(This article was originally written for a ‘Women in Coding’ Course, linking the agile process of building a website, which they were learning, and the need for them to think about being ‘agile’ in their own thinking towards themselves and their abilities. The principles, though, apply to all women in the workplace as research shows that women are more likely than men to have a ‘fixed mindset’.)
How do you build a website? The agile process builds on each iteration of the process, learning from mistakes, things that just don’t work or connect, or take what works to the next level. So we do this when we apply our knowledge and skills to the tech world, but so often it is not what we apply in relation to ourselves.
Mindset really matters, says Ali Crum, a psychologist at Columbia University, and her research proves this to be true. She found that the effect you expect, is the effect you get.
So, what’s this got to do with women who code? When it comes to your talents and abilities in this field, do you believe these are largely fixed traits or can enough practice, effort and mentoring make it possible to learn almost anything? What’s your answer? It could be powerfully shaping your success in coding.
Professor Carol Dweck from Standford University says, ‘Some people believe you have a certain amount of talents and ability and that’s it – we call this a fixed mindset — and it makes us afraid to take on challenges and to persist in the face of setbacks or criticism.’
‘Other people have the view their talents and abilities can be developed through their hard work, their good strategies, good mentoring — a growth mindset — and these are the people who have the confidence to take on challenges and be undaunted by setbacks and negative feedback.’
While Carol suggests these mindsets are not determined by gender, the general lack of confidence found in many women means a fixed mindset makes us particularly fragile when it comes to dealing with failure, setbacks and criticism.
So, what’s your mindset around coding and the way you shape your work? Is coding something that you think you are not very good at, likely to fail, or feel you’ll never be as good as the men around you? Or, do you think, it is an exciting challenge, and that struggling to understand is just part of the learning process, every mistake an opportunity to build your knowledge?
The good news is that there are 4 steps you can take to move you from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset:
Learn to hear your fixed mindset ‘voice’.
Tune in to the stories you tell yourself as you approach a challenge, or when you make a mistake, or someone gives you helpful feedback that you feel as criticism, or they give negative feedback that you take to heart as self-defining, or you feel threatened when you see someone that is better than you at doing something. ‘Are you sure you can do it? Maybe you don’t have the talent. What if you fail? People will laugh? I could never do that.’ All that negative self-talk you say to yourself when not feeling confident.
Recognise you have a choice.
There is a choice. You can interpret challenges, setbacks and criticism in a fixed mindset way, as signs that your talents and abilities are lacking and fixed and therefore never going to be good enough. Or you can interpret them in a growth mindset way way as signs that you need to be curious about what you can learn and build on from each challenge, setback and criticism.
Talk to yourself in a friendly growth mindset ‘voice’.
‘I’m not there yet, but I can get there’, is at the heart of this approach. So whatever obstacle presents itself to you, the friendly growth mindset voice tells you that you are ‘not there yet’, but with curiosity and an acceptance that you are learning, you will succeed. Reinterpret criticism as someone who wants to help you learn and ask them for more guidance or mentoring. If you see someone who is good at what they do, find out what you can learn from them about how they did it, so you can be good too.
Choose the growth mindset action.
Now you know you have a choice in which voice you invest time and energy. Over time, heeding your ‘friendly’ growth mindset voice, instead of your ‘bully’ fixed mindset voice, sets you on a path of not only building on your knowledge and talents, but also, your confidence in the process. You can take on a challenge wholeheartedly, knowing that you can only learn from the experience; get curious about your setbacks and try again with new learning; hear criticism and use it as useful information to act on.
Dr Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, says, ‘You can have courage or comfort, but you can’t have both’. Learning to be comfortable with discomfort is a great asset in work and life and having the courage to cultivate your growth mindset is key to this. You can know that is ok to still have that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, but figure out what happened, think about what to do next and ask others to help you formulate the next plan of action.
So, not unlike the agile process you use in building a website.
Test your mindset online at www.mindsetonline.com. Are you ready for a change in perspective? Commit to making a growth mindset choice – Work With Me or Take a Course to cultivate your growth mindset.