Years ago, when I read the book Now Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham, I experienced a profound shift in how I perceived myself. Taking the strengths-based inventory, our team discovered the places where we each shined and began brainstorming the best ways to help each other capitalize on these strengths. The other, less exciting thing that the Strengths-Finder test revealed to me was how much I had perceived myself as a failure in certain areas. Growing up with a learning disability and ADHD, I internalized messages about myself that grew into a mindset of what I could and couldn’t do.
While natural talent or skill in an area can get one so far, there are times when we all hit our limits. We fail to motivate our teams, to secure the big client, to implement the cool new idea. It doesn’t feel good, and we begin to doubt our skills and abilities. This generates an aversion to trying new things because failure doesn’t feel good!
Over 30 years ago, Dr. Carol Dweck noticed how some of her students were able to push through setbacks, while other students saw themselves as failures and gave up once they encountered challenges. Dr. Dweck saw that the underlying beliefs which shape how we view our personality and skills contribute to success in life, work and relationships and coined the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset.”
Fixed Mindset: “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.” (Dweck, 2015)
Growth Mindset: “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” (Dweck, 2015)1
Underlying beliefs about what you can and can’t do or past failures could be hindering the good things God has for you and ways he wants to grow your faith or career. Many of us find ourselves in a new situation because of layoffs, downsizing or realizing that a job isn’t serving our life or family needs.
For you this might look like:
- I could never be in sales, I’m an introvert.
- I won’t be promoted because I don’t have the right kind of degree.
- I can’t shift careers because I’m not naturally talented at math.
This past year, I enjoyed an unplanned sabbatical after I was laid off in February of 2020. Great timing to find a new job on the cusp of an impending pandemic! Though I had been in ministry for 20 years I sensed God inviting me to be open to something new.
As I updated my resume and read through my lists of accomplishments, skills and degrees, my fixed mindset told me: You can’t try anything new. Your skills only work in a ministry context. No one will hire you in the marketplace if you don’t have any experience. Cue the sad trombone music.
Over the months as I helped my kids with remote schooling, applied for jobs, prayed and waited, God did something new in my life. It wasn’t a new job he wanted to give me. It was a new perspective about myself. During a trip out east to quarantine and vacation with family, I walked to a nearby waterfall to pray and reflect each morning. Most mornings I sat and stared at the cascading falls and felt the spray on my face, not even knowing what to pray. Though I had learned to push hard working in ministry to reach more people, create more resources, and raise more money, it had been much more difficult to learn to just be with Jesus. Being with Jesus didn’t feel like success.
My growth mindset breakthrough came through the ordinary acts of taking walks, being with my family and not having anything I was pushing hard to accomplish. Jesus reminded me that I have value and worth because he loves me. Not because of my resume, not because of my degrees, not because of my skills or networks. I am loved by God because I belong to him. Beginning to believe that I am loved beyond my job, accomplishments and skills has enabled me develop a growth mindset to pivot into a new career in real estate appraisal.
This last year as I reflected on Psalm 139 the words have influenced me in a different way.
“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You understand my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down; You are aware of all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, O LORD.”
It has been liberating to realize that I can work hard to learn something new and to use my skills in a different way. It has also been humbling to make many mistakes while I’m learning. Though I won’t know the setbacks I’ll face, I’ve begun enjoy trusting the Lord with the new path I’m on. Whether I have a job or am unemployed, have made big mistakes or quickly master new skills the Lord is able to help me continue to grow and learn because I am rooted in my identity of belonging to him.
God has good works prepared for you in your work, but you’ll need a growth mindset to fully walk in those. Rest in the security of finding your identity in Him, and He will give you that mindset.