high grades at school. Challenges come with the risk of failure and possible confirmation that we are not smart enough or talented enough to handle a more difficult problem or a more complicated situation. Unfortunately, over time, this strategy can result in negative career growth. It is associated with what psychologist Carol Dweck has identified as a “Fixed Mindset”, http://mindsetonline.com.
People with this characteristic believe that they have fixed intelligence and abilities. In their minds, if a skill requires effort to master, if they are not “naturals”, then they must be missing that talent. They avoid challenges, and failure may cause them to withdraw from a particular field of endeavour altogether (e.g. “I will never be good at math” or “I’m just not management material”).In contrast, Dr. Dweck’s research has shown that people with a “Growth Mindset” believe they can build their capabilities through effort and practice. They see setbacks as a part of their growth and look for ways around them, applying even more effort and seeking even greater challenges. They are committed to learning. Not surprisingly, people with a growth mindset are more likely to realize their potential in all areas, including their careers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN34FNbOKXc
Stepping outside of your comfort zone to accept a new challenge at work may feel scary, and contemplating a public failure may make you cringe. But situations which make us the most uncomfortable can also offer the most opportunity for growth. If you are serious about taking your career to the next level, you may have to risk a wipe-out.
Caroline Burgess is an Educational Consultant and student of the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College. MCACESBlogs is a series of posts aimed at assisting job seekers and those in career development. Be sure to share our info to your network. Happy reading!