As a teenager and young adult, failures and mistakes were indelible stains on my self-esteem which I felt I had to hide. (click here to read story). I didn’t learn how to fail constructively. I was confusing failing at something with being a complete failure.
My fear of failure was symptomatic of a “fixed mindset”. I saw failure as proof of a shameful deficiency inherent in my intelligence and character, rather than a springboard for existing abilities to stretch. Along the way, I had lost my “growth mindset”. (See Carol Dweck’s research – Mindset)
Most leaders I know want to promote a “growth mindset”. They want to foster learning organizations that create safe environments for innovation. They want to support their teammates to work with autonomy, mastery and purpose. That’s how productivity and fulfillment can flourish at work.
They also know that adopting a growth mindset is the only way to stop the tyranny of the EGO. (click here to read about the ego)
Our sense of a fixed identity -which is both developed and inherited, is reinforced by a world in which we constantly quantify our self-worth to stay “relevant”.
Our ego tricks us when it comes to the concept of failing. When we don’t meet our “standards” of who we think we should be, we experience being deficient, not good enough, inadequate, less than… We ARE the failure. If we meet our standards, we ARE successful, fabulous, humbly superior… and relieved! But never for too long.
The fixed/ego mindset is a treadmill of proving our value and hiding our flaws – the repetition of habitual sequences that go faster and faster and get nowhere! It’s incredibly exhausting, frustrating, and boring.
It’s hard to resist the treadmill when we are on our own. That’s why fostering learning cultures matters.
That’s why, being on a collective learning path allows us to make peace with our personal stories of failures.
If you missed my own first personal story of failure, here it is again (click on read). I will soon offer a second one… in 2020! So, stay tuned and enjoy your learning path!