Note to readers: Soch to Success is a weekly column to enhance critical-thinking skills for you to achieve success. Each article is packed with insights, tools and a roadmap to action.
Thirty-five seconds into Eshna Kutty’s video and I was already thinking why am I in my 40s today. Barely reaching her ankles, her maroon cotton saree’s pallu (the loose end) tucked in her waist made her entire look comfortably glamorous, like her stunning dark, short, curly hair. Here she was on my screen, in her white Puma shoes, hula-hooping to a song I had loved in my 30s, Genda phool from Delhi 6.
A few days back, Kutty’s video was all over the internet. She was not wearing a saree or hula-hooping for the first time but the video launched her as a social media star in a matter of a few hours. And, made me gape when it reached my timeline. I don’t know if it is the rigidness of my body or of the mind that makes me envious. It is not the joie de vivre of the 24-year-old Kutty, it is not the fact that saree can be so much fun and not only a formal wear, it is not even wearing sports shoes on a saree, I have done that often, it is not even hula-hooping that makes me conscious, all these elements are the spice to her effortless moves. What stood out for me was her ease and comfort around her own imperfections! In a blink-of-an-eye moment, the hoop slips and yet she is comfortable. The envy, though for a fleeting moment, felt like an age-related jealousy, was actually a gentle reminder for me to embrace my own certain imperfection. The raw setting of Kutty’s video makes it real and if you browse more on her timeline and read her interviews, you will realise while she is mastering the art, the art of flow she is comfortable with her own imperfections.
Hugging your own imperfections is the first set of tools of a growth mindset. Carol Dweck, author of the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success wrote about mindsets. What are mindsets? Mindsets are self conceptions, the way we structure ourselves and guide our behaviours. These are views about our own abilities. She has defined that we have two types of mindsets: fixed mindset and growth mindset. In her book, Dweck talks about how consciously or subconsciously our thoughts affect what we want and whether we succeed in getting it, depends on the type of mindsets we keep.
She writes, “I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves— in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?”
Changing our beliefs can have a powerful impact. The growth mindset creates a powerful passion for learning. Dweck continues, “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you?”
The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.
People with fixed mindsets believe their intelligence, talent and abilities are fixed. They take failures as setbacks and avoid challenges. Dweck explains, “In the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.”
A fixed mindset leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to avoid challenges, ignore or avoid negative feedback and give up easily when faced with obstacles. People with fixed mindset, as a result, may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential.
A growth mindset, in contrast, believes that intelligence can be developed. It creates a desire to learn and therefore develops a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks and pick up learnings from their failures. As a result they reach higher levels of achievement.
If you are wondering which type of mindset you have, remember, we all have parts of both types. One type may be predominant in our behaviour and we need to, through our actions and thoughts, nurture more of the growth mindset. Nourishing a growth mindset is like nurturing peace within oneself. A growth mindset stimulates creativity. It helps in not just a progressive learning culture but it also builds resilience. See the image at the bottom.
There are several suggestions to work on developing a growth mindset. In this week’s column on Habits for Thinking, I want to bring your attention to three practices that can be moved from ideas and thoughts to action.
1 Accept your imperfections
Eshna Kutty’s ease of accepting her imperfection stood out. When I looked up more on her, I realised she is nurturing growth mindsets in people. In an interview she said, “This was just one video that went viral, but my previous work is also on the same lines. I’ve never really been the person who flaunts perfect moves – it’s more of bloopers, behind-the-scenes, and me just messing up because I don’t want it to feel like this is impossible or this is something that is not meant for the stereotypically unfit body.”
To acknowledge and accept imperfection is a giant step towards getting better and learning. Not hiding from a weakness gives a vantage point of change and growth.
2 Focus on the process
Sports programmes do that for you. It teaches you to focus on the process. Nobody talks about the goal, that is common knowledge. What coaches focus on in everyday practice is the process. Each move is analysed and worked upon. For a swimmer, it could be the angle of the head when it comes out of water for a breath or for a squash player, it could be the way the player has to move back to play out of the backcourt.
Focussing on the process does many things. It makes you enjoy the process more, it makes you measure your success in everyday work and it also gives a roadmap to understand when the goal doesn't end up in the desired result.
3 Using ‘not yet’
This is something I picked up after wrapping up my failed attempt at entrepreneurship. When suggested "so you are an entrepreneur", instead of answering in a straight no, which I did for some time, I moved to saying Not Yet with deliberate practice. It changed my energy settings towards more warmth. I had heard Dweck’s talk on the power of ‘Not Yet’. She had picked this lesson from a school where teachers wrote ‘Not Yet’, instead of writing ‘fail’ for those students who didn't qualify a particular test. Not yet, simply keeps the path to progress open. It keeps the learning ladder standing.
If you are struggling, try telling your mind I am not there yet. The mind listens.
Kutty reminded me of my personal challenge to share a post of my headstand. Sounds simple, right? I have been trying to learn to stand on my head for a long, long time. It is a shifting goal. To challenge myself, I had promised to post a picture of a perfect headstand. I am not there yet. But here you go Kutty, my headstand pose in my red brogues. I stood with initial support that you cannot see and only for a few seconds. Perfect? Not yet!
(Vishakha Singh, author of a forward-thinking course SHIFT, is a business strategist & a design thinking practitioner. She writes at www.habitsforthinking.in, offering insights into the ever-changing business environment.)