Overcoming Doubt and Achieving Your Full Potential

Do you believe you are born with a certain amount of intelligence and talent and that’s it? Or do you believe that the intelligence and talent you are born with is just the start – that you can get better by facing challenges, sticking with it when things get tough, and learning from your mistakes and others who are better?

We all have moments where we can start to question our own abilities and worry about how we might look in front of others. What matters is how we respond in those moments.

You can choose the easy path – the one that is well-worn in which we will only encounter the things that we already know that we are good at so that we can prove to others that we are talented and intelligent. Or we can choose to take a different path. One that’s more challenging. The one that will require effort and that might be filled with mistakes, setbacks, and criticism – but that will ultimately lead to growth. Your choice in those moments will determine whether or not you achieve your full potential. And your belief about whether intelligence and talent are fixed – a fixed mindset – or that we can change and grow – a growth mindset – will determine how you will respond.

Catch yourself in those moments that matter and choose to move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

Moments that MatterFixed Mindset ReactionGrowth Mindset Reaction
You face a big challenge
  • You give up easily when things get hard.
  • You avoid challenges because they are risky—you could fail, and your basic abilities would be called into question. You stick to doing the things that come easy to you and that you know you are good at.
  • You believe that if it is challenging, it is proof that you don’t have the ability.
  • You embrace challenges.
  • You believe that you get smarter by learning something new, doing something hard, and sticking with things.
You experience a setback
  • You view any sort of setback is a failure and as a sign that you are not smart or talented.
  • When you have setbacks, they start to label you and you believe it means you just don’t have the ability.
  • When you experience a setback, you may try to rationalize it by assigning blame, making excuses, or looking for people who are even worse off than you are to try to repair and rebuild your self-esteem.
  • You view a setback as a natural part of learning.
  • You take the setbacks and turn them into valuable information.
  • You use setbacks to tell you what you should or should not do on your next try. You plan to learn from the setback and move forward.
You make a mistake
  • You try to hide the mistakes because mistakes are to be avoided.
  • You get discouraged.
  • You try to find what you can learn from the mistake.
  • You turn the mistake into a data point to help you get better.
You receive negative feedback from others
  • You become defensive. You blame the circumstances or someone else.
  • You get angry at the person who is giving you feedback.
  • You ignore it—even if it might be useful.
  • You appreciate the feedback.
  • You know that feedback isn’t about your abilities, it is information you can use to help yourself learn and grow.
You meet someone who is a lot better than you in an area of expertise you pride yourself on
  • You become insecure or defensive.
  • You tell yourself that you will never be as good as that other person.
  • You may begin to hate the person a little bit.
  • You find inspiration from their success.
  • You try to learn from them.
You are asked to step outside of your comfort zone
  • You begin to question whether you have the needed talent to do it.
  • You stick to doing what you know. You do things that are safe—that you are totally on top of. If you don’t try, you can protect yourself and keep your dignity.
  • You avoid challenging situations that might lead to failure because success depends upon protecting and promoting your set of fixed qualities and concealing your deficiencies.
  • You lose interest if it gets too challenging and you’re not feeling smart or talented.
  • You are willing to stretch yourself because you believe that is how you will learn something new. It’s how you develop yourself.
  • When things get tough and are not going well, you try to stick with it.
You can learn more about the growth mindset in Carol Dweck’s book – Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.