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This article is the 1st in a series on "Breaking Knowledge Barriers".
I have had the opportunity to work for some amazing visionaries and leaders in Southern and Northern California. I landed some of my first jobs out of college thanks to the help of staffing agencies who liked that I could type over 100 words per minute, knew ten-key, had loads of customer service experience, and was visibly eager to make a difference somewhere. As I grew in skills, roles, and responsibilities, I watched myself stretch and reveled in the expansion that can only happen when you’re granted the opportunities to. My supervisors were pretty good at spotting my drive, resilience, growth mindset, risk tolerance, and desire to learn as much as I could. After being an Executive Assistant, Office Manager, Accounting Coordinator, Program Specialist, Grant Writer, and then Executive Director, I found my passion and strengths as an operations executive. With that passion, I helped start a statewide nonprofit that supports over 15% of California’s public 6th-12th graders with college and career planning tools, and I’ve consulted with multiple nonprofits and leaders to help them achieve their visions.
The moral of this short story for me is that every step of the way, when I had the opportunity to bet on myself, I did and often, I won. What I skipped in the story are the massive mistakes, failures, misperceptions, wrong assumptions, and poor leadership that I had to struggle through in order to get new roles, take on new responsibilities, and absorb new skills. If this sounds anything like your own journey, then perhaps like me, you also had to navigate strong bouts of insecurity, depression, loneliness, codependency, nagging self-doubt, and creeping suspicion of everyone and everything. If this sounds like you, then I invite you to keep reading.
"What Can I Give Up" Activity
Check out my “What Can I Give Up?” Activity that I often share with my clients to help them figure out how to let go of certain things holding them back in their lives. I show a personal example of my use of SMART Goals to create actionable steps towards giving up a specific habit. Included is a free printable for you to do the activity as well. Enjoy!
Do you watch Parks and Recreation? If so, then this moment of realization for me was like Leslie Knope owning, “I am big enough to admit I am often inspired by myself.” In this moment of telling myself that I was enough, that I didn’t need to be anything more, that I wasn’t something broken that needed fixing, I tuned into who I was again - someone with love and compassion who can inspire the best in others. I had just gone so long without aiming my strengths at myself.
I continue to learn from this lesson, to break it up into smaller chunks, to dig deep into the nuances of my needs. I have some take-aways that I want to share with you as strategies for leadership development and self-care. This is aimed at entrepreneurs, managers, and those who run businesses, teams, and projects. But really, these strategies are relevant to anyone who is struggling with a leadership challenge in their personal or professional life. I have written a separate blog post for each strategy in this "Breaking Knowledge Barriers" series. Click here to go to Strategy #1 on Practicing Mindfulness.
- Article 1: Breaking Knowledge Barriers Series: Womxn of Color in the Workplace.
- Article 2: Breaking Knowledge Barriers Series: Strategy #1 Practice Mindfulness.
- Article 3: Breaking Knowledge Barriers Series: Strategy #2 Roll Call! Identify Yourself.
- Article 4: Breaking Knowledge Barriers Series: Strategy #3 Acknowledge. Accept. Adapt.
- Article 5: Breaking Knowledge Barriers Series: Strategy #4 Finish Strong. Start Fresh.
About Author: Meredith "Mer" Curry
Learn more about Mer at www.meredithcurry.com.
Today, I write about how a growth mindset can be applied as adults. I write to claim that “An old dog can’t learn new tricks” is absolute rubbish and written by those who didn’t want to have to learn any new tricks. I believe growth mindset is a tool each and every one of us can have in our toolkit. I also believe that learning how to adapt SMART Goals into our lives as professionals can help us reinforce our growth mindset from everyday situations to those challenges that come straight out of left field.
What is a growth mindset?
I recommend TransformingEducation.org’s Toolkit as the resource to learn more about Growth Mindset. Though the content is written around students, the information is true about people of any age.
As adults, we hear ourselves everyday, saying to ourselves or out loud, “I just can’t…” or “I never…” or “I’ve never been good at…” or “I don’t ever want to…” This is considered a fixed mindset. One in which we are inflexible, where we believe we cannot change. This can be fueled by shame, self-doubt, our image of our weaknesses and strengths, and any number of factors.
On the other hand, if you have a growth mindset, you believe you have what it takes to change. You understand that if you put in the work, persevere, practice, and push through even when it gets really difficult, you can find a way.
Do you see/read how the self-talk is different? Recognize that the fixed mindset sounds awfully familiar, much like the negative self-talk we have about so many other things. Like what we should wear, where we can travel, who we can befriend or date, what job we can apply for, and what we deserve. These thoughts are choices. But sometimes these choices have become so redundant that they’ve become rote, meaning you don’t even think about the choice anymore. This is where SMART Goals comes in.
SMART Goals are taught to students as a way to help them define and focus their goals for their life. As an adult and entrepreneur, I see SMART Goals as a way to shake the fiction out of our goal-setting (fiction being bias, self-judgment, shame, thoughts, etc.). Instead we can use SMART Goals to get to the facts, the brass tax, about this goal that we’ve communicated to the universe and what we really mean and intend by it. Below is an example of how I used SMART goals to figure out how to better prioritize a minute task that was taking up so many hours of my day.
- S = Specific. When you write down your goal it should be as specific as possible which will force you to be clear. Say it in one sentence.
- M = Measurable. What will you measure to know you are successful? How will you quantify your objective?
- A = Achievable. State one or more ways that you will make this goal realistic. Who can you bring in or what tools and tactics can you use to achieve this goal?
- R = Relevant. Note that here, I depart from the traditional SMART Goal definition which is “R for Realistic.” I think as adults, we’re more likely to talk about goals in terms of pragmatic realism, as opposed to being too dreamy. Since we want to think outside of the box, instead I ask us to think about how this goal is relevant to our profession or life.
- T = Timing. Goals need deadlines for real umph. So set a due date, or a range of days/weeks/months in order to accomplish this goal.
AdvancED Activity WHAT CAN I GIVE UP?
As leaders and entrepreneurs, our daily lives can quickly become overwhelmed with tasks. This two-step activity is meant to encourage you to think about everything you need to do in order to decide what you are willing to give up. Then, you will use SMART Goals to take action toward prioritization, organization, and achievement of your goals. Click here to download the What Can I Give Up Activity sheets (PDF).
We are grown-ups with a lot of growing up left to do
I believe that as adults we still have much to learn and practice when it comes to growth mindset and building mental toughness and emotional intelligence. If you run a business, team, department, or project, you need to be able to triage and communicate goals. In your own life you may need to set one or two SMART Goals a week around things at work or at home to help you get more organized, bring more clarity, or simply create more space in your life for the things you love.
I encourage us all to continuously work on developing our growth mindset, to use SMART Goals as one tool in our toolkit in our everyday routines, and to share our goals with our circles of influence so that support can come to you in the form of intentions and good juju to come.
Want support thinking through your goals?
Let’s talk about the goals you want to set for your life, your team, or your business! Schedule your free 20-minute consultation now.
About Author: Meredith "Mer" Curry
Learn more about Mer at www.meredithcurry.com.
- Growth Mindset Toolkit
- Growth mindset for adult learners, OCTOBER 11, 2017
- Shift to a Growth Mindset With These 8 Powerful Strategies
- Is Mindset Culture Shift Possible for Adults? June 15, 2016