Thursday, March 20, 2008

I'm results-oriented, so why do I feel so unsuccessful?

Who considers themselves results-oriented? Yeah, me too. And I've learned it sucks.

I blame work.

In business, it goes without saying it's all about projects, deadlines and the bottom line. Results, people! The person or team who achieves the results is always going to be financially and/or socially rewarded, regardless if they were "nice" about doing it or boosted company morale along the way.

But let's be honest. It didn't begin with work. We were all in the results-oriented camp long before we reported to a boss or had our livelihood dangling on sales targets. In fact, as children we quickly learned that by accomplishing certain results, we'd receive rewards, praise, or encouragement in return. You know what we also learned? How to get those rewards the easy way. Yeah, we were pretty smart as kids.

I'll use myself as an example:
School was easy. I was that annoying girl in class who whiled away the fifty minutes by writing notes and reading a novel surreptitiously tucked into an oversized textbook. And I got A's. As you can imagine, the parents approved and as such, I stuck with it. After all, it was a straight, easy path to praise and rewards.

On the other hand, I wanted to play volleyball. And play volleyball I did, though I was never good enough to warrant any special recognition or praise. So what did I do? I quit. Though I may have enjoyed playing the sport, I certainly wasn't getting enough positive reinforcement for the efforts I was putting in.

This inherent focus on results is how and why most of us have come to possess what is called a fixed-mindset. People with a fixed-mindset don't think it should take a lot of work and effort to succeed. They shy away from challenge because they believe rewards should come easy; otherwise, it's not worth trying because failure is not an option. After all, a failure would be catastrophic to their reputation, which can only be upheld by a continuous stream of successes and achievements. Whatever they do, they believe they should do it extremely well. It's only fun if you succeed.

If you are recognizing that maybe you too have fallen victim to the fixed mindset, there is hope! At the other end of the spectrum rests what is referred to as a growth-mindset. People with a growth-mindset foster learning, accept failures along the way and learn from their mistakes.

Here are a few ways you can start fostering the growth-mindset today:
  • Set learning goals (not performance goals).
  • Recognize that you hold enormous potential. Your intelligence and ability can be developed. You are not stuck with what you currently have--it's merely a starting point.
  • Don't expect perfection. It's the enemy of learning.
  • Reward effort, not only achievement. Effort is the only thing you can control. Making effort is committing yourself to get results.
As you abandon your identity as a results-oriented person, keep in mind these poignant words from Calvin Coolidge:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”


Janakan Rajendran said...

Well said and I totally agree with you about persistence and I strongly believe in it! As I mentioned earlier, you continue to prove that you've been great on putting thoughts into writing!

Wordtastic said...

I just wanted to pass along a rather huge compliment. JSW was checking in on you via your blog and couldn't stop talking about how impressed he was with your writing! He doesn't comment on much, so you should feel good!

I guess I'm effort-oriented. Otherwise, I'd never have continued with my sport. On the contrary, it helps me work on my humility! :/

Who in the world is Jason Dittle? If I married him, I'd be Kiddle Dittle!