Discover the surprising secret to professional growth hidden in childhood books

As a child, I had a few favourite books I would regularly re-read. 

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables would come off the shelf yearly.

I loved the curiosity, determination, and sense of adventure of the main characters Jo and Anne.

They held up a mirror to my own childhood stubbornness and its consequences

A trait that saw me renouncing plain milk and scrambled eggs before I started school based on sheer will. 

I’m not allergic. It’s a matter of taste. You might call me stubborn, but I prefer to call it determined.

Thankfully, my parents helped me realise the risk of being stubborn and refusing to change. I learnt the hard way when I missed out on enjoyable experiences because I refused to budge.

I share this story because researcher Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset emphasises that talents can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others.

Dweck’s studies suggest that individuals with a growth mindset put more energy into learning and are likelier to stretch beyond their current capabilities and grow. 

We all like to think we have a growth mindset regarding ability, but what about the fixed concepts we hold about our identities? Dweck’s research found that a pure growth mindset does not exist.

In our professional roles, the risk with adopting staunch “Take me as I am” stances is that we hold on to negative traits and get in our own way

I’ve never been faced with a situation demanding I drink plain milk or eat scrambled eggs, so I’ve held on to those quirks.

However, as the world around us changes, we don’t have to change our identity completely, but we do need to let go of what no longer servesMost importantly, we need to hold onto the positive parts of our personality (our character strengths) that make us feel authentic and engaged.

Like a tree with strong roots, we must know when to stand firm and when to adapt, bending with the wind to avoid breaking

Our core character strengths are the roots that ground us, but our willingness to learn, adapt, and grow towards the light is what allows us to thrive amidst adversity.

The first step is to know your character strengths. If you’re unsure, you can take the free survey developed by the VIA Institute on Character.

Understanding and applying your character strengths will boost your confidence, enable you to strengthen important relationships and experience reduced stress.

They will keep you grounded as you learn new skills and grow into who you need to be next to navigate the inevitable storms – the ones you see coming and those you don’t.

Louisa May Alcott gifted us with a powerful mantra hidden in a childhood favourite when she wrote:

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

Remember, hold tight to your character strengths and use them as your compass.

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