In my last blog post, I introduced the idea of the 100-year life, which I learned about in a recent episode of the podcast The Future of Work with Jacob Morgan (listen to the full episode here). The idea is based on a book called The 100-Year Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew J. Scott.
I discussed the concepts of the Three-Stage Life versus the Multi-Stage Life, which are also ideas introduced by authors Gratton and Scott (read my full article here).
Today, I’d like to acknowledge what may have become the elephant in the room ever since we’ve been exploring the idea that, as the author states, “At any point in time, you could be something different.” Knowing that you have unlimited options is freeing for some… and paralyzing for others.
Which Camp do You Occupy?
As humans, we often fall into one of two camps: the first, a Fixed Mindset, includes those who struggle to see beyond their immediate circumstances. These people may feel chained to their job, stuck in a relationship, and/or in a rut financially. They can’t look beyond the present situation to an intangible future possibility.
The second camp, a Growth Mindset, is occupied by those who see endless opportunities. They know they can be or do anything, including creating new relationships and networks, making more or less money, finding a new job, etc.
The main difference in these two perspectives is that a Fixed Mindset sees only the obstacles in a given situation, and believes that very little is within their control. Those with a Growth Mindset see all the possibilities and believe that everything is within their control. They believe they have agency in their life and circumstances.
Which of the two camps do you occupy?
The Fixed Mindset
I have a client who currently has a Fixed Mindset. Even though she really wants to leave her job (and she’s a great worker), she feels trapped. She can’t see any other options outside her immediate working circumstances, so even though her boss is really awful, she has stayed in her role because she just doesn’t know what else to do.
The challenge for this mindset is to find a way to see “beyond” the immediate circumstance. Usually, this is most successful when you work with someone else, such as a friend or a coach, who has a Growth Mindset. That person will be able to gently open you up to opportunities that you might not see in your immediate surroundings.
The Growth Mindset
I happen to live in the Growth Mindset space, which means I tend to only see the possibilities and believe I can navigate my way through any obstacle that presents itself. I have never believed there is one way to “do work,” and though perhaps I was born with a risk-taking gene, I’m not reckless. I am driven by knowing that this is my one and only life and I want it to be a very fun and fulfilling one!
A challenge for the Growth Mindset crowd can be that they see so many opportunities that they become paralyzed. “There are so many things I want to do, that I don’t know where to start!” These people know that age doesn’t define the checkpoints in their life. I took a 15-month sabbatical because I needed to hit the reset button on my life at the age of 45, not 67. I started my own business as a single parent at 46. I constantly take classes not only because I love and value learning, but because I know it will set me up for success for whatever I do next, at age 55, or 65, or 75.
Growth Mindset people see that “At any point in time, you could be something different.”
Do You Have a Fixed or a Growth Mindset?
It can be helpful to understand where you are coming from, intellectually, if you want to move forward in any area of your life. Here are some questions to ask to determine if you operate mostly with a Fixed Mindset, or a Growth Mindset:
- Do you mainly see obstacles or possibilities?
- Is this working for you? If yes, great.
- If no, what would you like to be different? What small step can you take today to move in the direction you desire?
- Enlist your friends and family for their input on this. They often see things you cannot.
- How might you reinvent your career?
- Take inventory of your skills.
- What other jobs or companies need what you have to offer?
- How can you repurpose your skills into something new?
- If this question stumps you, ask your friends and coworkers, hire a career coach, or go back to your college placement office (they are there for you for life).
- Do you mainly see obstacles or possibilities?
I invite you to challenge yourself by asking, “why not?” For instance, if you catch yourself thinking, “I just don’t want to be a [INSERT PROFESSION] anymore.” Ask, “Well, why not?” Look at your answers. Are they obstacles, or are they opportunities? How might you work with them, or bust right through them? Is there another way you can look at them?
Finally, consider your timeline. It can take years to make big, sweeping changes, and that’s okay. Your new plane doesn’t need to reach 30,000 feet in 15 minutes… a slow and steady climb will get you there safely. Maybe your new career starts off as a side hustle where you take only one client at a time and allow yourself to learn as you grow slowly.
Remember, you always have a choice. Even when you feel most stuck, there are still choices to be made. As you consider your current situation, and where you want to go, be gentle with yourself and find ways to open up to the limitless possibilities.