In this five-part series, I’ve been talking about how we can overcome low motivation and that feeling of “stuckness” caused by obstacles that come up anywhere between starting and finishing a goal or project.
This week’s Tiny Talk is Part 3 of my 5-part series about what I call “DIY obstacles.”
Whenever we learn something new, it’s easy to take it on intellectually or plan out on paper how we are going to conquer something. When it comes to taking action to put that plan into motion, we start with lots of motivation, but then at a certain point, we lose steam, get stuck, and abandon or self-sabotage our efforts to complete something.
One of the biggest reasons is because of a fixed mindset.
The best way to describe a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset is to share this quote from Carol Dweck’s book called Mindset:
“A growth mindset is when you understand that your abilities can be developed. In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail – or if you’re not the best – it’s all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome.”
When I first heard this idea of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset, I automatically assumed I had a growth mindset because I liked to learn and consume. Boy, was I wrong! Listen to another quote from the same book:
“Sure, people with the fixed mindset have read the books that say: Success is about being your best self, not about being better than others; failure is an opportunity, not a condemnation; effort is the key to success. But they can’t put this into practice because their basic mindset – their belief in fixed traits – is telling them something entirely different: that success is about being more gifted than others, that failure does measure you, and that effort is for those who can’t make it on talent.”
When we are learning something new or creating something we’ve never made before, our minds go through four stages of growth. We can get stuck in any aspect of this cycle and lose motivation if we have a fixed mindset.
Imagine a line drawn vertically down the middle of a piece of paper, then another one horizontally through the middle of the paper, so you have a four-quadrant matrix. (You can also Google “growth matrix” or “competence matrix,” and there are plenty of visuals.)
The first stage of growth, which would be at the top left quadrant of the matrix, is called “unconscious incompetence.” This sounds a little demeaning, but it’s not. It basically means ignorance is bliss. It’s a great mindset for dreaming and living in possibility, and it’s personally one of my favorite mindsets to marinate in. It’s the stage of growth where we’re not aware of a skill we need, or that we lack proficiency in something to achieve whatever that thing is we want to do.
Think of the moment you decided you wanted to write a screenplay – easy peasy, right? It will be fun; I’ll just write it, sell it and maybe even cast it with my favorite actors, and that will be my legacy. It probably did not even cross your mind that you needed to learn a whole lot of skills aside from how to format a screenplay.
The second quadrant is in the top right-hand corner of the matrix and it’s called “conscious incompetence.” This is the stage where we are now aware of the skills we need but are still not any good at them. You might learn here that screenplays have a structure and pacing and turning points. You learn about subtext, creating meaningful action; you learn there are hundreds of writing skills and techniques. This one can be fun, especially if you enjoy learning. It can also be a place where you get stuck because it can be super uncomfortable to be a beginner at something, especially if you start to think that this is too hard or that you’re not cut out for this.
Then there is the third quadrant at the bottom right of the four stages of growth – “conscious competence.” This is where you know all the things, but they’re really hard to do at the level you need to do them. This is where many of us do a lot of comparing and despairing. It’s the part where you have to create the habits that allow you to practice and master your craft and to keep showing up to practice, practice, practice.
Remember that it’s not what you know that makes you good at something. You become good at what you practice. But many believe they have the know-how, they did the thing…how come they’re not as good as their peer, they were in the same class? Or making statements like, “It’s not perfect, what’s the use of writing another screenplay? It takes too long…maybe I just need to take another class.” That’s not the right solution to the problem.
Lastly, we have the fourth quadrant at the bottom left of the matrix which completes the growth cycle – “unconscious competence.” This is when a skill becomes automatic to you. It’s something you usually notice in retrospect. The skill seems so natural and easy to you that it kind of takes you by surprise when someone compliments you on it or asks how you do it.
Your mindset is going to make a huge difference in your ability to make it past the second and third phases of the growth cycle, which is often where those with a fixed mindset lose motivation and get stuck. They will start inserting thoughts like, “What’s the point? I’ll never be good enough; I just can’t write great dialogue.”
A growth mindset can weather the discomfort of learning a new skill and is willing to go through the additional discomfort of mastering those skills. They entertain thoughts like:
- “I can do hard things. I love being challenged.”
- “I am willing to be uncomfortable.”
- “I can always improve. Mistakes and feedback help me to learn and grow.”
A fixed mindset sounds permanent but it’s not; you can learn to have a growth mindset the same way you go through a growth cycle to learn any skill.
There are many ways you can cultivate a growth mindset. You can start by identifying some new thoughts or beliefs you would like to have around the thing that you feel stuck on or have lost motivation for.
If you can’t think of any new thoughts, or the ones you do think of just don’t resonate with you, ask yourself how you want to feel about your project or goal first, then ask what thoughts will help you feel that way. Sometimes it’s easier to access your feelings first.
Think of yourself as the person who has already overcome this obstacle or barrier you’re facing and journal about what you would be feeling, doing, and thinking; what habits would you probably have; and how would you be showing up differently than you are now.
Finally, choose three new growth mindset thoughts and practice them. To feed these new beliefs so they grow stronger, you need to create habits that will, over time, create the evidence that these new thoughts are true.
Think of a tiny doable habit you can practice that will support that new thought. Here’s a simple example:
Original thought: This is too hard.
New thought: I can do hard things.
Habit to support the new thought: Practice doing the hard thing for just five minutes every day.
Make the new habit so small that you will definitely do it.
I hope you’re enjoying this series on DIY obstacles and if you want to go deeper and get some coaching on any of them, I would love to help you. Book a free consult to find out how.
I’m going to end this podcast with one last quote from Carol Dweck’s book Mindset:
“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”
As a creative life coach, I can help you achieve project breakthroughs and offer ongoing support in getting your work to the finish line. Book a free consultation here and find out how we can work together to get your projects out into the world where they belong.