Growth Mindset – Be Like Beyoncé. Or Humpty Dumpty.

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I’ve written here before about having effective coaching conversations with your team, how to shine at public speaking and the neuroscience that shows us how to work with our busy brains.

This time I thought I’d try something different and write about what I’m doing to develop myself – and the growth mindset lessons I’ve taken from Beyoncé and Humpty Dumpty that show that abilities and intelligence can be developed.

“It was all down to squidge.”

Experiencing the buzz I get from helping others develop is one of the biggest rewards for me working in learning and development.

However, this article is not about someone else’s buzz – it’s about my buzz.

And it’s about me putting myself in a zone where I’m learning and all that this involves: Being vulnerable and feeling a bit daft.

So, to start.

The reason for my need and want to learn something new was down to what I call squidge.

There was becoming more of me.

Certain bits of me were becoming soft that didn’t used to be soft. I was not happy about this.

Which took me to the beginning of my learning journey.

I booked sessions with Amanda, a personal trainer. As a tri-athlete, this was someone who clearly knew her stuff.

She was walking the talk and she was serious about her own fitness and, living in Iceland, had a programme sorted out for all weathers (I’m writing this on 29th June and it’s ten degrees and raining. May was the rainiest ever on record).

This is what I’ve learned from my personal training with a few gems of wisdom thrown in from Beyoncé and Humpty Dumpty.

Put yourself out there

I’m no stranger to gyms but the weights area can be a bit intimidating. There’s always a sleek, sculpted group that look like they live in the glossy pages of a lifestyle magazine and jump from the pages only to exercise their toned, taught bodies.

I was sure I would be able to keep a low profile when doing weights. A corner, some dimly lit place, you know the kind of thing.

This did not happen.

For my first exercise in my first session – and every session since then – I’m slap bang in the middle of the entire weights area, lying on my back on a mat thrusting my pelvis and my stomach into the air doing a series of bridges.

Not so low profile.

What I’ve learned: new learning can be a time of embarrassment before something feels relatively normal.

This mortification was mine and mine alone.

No-one else took the slightest bit of notice of me; they were all busy and focused on their own sets of exercises.

Which brings me to Beyoncé.

In addition to her lemonade making skills did you know about her bold stage alter ego, Sasha Fierce?

This alter ego allows her to put herself out there and perform on stage in a flamboyant and sexual way that the naturally shy Beyoncé would never do.

As for Humpty Dumpty. He’s up there sitting on a wall, pretty exposed and putting himself out there at risk of falling (we’ll get to the falling bit in a minute).

All learning means an element of exposure, whether it’s at the gym, on stage or on a wall.

When we learn we are putting ourselves out there.

Bear with this. It gets easier.

Put yourself out there.

Practice makes perfect

One day Amanda brought over a large exercise ball. She showed me a new exercise.

“I would have the grace of a rhinoceros.”

She threw herself forward, gliding onto the ball, extended beyond it and stretching her arms in front, put the palm of her hands on the ground before stopping and pulling up her stomach muscles in a series of crunches.

I was a bit alarmed.

I asked her if she wanted me to do that in public and then laughed nervously.

She had done this move with the grace of a ballerina. I was worried my attempt would have the grace of a rhinoceros.

I replayed the image of her demonstration in my head, visualising it a couple of times.

Then I went for it.

I’m happy to say I did not jettison myself, mushing my face up against a wall nor did I skid off the ball, diving nose first into the ground, cartoonlike.

It went okay. I managed. It was a bit clunky, yes – less than elegant, but I got the gist of it.

Since that time, I’ve practised it more, gotten my technique better and I actually like the exercise now.

Practice does make a difference and believing you can get better AND practising are both features of a growth mindset.

What do Mrs Carter and Mr Dumpty have to say about practice?

Did you know that after Beyoncé has been in concert she moves from performance zone to learning zone?

Back in her hotel room, she studies the video of the show that’s just happened and looks for ways that she, her dancers and her production team can improve.

The next morning everyone receives detailed notes with the aim of working on these notes to deliver improvements for the next show.

“Learning is a journey where we get the odd bruise.”

As for Humpty, we know that he falls off a wall and is never quite the same.

Learning is like this.

It stretches us, makes us uncomfortable and yet has the power to develop strengths where there used to be weaknesses.

My muscles can agree with that. I remember driving one morning and it was actually painful to change gears because of a new series of arm exercises I’d done the day before.

Learning is a journey where we get the odd ache or bruise along the way whilst we get into a new rhythm of things.

There are mistakes and misunderstandings. Things have to be explained a few times.

We need to practice before something new becomes something understood and then something that we can then do well.

We’re all more rhinoceros than ballet dancer the very first time.

What I’ve learned has reinforced the importance of creating a safe space to learn. A place where there’s no judgement and where feedback is given in a positive way to support development.

What safe space has boosted your own learning? What bruises and aches have you recently experienced as you grow stronger and develop your skills?

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