To set goals that make sense and motivate ourselves and others in such strange and often discouraging times, we need to set them with a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset is a bit more nuanced (and more powerful) than simply believing that improvement is possible, and it allows you to become more comfortable with uncertainty and more willing to entertain the idea of longer-term goals. The author presents two strategies to help you get there that he can use for you or with his team.
In many organizations, it is the season for individual and team goal setting. Deciding on a goal is generally something we want to be a rational, evidence-based exercise, combining careful consideration of possibilities, resources, and obstacles with just the right amount of effort. But what do you do when you feel like you have a very limited sense of what’s possible? When new obstacles seem to pop up around every corner and the arenas are always moving? When the idea of section seems ridiculous given how stressed and overwhelmed most of us are?
Setting goals in times of uncertainty and exhaustion may seem pointless, but it’s not. Research shows that in order to engage our motivational systems and direct our brain energy into the right actions (both consciously and subconsciously), we need to have a clear picture of where we are, where we’re going, and whether we’re getting closer. the gap between the two at the correct rate. Without goals, we make poor decisions and miss opportunities to act. But just as importantly, we cannot feel effective, which many psychologists believe is the most powerful source of life satisfaction and well-being that humans have.
To set goals that make sense and motivate ourselves and others in such strange and often discouraging times, we need to set them with a growth mindset. And by that I don’t just mean “believing you can get better” or any of the other common simplifications of the growth mindset. Having a growth mindset is a bit more nuanced (and more powerful) than simply believing that improvement is possible.
Your mindset is what you believe to be the larger meaning or purpose behind the work you do every day. A growth mindset is the belief that developing and progressing is the point of what you are doing. As I said prior tois about getting better unlike just being good. And it’s about engaging in specific growth mindset strategies and habits to help you stay focused on growth potential in everything you do.
When you approach goal setting through the lens of a growth mindset, you become more comfortable with uncertainty and more willing to entertain the idea of longer-term goals. Here are two strategies to help you get there that you can use for yourself or with your team.
Use growth mindset trigger words to frame your goals.
When researchers we want to study the effects of a growth mindset, one of the ways we do this is to describe the goal or task that someone is about to accomplish using certain words that evoke the idea of getting better rather than being good: improve, develop, over time, progress, becomeand of course, growing up.
These words serve as explicit and implicit “cousins” for your thinking. In other words, they change the very meaning of the goal to be about developing, and they change your thinking along with it. To use them, start by writing your goal the way you would normally think of it. For example, your goal might be “be an effective communicator” or “increase sales by 5%.”
Then rewrite it using one or more growth mindset triggers. “Be an effective communicator” is now “become an effective communicator” and “increase sales by 5%” is “develop our network of contacts for to improve our sales by 5%”.
This way of framing your goals is not about lowering the bar or going along with poor performance. In fact, research shows that people who approach their goals with a growth mindset set more challenging goals for themselves, not less. for example in A study of medical supply salespeople, researchers found that those who approached their jobs with a stronger growth mindset set more ambitious sales goals, put in more effort, engaged in more account and territory planning, and ultimately sold more units.
Set progress and pivot points.
In such uncertain times, it’s important to explicitly set progress and pivot points on a timeline early on, so you can monitor both your rate of progress and the need to change in light of new information along the way.
It can be all too easy to lose track of your goals or not give them much thought until you get close to the time you expected to reach them. When that happens, you may not adapt when progress is slow or stick to a goal you should have revised when resources or customer expectations started to change. For example, you might set a goal to develop a specific skill or reach a specific sales target by the end of the year. To be successful, what must you accomplish in the first month? At six months? If you don’t know, you won’t be able to course correct and, if necessary, try a different strategy or set a revised goal to have the impact you want to see for yourself or your team.
By using these two strategies to prepare for and participate in your goal-setting conversations, as a leader or team member, you start with a firm growth mindset foundation that you can then maintain as you pursue your goals through uncertainty, setbacks and difficulties. challenges of all kinds, something we all need now more than ever.