Growth Mindset: How to Build the Endurance You Need to Succeed

This past Sunday I was in a working session with a client designing a pitch and proposal.  We had worked this out in her mind but were finally putting thoughts to paper. I asked her how she was feeling, the pitch was happening in two days and she was going up in front of a very important person and trying to get the green light on something that doesn’t even have funding in place. 

She said that she was feeling a little crazy, that she has these pendulum swings where in one moment she feels really confident, excited, and sure that this is the right thing, and then, the pendulum swings and she is in scarcity mode wondering if she even deserves to take up space with this important person. 

I honored this feeling in her and told her that I have suffered from the same pendulum swing throughout my career, reassuring her that this is perfectly normal. And, at the same time, I reminded her that we were going to have to do whatever it takes to keep her from swinging going into Tuesday. 

This “swinging” always happens when we are leveling up.  I talk about leveling up a lot in this space so I am going to clarify a few things here.

  1. When we decide to level up—go after something we have never done before, create something, put ourselves out there, we often put a lot of power in the hands of the “other”. We tell ourselves that the decision maker, the buyer, the other person in the relationship, holds all of the power.  This projection puts us on a lower plane and causes the pendulum to swing negative to thoughts of doubt and inadequacy.  Let’s be clear, power is an illusion. The more you project it onto other people the less likely you are to feel confident and capable.

  2. Leveling up requires a new version of us. If we think about ourselves as a product at a company we should apply the same principles of innovation to our growth.  When a company gets ready to launch a new product they have a lot of stages before they get to the product you order on the internet or buy in the store:  

    1. They do research and development; they look at the market, they learn as much as they can, they evaluate the possibilities and they absorb information.  

    2. Then they go into production which is where they begin to physically make the product. There are drawings and sketches and hundreds of different versions. Then they take an item and they put the pieces together, sometimes the pieces don’t fit and they have to start over or go back to the drawing board; they make lots of mistakes. 

    3. Then they have testing with test groups and pilot users and they see how the product reacts to the real world and how people feel with the product before launching a big campaign.  Then they go back to the drawing board and make the product even better based on the feedback.

    4. Once they have researched, tested, failed, tried again, piloted, revamped and finalized they then bring the new product into the marketplace.  In theory, to set ourselves up for success, this process is the same process we should apply to our growth. You are releasing a whole new version of yourself to the market, why would you expect to go from an IPhone 5s to an IPhone 10x overnight?

Think about when you meet someone for the first time.  It takes time to build trust and really believe that this person is a good fit for your life in whatever capacity. The same is true for the new you.  Your nervous system is getting used to your new habits, your new mindset, your new choices. It isn’t sure where you are going is really worth the trip and so it is going to waver on whether it can trust you.  We have to teach our nervous system that the new way is the right way. The only sustainable way to do this is with repetition.

This leads me to this point: leveling up is about consistent practice. The most important type of leveling up we can do is to work daily to level up our minds. This is why you hear the saying, “Want to change your life? Change your daily habits. '' It's not about swinging for the fences and hitting the ball out of the park, it’s about swinging that bat over and over and over on the regular so that when we do go to bat, we have the potential to hit it out of the park. 

So when we think about the pendulum, it is really important to introduce tools to our daily practice that will help keep us feeling neutral, prepared, strategic and calm. Society tells us that hitting it out of the ballpark is all that matters.  So when we are focused on growing or evolving our conditioning tells us we need a big win—a defining moment to occur to tell us that we made it. In order to get to neutral we have to convince our brain that the work is more important than the outcome—which means we have to change our conditioning.

Why is neutral better than up or down? Because neutral is where confidence lives.  It is where we let go of attachment to outcome. Neutral is where our ego goes to sleep and does not need to be fed by accolades or external validation.  Neutral is where our blood pressure is steady, our breath is light and consistent, and our heart is beating just fast enough for us to know we are alive. Neutral is where we do our best work and invite opportunity to join us rather than force opportunity to occur. It is neither high or low. 

You might think I am crazy for saying this.  All of the pop culture content says to follow your passion—which would equate to needing to be passionate to make things happen.  I do believe we need passion to motivate us and to remind us why we are doing what we are doing. But I wouldn’t want my surgeon coming in to operate on my heart feeling all jacked up or feeling down in the dumps about her craft.  I would want her steady, focused, assured and clear. Passion can fade, it can, and behind that passion has to be a discipline and practice so that on the days where we don’t feel like getting out of bed, we get out of bed anyway out of habit, out of practice. 

My client and I worked for a few hours to define her pitch, for her to repeat back to me what she knew, what she needed to find out and where she thought this concept could take the program.  This morning she called me with a steadiness in her voice, “This program is world class. This program will work and I know how to make it work, it is going to transform how we are teaching our kids”. “Yes it is,” I replied with a smile. “I was born for this,” she said calmly. “Yes you were,” I mirrored back to her. “And what happens if he says no?” I asked her. “I go back to the classroom and I inspire my kiddos one on one, I continue the work I’ve been doing for years and I prepare for what is coming that I can’t see”.

Yes, when we are up leveling and putting ourselves out there the stakes feel high.  It feels like we have it all on the line, that it is all or nothing—but I argue that fear is driving that narrative. All or nothing is a myth. There is always another way, a different yes, an opportunity around the corner. When we are steady we know in our hearts that it is not all or nothing. We know that we know what we know, and that is all we know.  Our steadiness leads people to trust us, to follow us, to sometimes say yes to our pitches and proposals, but not always. We have to be comfortable with a no so that we can do the work to get to the next, and sometimes better, yes. We have to be steady so we don’t get knocked over when we swing and miss. Our ability to let go of attachment is what drives our own internal success, it is what makes us willing to get up and practice over and over. 

Are you suffering from a pendulum swing? Do you often feel like you are up one minute and down the next? Are you unsure which swing to trust? Is it the downside telling you that you can’t and that you shouldn’t? Or is it the upside that breathes life into your ideas and tells you that anything is possible? Here’s how to navigate the pendulum swing as you begin to level up:

Exercise:

Get a journal or a piece of paper and answer these questions:

  • What do I know to be true about this situation? 

  • What am I missing that I need to know/learn/acquire to become steady?

  • What daily practice do I need to introduce so that I can warm up to hit it out of the park?

  • What does fear need to hear from me so it can trust the work? 

  • Who’s support or buy-in do I need to enlist so I can bring this to life from a steady and confident perspective?

  • How is my passion supporting what I am about to take on? 

  • How is passion making the stakes seem too high and causing me to overcorrect? 

  • Where is my fear giving my power away?

  • What do I need in order to enjoy the day to day aspects of this without being obsessed with the outcome? 

  • What is the most ideal outcome from my daily preparation and practice? 

  • If I don’t get my ideal outcome, what is the next best thing?